A former Rector of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN, Oron, Akwa-Ibom state, Engr Olu Akinsoji, has said that the economic benefits of a well-harnessed waterways transport system will continue to elude riverine dwellers if urgent steps are not taken to address the missing link between water transport and economic development.
Akinsoji, in statement made available to Vanguard Maritime Report, said that the under-utilization of the Maritime academy could also be linked to the under-utilization of the nation’s waterways.
The Marine engineer disclosed that it is a global policy that inland water transport is designed to target poverty alleviation and empowerment of riverside dwellers with a view to raising Gross Domestic Product, GDP.
Akinsoji warned that Nigeria should not drift away from the policy which according to him, was the reason for the establishing the National inland Waterways Authority, NIWA.
He noted that the aggregate number of boats on the waterways has dwindle warning that this should not be the case as the population is growing.
To this end, he called on the authorities to reposition the Maritime Academy of Nigeria so that the institution can provide the missing link between the dysfunctional water transport system and economic prosperity of people living in coastal communities.
He explained that one of the objectives of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, is to promote the development of indigenous commercial shipping in international and coastal shipping trade.
According to Akinsoji, “ One of the major requirement of the Cabotage law is that all vessels operating in the EEZ should be manned by Nigerians.
NIMASA being the executing agency of this law is charged with responsibility of identifying the number, categories and training needs of personnel required including the displacement of foreign operators on the vessels.
“Unfortunately, this responsibility of identifying the needs has not been discharged thereby creating a gap, erecting barrier for the optimal utilization and performance of the academy.
“The way forward is to establish a full data base of personnel on personnel on board vessels operating in the coastal waters of Nigeria.
“ If we are serious about the economic recovery of the nation, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, should called to order, advise to establish a school of Pilotage in the academy.
“One of the functions of the academy is to train the operators of Inland waterway vessels including power driven Small Crafts for the certification of competency or license of safe operation.
“It is mandatory that all operators of waterways must have a form of training and certification for safety of life and property.
“It is very important that NIWA defocus on Inland waterway transportation of riverside dwellers and in the process link up with the Academy for training and cognate technical assistance.
“Repositioning of the Academy cannot be concluded without its integration into the industry it is established to serve.