By Innocent OROK
The sad news was given by angry protesting cadets numbering over 50 who took over the NIMASA Lagos headquarters office to protest their abandonment by the agency for over three years now.
The cadets who appeared with their kitted uniforms to demand for their one year sea time after three years of sitting at home have vowed not to leave the agency’s gate until their demands were met.
We gathered that after trying to use it’s security to dispersed the cadets did not work,
the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside decided to address the cadets to save the agency from further embarrassment.
Dakuku while reacting to some of the demands made by the aggrieved cadets promised to enroll them in the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC).
Apparently perturbed about the peaceful demonstration by the aggrieved youths ,the DG rallied round top executives of the agency to assist the cadets numbering 48 with a paltry N400,000,as consolidation, thus provided a 46 – passengers coaster bus as a means of transportation back home.
Dakuku said “There are three things we are going to do urgently, one is that we should take proper attendance of those who are here. Two , there are refreshment for you and three ,I will look for N400,000 to borrow from my staff “,he noted .
It was also gathered that the aggrieved cadets came to Lagos all the way from the Niger Delta region.
The NIMASA boss further stressed the agency’s commitment to ensuring that all beneficiaries of the NSDP conclude their programme by getting the mandatory sea-time training.
“I have asked my Director, Maritime Labour Service to doctor the issue down and I will follow up the issue with the NYSC because the certificate you have is original because it is called provisional .
“We will take it up with NYSC because by right you are supposed to serve, but I don’t have the final guarantee on that “,he said
The NSDP scheme was flagged-off in September, 2009 to complement full implementation of the Cabotage Act, 2003, which in itself is geared towards strengthening indigenous tonnage capacity with one of its cardinal objectives being that coastal vessels are to be exclusively manned by Nigerians .The scheme has 2500 cadets which some have finished their program, but waiting for sea time.
The DG who noted that NIMASA is doing all it can to ensure all those who graduated in the scheme are duly enrolled on ocean-going vessels within the shortest possible time.
He also assured that in addition to the over 600 cadets who have benefitted so far from the sea time training, the agency is working so hard to ensure that another batch of not less than 200 cadets are enrolled between now and the first quarter of 2019.
He noted that “Sea-time training is your right and I assure you that none of you will be denied the mandatory sea-time training.
Speaking further, Dr. Peterside informed them that the agency is in discussions with some foreign institutions to place seafarers on board ocean-going vessels and that in no distant time more cadets will be placed on board for their sea-time training.
It could be recalled that
on 28th September, 2018 about 48 cadets under the NIMASA sponsored Nigerian Seafarers Development Program (NSDP) embarked on a peaceful protest at NIMASA head office in Lagos to demand for the long awaited seatime/COC.
It was noted that the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, stated clearly while addressing the protesting cadets that “money is not the problem” and that “Seatime is our right”.
The cadets in a dissatisfied letter frowning at the several failed promises by NIMASA said `We stand to appreciate the DG for assuring us that seatime is our right and the agency will do everything within its capacity to make sure that all NIMASA-NSDP cadets who have graduated are placed onboard ocean going vessels for their seatime, which will qualify them to obtain their certificate of competency(COC).
The DG equally promised that not less than 200 cadets would be sent for their seatime training before the end of March 2019.
We also receive with joy the response by the DG that there are shipping companies willing to concurrently train 10,20,30 or even up to 50 cadets and we pray the agency to look into this wonderful offer in order to reduce the number of cadets waiting endlessly for seatime.
`The purpose of this letter is to express our dissatisfaction with the seeming resolve of the agency to wait for the institution in Egypt or other institutions that can provide berthing space for up to 200 cadets at a time which will definitely result to a huge number of cadets spending more years waiting for their turn to embark on the mandatory seatime.
`This decision is not in the best interest of over 1500 NIMASA-NSDP cadets who have been waiting for seatime/COC, as the delay is detrimental to our professional productive age to grow and remain in the career to the point where the goal of NSDP is achieved.
`It is highly frustrating for NIMASA-NSDP cadets who graduated from institutions in the Philippines because unlike their colleagues from UK and Romania, they can not obtain their B.Sc degree without the mandatory seatime because of the maritime education system of their country of study.`
Therefore we plead with the management of NIMASA, as a matter of urgency, to :
1. Embrace other reputable options which have been presented to the agency by the various maritime experts such as SOAN, Employment Clinic, Temisan Omatseye – former NIMASA DG and other shipping companies willing to train the cadets in order to address the endless delay in seatime training of NIMASA-NSDP cadets.
2.Put in place measures to guarantee immediate transition from seatime to obtaining internationally accepted COC without delays, so we can compete favorably with our foreign counterparts .
3.Put in place appropriate arrangements for the cadets who graduated from the Philippines to obtain their B.Sc degree certificates upon completion of the mandatory seatime training.
`We implore the Agency to make true its promise to send not less than 200 cadets for their seatime before the end of March 2019.
It is worthy of note that in the past 3 years, the agency has made several unfulfilled promises of this nature. Our career has been put on a standstill by the agency. Some of our maritime professional certificates are now near expiry even without using them. Our hopes are dimming!
There is an urgent need to embrace any/all option(s) that would take away our frustrations and give us the career we have always longed for.
As the theme of the programme says “GO-TO-SEA” NIMASA-NSDP cadets are determined to “GO-TO-SEA”.
It is with our last gleam of hope that we write this open letter to all and sundry as we beckon:
NIMASA PLEASE GIVE US SEATIME.
Nigerian cadets has over the years since the demise of the NNSL been faced with SEATIME problems. Worst hit is the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN, Oron, which has a backlog of over 7,000 cadets without sea time.
The Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme was conceived in 2008 as a deliberate policy to ameliorate the dearth in certified and qualified seafarers and of course the depletion of seafarers in our national pool due mainly to age and migratory instinct for greener pastures by seafarers.
The program in the past ten years has not been able to proffer solution to the seafarers and sea time needs of the country.