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Piracy, maritime insecurity driven by unemployed seafarers’-Merchant Navy boss

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EVEN though piracy has become a challenging critical index in global seafaring, its presence and growing recurrences in Nigeria has further been escalated by idle professional seafarers, majority of who are thrown into the labour market, at regular intervals.

President of the Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria, MESAN, Abel Ogah, Retired, who dropped this hint during the celebration of Nigerian Seafarers at the Lagoon Restaurant Lagos, tagged Sailors’ Night, said until government intensifies effort to rebuild its national carrier and set in motion mechanism to absorb and engage idle professional marines and seafarers, piracy and related sea borne criminalities may remain the order of the day.

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Ogah said occupational and professional theft and sabotage are not possible without professionals and insiders’ participation, and stakeholders including the federal government should develop a blueprint to ameliorate the suboptimal condition under which seafarers operate, in addition to reducing the scale of joblessness in the seafaring industry.

MESAN Secretary, Capt. Alfred Oluwasegun Oniye said The Sailors’ Night was not just about feeling good, drinking and back slapping, but also a mean exploring the intellectual content of seafaring with a lecture titled Revamping Nigerian Economy through the Maritime Industry.

According to Capt. Ogah, piracy attacks has a weakening effect on the national economy and at strategies deployed towards reinventing the maritime industry as a critical element in the overall revival efforts. He also bemoaned the state of the Nigerian maritime industry which he says has not shown sufficient performance in global maritime trade rating due to lack of national shipping over the past three decades.

He said, “Am talking about Nigerian own vessels, the advantages of these vessels is that they will not only carry out shipping businesses but the ships will also provide jobs for our seafarers and help to fix the unemployment ratio.  Unfortunately we don’t have merchant fleet. So our seafarers are in the hands of private ship owners.

“In other to give credence to the merchant navy, the Nigerian Merchant Navy Act 2007 was enacted. Sequel to this, various departments and agencies have been created under the ministry of transport. In terms of infrastructure, in terms of organization, in terms of facilities, we are in place, but are we really doing well.

Are we operating global best practices? Our national merchant fleet has no single craft left, except private shipping companies operating under controversial circumstances. And that is the challenge of seafarers today, if you shout, they will just throw you out and bring another person. The seafarers in Nigeria have become victims of neglect, of maltreatment by private ship owners.

“If you don’t take what they offer, you and your family will go hungry. So they settle for meagre wage out of frustration. Unemployment in Nigeria has led to unspeakable illegal activities in the maritime industry. When someone is trained on a particular profession and he is not legitimately engaged or employed, the likely thing is for him to find an alternative to survive. That is why, the militants, pirates, sea robbers are people who have been trained on the act of managing sea resources.

“What you cannot do you cannot steal. You can’t say I stole your cow when I don’t know how to herd cow. So it is only the man that understands the element and the environment that can go there and steal. That is why we have piracy.”

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