· NEEDS Assessment crucial to transforming maritime sector
· Polytechnics, not universities germane to maritime sector growth
By Kenneth Jukpor
Few weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to the bill seeking the establishment of Nigeria Maritime University (NMU) in Okerenkoko, Delta State, there are indications that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Federal Ministry of Transport may have disregarded due process in the formation of NMU.
Investigations show that NIMASA and the Transport Ministry may not have sufficiently engaged the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Ministry of Education in developing the university.
While Buhari had declined assent on grounds that the funding provisions are grossly excessive and will disrupt the operation of a number of government agencies and institutions, transport academia have lamented that the university had commenced recruitment without approval from NUC.
The leadership of NIMASA under former Director General, Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi had championed the NMU project which was seen as a South-South project with Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the President but experts have queried NIMASA’s ability and responsibility to carry out such projects.
During an exclusive chat with MMS Plus last week, Prof. Bamidele Badejo stressed that it was the duty of NUC and the Federal Ministry of Education to recommend the approval of the university and not NIMASA and the Ministry of Transport which had been the scenario.
Noting that NMU had commenced operations without getting due approvals, Prof. Badejo expressed worry on the fate of the students admitted in 2018, even as he wondered how NMU got the authority to admit students.
“There is nothing wrong with establishing a specialized maritime university to be known as Nigerian Maritime University (NMU). There is also nothing wrong with the location of the university. However, you can’t establish a university without the National Universities Commission (NUC).
“It is the duty of NUC and the Federal Ministry of Education to recommend to the President and not the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). To what extent was NUC carried along in the development of Nigerian Maritime University (NMU)? How did NMU come about the recruitment made in 2018?” he said.
With over 3,000 trained cadets under the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) hovering without opportunities for seatime experience, Prof. Badejo said that the nation should be more perturbed about developing strategies that would develop the local capacity of the shipping sector to absorb these cadets.
Meanwhile, some transport veterans have argued that the nation wasn’t in need of a maritime university but a technical school (Polytechnic), positing that Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron was in dire need of attention.
The former Director General of National Maritime Authority (NMA) now NIMASA, Mr. John Egesi commended Buhari for not giving assent to the NMU bill.
According to the former NMA Director General, there was no basis to set-up the university as he argued that the sector was in dire need of technocrats that would be better developed in polytechnics.
“Buhari may have stopped the signing of NMU into law because there’s no money; nevertheless, there is no reason to sign that bill even if the money is available. There is no significant reason to necessitate the creation of that university. If you have a maritime university that trains people in various aspects of maritime, where would they work? This idea came up under the leadership of Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi as Director General of NIMASA, he saw this as part of the South-South agenda but this is more than that” he said.
He stated that MAN Oron was yet to reach its full potentials and the Academy was better placed to transform the sector.
“The place of such crucial training is best developed in the Polytechnics. England developed speedily because it recognized the need to develop technocrats. Most Nigerians have understood this and when they travel abroad they attend polytechnics because that it where they come out with the requisite knowledge and certification” he said.
“You can create a school of maritime but within existing polytechnics. Polytechnics were coined from poly which means ‘many’ and techniques meaning ‘technical’. So, polytechnic means many technicalities. I don’t think there is a University of Maritime anywhere in England. We shouldn’t be carried away by politics in the country,” he added.
However, when contacted to clarify NUC’s role in the development of NMU, the Director of Information and Press at NUC, Mr. Ibrahim Yakassi was shocked to learn that President Buhari had declined assent to the Maritime University bill.
The NUC spokesperson told our correspondent on Friday last week; to kindly send online links confirming President Buhari’s declining the bill, an event which took place more than two weeks ago.
“My friend I’m just hearing this from you. I don’t know when the President declined assent to the Maritime University bill. When did this happen? If you can send me the stories to read, I can react. Honestly, I’m not aware” he said.
However, efforts to get Yakassi explain the role of NUC in developing the NMU were futile as at presstime.