Nigerian maritime students and young cadets are planning a coordinated mass protest at the various offices of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to register their greviances over the inability of the agency to tackle numerous challenges impeding their career development.
The group known as Coalition of Concerned Nigerian Maritime Cadets and Seafarers comprises young seafarers, maritime students and cadets from various maritime academies in Nigeria, said it has waited patiently for NIMASA to address the challenges, but to no avail.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after the 6th AMSAY Conference held recently in Apapa, Lagos, leader of the Coalition, Cadet Joseph Taiwo said, “You can see that from discussions held in this Conference, all fingers are pointing at NIMASA on many issues.”
“On the issue of Cabotage implementation, especially the aspect that requires Nigerians to man vessels trading on Nigerian coastal waters, NIMASA is found wanting in implementing that aspect of Cabotage. So, how can Nigerian seafarers have jobs when NIMASA continues to allow foreigners to man our coastal vessels?”
“Today, we are talking about job creation for Nigerian Youth. On the aspect of casualisation of Nigerian seafarers which Capt Ogunsakin talked about during his panel discussion. He revealed that he was also a victim and NIMASA is also culpable here. By the way, NIMASA representative is supposed to be a panelist to discuss the lead paper, but did you see any of them here? Their absence to a crucial gathering like this when duly invited shows nonchalant attitude to issues affecting cadets,” he lamented.
According to him, the issue of sea-time and limited job opportunities are the biggest challenges facing cadets and Nigerian ship-owners don’t have ships with the implication that cadets don’t have a future in the industry.
“We have analysed the situation and we have come to the conclusion that Nigerians must own ships for us to have jobs and sea-time opportunities. So, we are in support of Nigerian ship owners that the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) must be disbursed so Nigerian ship-owners can acquire ships.”
“Come to think of it, the Cabotage Law meant for the maritime sector came into existence many years before the Local Content Law meant for the Oil & Gas sector was enacted. But the Local Content Law has recorded far more success stories in the oil and gas sector than the Cabotage Law has done for the maritime sector. Why is it so? These are the questions we have for NIMASA and relevant authorities in the maritime sector and we can no longer keep quiet while our future wastes away. For these reasons, we will protest at NIMASA offices nation-wide in the month of June, up till ‘Seafarers Day’ event. We shall engage NIMASA squarely on these issues until our needs are met,” he said.
While assuring that the protests will be peaceful, Taiwo stressed that the group will display placards as they take the exercise to the Minister of Transportation or the Permanent Secretary whenever they come to Lagos for any functions or events.
“If the authorities fail to heed to our demands, we shall activate Phase 2 of the protest which is to launch an online campaign aimed at discouraging younger ones from studying maritime related courses in Nigeria because it’s a waste of time and resources. Government and its agencies should stop deceiving Nigerian youths that there is a future for them in the maritime sector when truly there’s none,” he lamented..
Meanwhile, he commended the Convener of AMSAY Conference, Mr. Sylvanus Obasi for initiative to have the summit and noted that the convener had been holding back the aggrieved cadets from protesting over the years.
“We should have started this protest some years back, Mr. Obasi kept holding us back. He can’t do that again because he can also see that NIMASA is paying lip service to issues affecting cadets,” he added.
At the summit, a Nigerian Master Mariner, Capt. Williams Ogunsakin admonished NIMASA to put a pause on the mandatory certificates of cadets who are yet to get employment and stop it from counting, adding that so many of them are wasting money, renewing their certificates every five years even when there is no job placement.
Capt Ogunsakin also lamented that the Nigerian waterways is dominated by foreign seafarers and captains carrying out cabotage trade, all due to failure of the waiver clause in the Cabotage Act being implemented by NIMASA.