"NIMASA pays as much as N8billion to Train Nigerian cadets under the NSDP Scheme"
Engineer Nnadi Ogbuagu is a former Executive Director Operations of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). He is currently the Director General of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA). In this interview with Shipping Position Daily Assistant Editor; Dapo Olawuni, Ogbuagu faults the current Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside on the competence of Nigeria to run a training vessel, he also speaks on many salient issues which formed the focal points of the DG NIMASA’s recent chat with maritime journalists in Lagos.
“Let me advice that the DG should talk less and face his job, he should not talk on issues on which he has no competence”
“Our number one mariner in Nigeria is DG NIMASA and everybody will listen to him and believe whatever he says about seamanship, so for him to say that Nigeria cannot operate training vessel, is an insult”
Should Nigeria have a training vessel or a trading vessel, which is profitable?
It is not about profit, it depends on the model that a country adopts, if you want your cadets like in the merchant navy from the maritime academies to have training and experience it, then you need to have a training vessel which would be purely for cadets. Training vessels are run purely by academies and universities, when they finish class room work, at a period, they would go onboard and continue the training on the ship because the lecturers would be there, they do academic and they do practical. The model all over the world is that you don't go to a maritime college on your own, you have to be sponsored, this was why NNSL sponsored most of the captains today, NPA also sponsored some other Nigerians. So, in many countries you have to be sponsored by a shipping company or an oil company. Training is continuous, it is not exhaustive, for the NIMASA DG to say that Nigeria cannot operate a training ship, I don't know where he is coming from, that means he doesn't even know the agency he is heading, NIMASA had MV TRAINER and MV ABUJA, this vessel had six cadet cabins, this means it provided training both for cadets and for officers. The MV TRAINER had 32 beds cadetship, so these two vessels were training and trading, the vessel sailed to America and ran into troubles. So, to answer your question, both model are right, cadets in Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron are supposed to have a training vessel. Our number one mariner in Nigeria is DG NIMASA and everybody will listen to him and believe whatever he says about seamanship, so for him to say that Nigeria cannot operate training vessel, is an insult, when he starts to compare training and trading, it means that he has missed it, his job is not to trade, his job is to train.
But you agree that to acquire and operate a training vessel takes a lot of money
Do you know that NIMASA pays as much as N8billion to train Nigerians under the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) but yet the seafarers cannot work, and this is why they have become barbers and hair dresser , they have not gone back, this is because, when you do that training, you have to conclude it. The seafarers cannot work as at now because they are not qualified, what they have had is just an ordinary vocational training, they need to do their 18 months sea term, they do not have the Certificate of Competency yet.
NIMASA is on agreement with an Arab Shipping Line to train 100 cadets yearly for free
Let us know who are the shipping companies offering this seatime , I believe all these are just political talks, we want to know the list of the cadets going for the seatime , and also the names of the shipping companies; do that, we can fact-check it, it is not enough to just come and talk to the public anyhow, nobody will place a cadet on their vessel unless payment agreement has been reached, even NNSL was charging NPA for putting their cadets onboard, it is not possible to train cadets for free anywhere in the world, who would pay the stipends to the seafarers throughout the seatime ? Definitely the federal government is paying for the seatime arrangement by NIMASA and these are monies they don't want to give to local ship owners.
And again they were talking about partnership with South Africa, Ghana and Kenya, why should we have such partnerships when we are far better than South Africa in terms of expertise, there are more mariners here than in any of these places, the partnership is nonsense!
But the argument is that Nigerian shipowners do not have ships any more
It doesn't matter, let them make use of the few that are available, I know those who have, what we have is better than nothing, once you are able to secure your first certificate, you can look for employment and go further. The DG has no competence to speak on this matter but he has officers who have confidence to speak on the matter. Let me advice that the DG should talk less and face his job, he should not talk on issues on which he has no competence, he should get advice from officers who are mariners before he talks. NIMASA can not go and buy a training ship, but MAN Oron can do that, the Aviation College in Zaria has a trainer aircraft, so maritime also deserves a training ship. NIMASA once had a training vessel but the mistake they made was that they refused to listen to our recommendation, instead they gave it to Brawal to operate the vessel, but they couldn't manage the vessel, the vessel loaded 12,000tons of aluminum ingots from Sweden and ran into problems in Alabama.
What do you propose the government should do with the CVFF?
