The Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transporters Senior Staff Association has distanced itself from the statement in which Secretary of the Merchant Directorate, Capt Alfred Oniye threatened that unemployed seafarers might resolve to kidnapping top personnel of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Speaking with Shipping Position Daily on Monday, the National Vice President of the union, Engr. Reginald Oyemnobi said rather than blame anyone for their predicament, 70% of the seafarers are not employed because they are not employable.
He blamed the influx of half-baked seafarers on the activities of unregistered mushroom training institutions and academies across the country.
Capt Alfred Oniye had in an interview granted one of our correspondent and published in our Monday edition, alleged that most crimes on Nigerian waters are committed by certified seafarers.
While reacting to a question on how attacks on ships could be curtailed, Capt Oniye had blamed it on the high rate of unemployment among seafarers. He blamed this on NIMASA.
He told Shipping Position Daily that, “if NIMASA does not do something about the unemployed seafarers, a time is coming that they would begin to kidnap NIMASA staff, NIMASA directors are already exposed to that, the game is going to shift from seafarers and foreigners, it would shift to NIMASA directors that some of them would not be able to enter their office again, they are the cancer that is killing the industry, they know the problem, they are the ones collecting money from these boys to regulate their certificates, and after they give the certificate there is no job, do you know how much they pay for certificate endorsement?”.
Reacting to the threat, Engr Onyemnobi said that the union is the custodians of Nigerian seafarers and that the union has been inundated with a lot of calls from a lot of ship Captains and Chief Engineers who feel slighted by Captain Oniye's claim.
He submitted that there is no certify seafarer that can engage in illicit activities because they are well-paid.
Expressing the union’s disappointment, he said: "I want to use this opportunity to distance Nigerian seafarers from these claims, Nigerian seafarers are neither hooligans nor sea robbers, there is no certified seafarer that would engage in such illegality, most of them that you see riding okadas and not having a job, they are all dropouts"
"A certified seafarer is either onboard or submitting his application to get a job, he knows what he makes onboard, a certified seafarer never losses hope even at his old age because seaman never dies"
"Rather, I would say that all these mushroom training institutes that we are having and which are not recognized by NIMASA or any government agency, when you go there, they are studying shipping management without nautical studies that would enable you go onboard, after they leave these institutions they start forming militants".
He argued that unemployment of seafarers is a global issue, but that the problem in Nigeria is that majority of those that are not employed are not employable, 70% of them are not employable, he said.
In Lagos area alone, we have over eight maritime institutions that are not accredited by NIMASA and National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), especially in nautical and marine engineering.
"These cadets are deceived under the guise that they would become a navy, when they come out of the institutions, they are not legible, they cannot approach NIMASA to write their COC, these are the people causing the menace", he alleged.
Also speaking, Secretary of the union, Comrade Julius Eforkpo described the threat on NIMASA Staff as a big threat which he said Nigerian seafarers are distancing themselves from.
He also said that NIMASA, at different occasions has given the union slots of available jobs onboard but lamented there is no qualified seafarers to take the jobs.
On his part, Assistant National Secretary of the union, Comrade John Okpono stated that: "We are also challenging any seafarer that says they have not gotten a job to come to our office at 24 Palace Road and prove it. Severally, NIMASA would give us allocation for jobs, but many of them don't have the required qualification, we have told anyone qualified to come here and submit their CV and see if they would not get a job"
"Sometimes, to deal with human being is very difficult; they would always claim that they don't have a job.
When you pass out of an academy, you have not yet completed your sea term and yet you are claiming not to be employed, those claiming they don't have jobs are those who have passed out from various institutions either accredited or not, and they looking for sea term".