Turaki Hassan, Abuja: Let me formally welcome you all to this very important Public Hearing on two Bills, namely: A Bill For An Act To Establish The Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko In Delta State And For Other Related Matters (HB. 1032)” and “A Bill For An Act To Establish The Maritime University, Oron Akwa Ibom State And To Make Comprehensive Provisions For Its Management And Administration And Other Related Matters (HB: 873)”.
This hearing is to garner critically needed inputs from relevant stakeholders on this piece of legislation. The essence of the Public Hearing is to accommodate citizens’ participation in governance particularly in the law making process. We are determined to ensure that our laws are enacted through participatory and transparent processes, therefore inputs from stakeholders are essential.
Maritime Sector is key in achieving the Federal government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan that was launched in March this year 2017. Availability of requisite trained manpower in sufficient numbers is key to the growth and sustenance of Nigeria’s maritime sector.
The National Assembly in 2003 enacted the Cabotage Act to ensure the participation of our Nationals in domestic Shipping (Coastal and Inland) by reserving crewing to only Nigerians. Over time, however, there has been shortage of manpower and persons with requisite skills and training to meet the desired expectations of Cabotage.
In an effort to fill this gap, government initiated a program; Nigeria Seafarers Development Program (NSDP) through the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). This program entails sending out Nigerians to study maritime courses such as Nautical Science, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in foreign Universities. This has resulted in the government spending huge sums of money in foreign currency, which is very scarce.
From Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) records, Nigeria needs about 50,000 Seafarers for the Nigerian Shipping Industry to realize its full potentials. As at 2009, Nigeria had less than 3,000 Seafarers.
The purpose of these two Bills aforementioned above, therefore is to fill the gap in the manpower requirements of the maritime sector. The proposed Nigeria Maritime University to be located in Okerenkoko Warri, Delta State is a brand new school which intends to provide maritime academic training, facilities and indeed infrastructure as required by the International Maritime Organization (IMOs) under STCW Conventions. For the Maritime University, Oron Akwa Ibom State, the Bill seeks to upgrade the existing Maritime Academy of Nigeria, (MAN) Oron to a degree awarding institution. This initiative will at the same time provide upgraded facilities and teaching aids as required by IMOs STCW Convention (The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) 1978 which sets qualification standards for Masters, Officers and Watch Personnel on seagoing merchant ships. The Convention was significantly amended in 1995 and 2010.
The global maritime economy has become increasingly knowledge driven, necessitating the production of local high level professionals to meet the challenges. Nigeria is a potential maritime power considering our access to limitless maritime resources and waterways, with about 850 km Coastline on the Atlantic Ocean that connects some of the World’s richest economies, and over 3000 km Inland navigable waterways. Yet there is no specialized university offering relevant courses at a university level in maritime studies and Engineering, even though Nigeria has about 130 Universities.
The citing of these institutions will help governments efforts in providing infrastructure and meaningful employment to all Nigerians, help douse youth agitation in the Niger Delta, and create a pool of Nigerian experts in the various field in the maritime industry and will attract potential investors not only to the region but to the whole country. It is noteworthy that the two Bills are very critical when passed into law so as to give a legal framework for the commencement of the two Universities in the region.
The National Assembly has been in the forefront of providing legislative support and solutions to the problem of agitations and manpower development in critical areas of need both in the Niger Delta and in the nation. It is in this regard that the National Assembly concluded work and passed the Bill for the upgrading of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) to the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurum also in Delta State. The Bill was forwarded to Mr President on 26th September, 2017 by the National Assembly, for his assent.
This Public Hearing made up of experts and stakeholders in both the maritime industry and the Education sector to access the needs of the maritime environment and determine the nature or number of institutions that would be adequate to serve the sector. The Committee should also examine the issue of economic viability of the two institutions and recommend viable funding options. Would they solve all the manpower needs of the sector? Should MAN, Oron also maintain its Professional Certificate awarding functions? Which maritime institution will fill the technical middle level manpower requirements of the Sector? Could MAN, Oron be upgraded to a degree awarding institution without altering its core mandate? Or do we need to harmonise their academic frameworks to avoid duplication of roles and subjects? The House would require clarity from stakeholders involved in these matters in order to pass Bills that would stand the test of time and provide for all our manpower needs.
Furthermore, the stakeholders should help the National Assembly determine creative funding structures for these institutions and role and relationship between NIMASA and the proposed institutions, considering the fact that maritime education is one of the major and critical mandates of NIMASA. Indeed the NIMASA Act 2007, makes it mandatory that at least 5% of NIMASA’s budget goes to MAN ORON annually, for it development.
Finally, while once again welcoming all our stakeholders to this hearing, I wish us all very fruitful and productive deliberations as I formally declare this Hearing open.