The CVFF cannot buy many vessels, but at least, let it buy the few it can buy, the fund is not meant for foreign going vessels, it is meant for local vessels. We should carry out forensic audit of the money, we have to fact-check these things, the money should be more, the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) are collecting 1% of contracts and now they have so much money that they even loan out money to Nigerians who want to acquire vessels, they have been able to realise $700million since they came in 2010. I knew how much was in the CVFF when I was there, let them come out and give out the figure now. I saw in NIMASA budget that N1billion was paid for people to go and recover Cabotage fund, you don’t need any consultant or third party to collect the money, but if they have this kind of arrangement, it then means that somebody is fiddling with the money. The money is a contributory fund (Esusu), let NIMASA disburse the fund to shipowners deserving it. Another lie NIMASA has been spreading is that beneficiaries of the Ship Acquisition and Ship Building Fund never refund the money under NMA, this is not true, Capt Iheanacho, Capt Charles Uwadia, are success stories, they returned all the money, I surveyed most of these vessels, you can quote me, only one company did not pay back because their vessel ran aground in Ghana. We are of the view that a Maritime Bank be created for the money, NIMASA should not be the one keeping it, it is not their money. NIMASA is the owner of all Nigerian ships, if any Nigerian ship commits an offense anywhere in the world, the country will report first to Nigerian embassy and then to NIMASA.
The DG says since the cancellation of waivers, more ship owners and seafarers are now engaged
It is not true, most of our people are still suffering, I saw two Panamanian vessels at Kirikiri in Apapa, what were they doing here? The only foreign vessel you should see here are those coming from outside the country to discharge cargo or load cargo, but definitely not to be trading within our waterways, there is no room for that. I was among those that wrote the Cabotage law, but unfortunately, those who registered Cabotage, changed everything we put there, the same with the NIMASA Act, the lawyer they gave it to, went there and changed things to suit her. I have always called for a review of the Cabotage law because it is not just working; the law is strictly to empower Nigerians.
Are you in support of the $195million security contract?
Why are we engaging an Israeli firm to operate security vessels on our waters, is it not similar to what Tompolo and Global West were having back then? I believe we should then give Tompolo and Global West some credit because they are Nigerians, why an Israeli firm? When Nigerian seafarers do not have jobs, what security contract are they going to do here that Nigerians cannot do? I read it that the Israeli firm would train Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Police, what a shame, our Navy is 62 years old and you want to get a ramshackle Israeli man to come and offer them training, we understand the Israeli firm is not even known in Israel. Global West did the job and did it well, they were able to get money that was trapped in NLNG that we were trying to get since, so why are we not using the Global West model, why are we using the Israeli to be on our waters and be snooping around, I don't even know why the Nigerian Navy is allowing this nonsense, they are to protect our territorial integrity. If the huge money given to Tompolo or the Israeli firm is given to the Navy, they would do the job better.
All these piracy is happening because NIMASA is not doing their job, NIMASA is collecting Sea Protection Levy which is in millions of dollars, they also collect environmental protection levy which is also in millions of dollars, they collect 3% levy out of which 1% goes into their operations, with all these money, NIMASA can handle whatever security challenges they have, so long it is appropriated, we don't need any Israeli on our waters for patrol.
The Lagos Channel Management which NPA employed have people there from their place who are not even as competent, they would not even engage Nigerians, this is why I said Global West should be commended, they had all Nigerian crew.
In view of all these, do you support the passage of MASECA Bill?
The MASECA Bill is not justified in any way, these people are just looking for how to get their own share of the cake, there is nothing there that NIMASA cannot do if properly focused, maritime security is not 'gun security', it is about putting measures in place to mitigate against these things from happening and call Navy for interventions or call Air Force for their maritime patrol unit. NIMASA's presence at sea must be seen, so the MASECA Bill they are talking about is just nonsense, it is serious duplication, already we have too many regulations on shipowners in Nigeria, NIMASA officers will go onboard ship, MASECA also wants to start inspecting ship, NPA, NDLEA, they all enter the ship, they all board the ship collecting ship stores and money.
The NIMASA floating dock came in recently, how will this impact on ship owners?
It doesn't sound well to the ears, it is not NIMASA business, what they should have done is to get some private people interested because the Maritime Fund allows for these kind of things, currently there no single vessel flying Nigerian flag, we should be ashamed of ourselves, this is NIMASA's job as part of shipping development. If the money they spent to buy nonsense they call floating dock had been used to purchase two tanker vessels for just two Nigerians, NNPC will hire it on government-to-government, facilitate it and these Nigerians would be working. How can you go and spend so much money buying a floating dock has Nigerdock been exhausted? The NPA also has a floating dock which is currently sinking, the Navy also has, the reason shipowners are dry- docking outside Nigeria is because our cost is too high, if I have a vessel and you are asking me to pay N1million, but I am given the same service for N200,000 in Ghana, I will definitely take my ship to Ghana. NIMASA needs to bring in experts to look at the cost of dry docking which is sending people outside Nigeria; this is just the same way people are running away from our ports because our port charges are too high.