Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh, spoke with Godfrey Bivbere on efforts of the agency to explore the benefits of the  Blue economy, gave update on the NSDP and much more. Excerpt: 

The blue economy, how far has the management driven it, what is the advantage to the Nation?

Well, the blue economy as you are aware is a new dimension that we are targeting and interestingly the new dimension that is in the pipeline now.  The developed nations have already embraced it for so many reasons. One, it is an aspect that we wish to embrace because we want to harness more revenue for the economy than we are having which has to do with the resource under the seabed. We need more revenue and if you are following government program, you know that they have been trying their best in terms of Agriculture.

Everybody knows that they have gone far and they have achieved a lot in terms of that policy and so the second aspect of what the maritime industry is trying to promote for a long time is the issue of the blue economy. As am talking to you now the Director General is already in Nairobi in Kenya to discuss the issue of the blue economy and we are trying to chart a course to ensure that this blue economy will become a success in our environment, especially in West Africa so that we can have Africans relying heavily on the resources we have in our own economy. Around August 2018, I launched a book harnessing the Nigerian Maritime.

This book address basically issues that do with the blue economy. There are resources we have in our territorial waters, so those are the things that we are doing. You ask what the gains, its enormous are, Gross Domestic Product, GDP will to go up, and this will have a rippling effect on the economy.

Now apart from these, the decline which is currently being experienced in this country will be taken care of to a large extent. You can look at the size of our population, when you look at the increase in population annually, our economic growth despite the fact that there are lots of gaps there which we need to fill. So you are following our own forecast, the forecast we did which will end towards 2019, we started another forecast now that will address the issue in 2019 to see what we can realize. You see the enormous asset that we have and the size of the asset which is about N9.1 trillion annually. The 2017 forecast indicated that, so the benefit of this blue economy is something that without any hesitation people will embrace it.

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I have already written my own book and am saying it over and over again, I may not be able to continue putting pen on paper, there are so many others working on the blue economy and like I said I expect each and everyone to come on board and let us join hands together and do whatever we can towards the development of the this sector of the industry.

During the book launch, the minister that represented the president, that is the minister of transportation; said he was not concern about all the theories being put forward by professionals’ but that they should make these potentials a reality for the benefit of Nigerians. Now, I just mentioned N9.1 trillion, he said we want to see them all, we don’t want to see any rhetorics but action in this regard.

When we take our coastal line from Badagry, that is the beginning of the border between Benin Republic and Nigeria then you go up to Calabar where we have a border with Cameroon and Bakasi, Bakasi precisely, that is our own coastal line.

Now we have enormous resources there sitting under the bed of the sea, some at the middle, and some at the top. When you explore the sea thoroughly you will come to realize that there are different resources at different levels of the sea.

So equally if you go to the sea, the type of resources you will see maybe around Badagry is not the same resources that you will see when you get to Bakasi, so these things are different. I hope and I pray that I will be alive when we can now to exploit these resources for the benefit of the government and people of this country.

We have deposit of these mineral resources at different locations, so that this research will help us to start harnessing these assets. That is the intentions of my book. Now I made mention the resources we have, the type of fish we have, the type of shrimps and when you go even deep under the sea, you can find other things, these resources have not been presented we are just talking about them. For the blue economy, we have been promoting it; we have been saying it, now we have to go to the next level.

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What is the next level?

We have to identify the resources, where are the resources, what are the value of these resources, how can we harness the resources, what type of treatment, who and who has the responsibility, how can you get the certification?  Because all these things have to bounce back on the existing laws in the country, you cannot just enter into sales and start doing this kind of thing.

Let’s go to the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme, NSDP, is like it has stopped suddenly, why is that so. Why is NIMASA not considering local training?

Local training, what type of local training?

You send cadets aboard for training in partnership with the states, why don’t we do the same within Nigeria here?

If I get you correctly, you are mixing the questions. NSDP basically is an interventional program which will normally send our indigenes to learn in foreign countries.

The NSDP has not stopped, I will come to that. Then the second aspect of the local training, the local training can be in two forms, the local training could be as the agency skill acquisition here locally in Nigeria, or even here in Nigeria as in the case of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN, Oron in Akwa Ibom State, so these are the local training.

When you say local to me I will assume that is what you mean, so I will address the two issues at the same time. First of all, the NSDP program is an interventionist program introduced to replace the shortage of man power in the Maritime industry and what we discovered after the enactment of the Cabotage Act.

You know the four pillars of the Cabotage Act includes the issue of manning that is where the NSDP comes, then the second issue has to do with ownership, it must be a Nigerians own vessel and other things the seafarers must be Nigerians, Nigerian must own the ship, the building must be in Nigeria, where you register the ship (flagged) must be in Nigeria.  We discover that we do not have qualified seafarers to man the ships and that is why the agency has introduced an interventional program to start the NSDP, now when we introduced NSDP we had about three windows as it is now. Window number one, we went round the country, zone by zone, the six geo political zone and we told them what we did.

That we want young secondary school leavers with minimum of five credits in science to come into NSDP program and in joining the program what was expected at that time was the state governor will pay 40 per cent of the cost of training and NIMASA will pay 60 per cent of the entire cost. For instance, the cost of training one cadet to completion is about $100,000. Some states did not buy the idea at that time, we are looking for 20-25, so they will now pay for those students and take care of their responsibility at the end of the day many states could not cope and others did not key into the program. At a time we started having a kind of request from individual Nigerians, so people will now come and tell us that look, I have a son, what if I pay 40 per cent and you pay the 60 per cent and you will now send the student to school and we looked at it and said it’s a good idea that it is the same thing.

NIMASA is representing the Federal Government. On the side, the state government that will bring 40 per cent, federal government will bring 60 per cent then we send the student to maritime training institution abroad. When the second system opened we now allowed individuals to come and pay 40 per cent and NIMASA will pay the 60 per cent that is the second window we introduced.

Due to the  issues we had with youth of the  Niger Delta region, we tried to introduce the third window where some states and it is not  restricted to Niger Delta, we now went and picked students from those institutions that did well in sciences and we will now send them which is 100 per cent paid for. This three windows will take over three thousand Nigerians but unfortunately the original plan we had does not include sea time, and this sea time is likened to law school; you finish your school, graduate and you do not go to law school, you cannot practice. If you obtain your degree from those institutions and return to Nigeria without doing your sea time, then you are not a qualified seafarer.

Between 2017 and last year, we sent a lot of students that completed their studies aboard in batches for sea time training. That is why you look at it as if we closed the chapter but we did not. We discovered some problems attached to the original plan and that is why many states are not happy because we cannot send their students. The sea time problem is not peculiar to Nigeria, it is a global thing.

Have you considered putting them onboard ships that belongs to Nigerians?

It will interest you to know that there is no single ocean going vessel owned by Nigerians, to the best of my knowledge, unless yesterday or today somebody acquired one.

Have you gotten partnership with any of the countries to take them aboard for sea time?

It has nothing to do with partnership, it is something that is costly, to train one cadet onboard a ship is costly and you will have to pay, so it is not that we have to get, what we do is negotiate.

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