Chief Lexzy Nwangwu is the president of African Federation of Freight Forwarders. In this interview he shares with MMS Plus, his views on several issues facing the Nigerian maritime industry, how the Nigerian Maritime University should be designed as well as the enormous job opportunities in the maritime sector. Kenneth Jukpor writes.
Rotimi Amaechi has stated that the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU) project should be scrapped and he cited several reasons which include the location of the university. You shared similar views sometime ago. Do you concur with Amaechi?
Before the Minister of Transportation, on Rotimi Ameachi took his stand on the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU), I had complained about the location of the university but my complaints do not tantamount to closing down the university. The location is within the riverine area which is good, but for now it is not viable because the knowledgeable people that should be employed to coach the students are in or around the Lagos axis and it will be too expensive moving them from Lagos to Okerenkoko. So, I am of the opinion that while NMU stays at Okerenkoko we should have a satellite campus somewhere in Lagos for take-off.
Probably as the institution evolves, we sponsor students abroad to go and learn and come back as lecturers and we will have sufficient lecturers trained by the institution or the federal government and this should be under a contract. As these lecturers come back, they can go to Okerenkoko and the students can now go to the permanent site. Most of the institutions in Nigeria started from take-off sites.
But the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU) also has a proposed take-off site located at Kurutie in Delta state. What should happen to it considering the resources used the develop structures there?
That place is not viable. How do they get lecturers and other knowledgeable professionals to teach so that the quality of students that will emerge from the university will be top class? Most of the capable hands are working in Lagos. However, closing the university is not good because Nigeria needs a maritime university. Nigeria is a maritime nation and we need a maritime university urgently considering the untapped potentials in the maritime. But in setting up the university, we must do it right.
I don’t have a problem with the permanent site, it can be anywhere in the country. What matters is the take-off point where we start to handle the students with a standard and proffer a very good foundation. Maritime studies cannot be handled anyhow. It is a specialized area, not just a university where you can manage things. If you manage maritime studies, you kill people on the sea.
We have a maritime academy but it is not a university. An academy is like a professional body but a university is where we train people in several levels such as first degree, second degree and PhD, etc. We need this university because Africa is talking about African fleet, but who is going to manage it? Are we going to employ foreigners manage it? No! We should be empowered to do this. About 70% of the cargo throughput to Africa is coming to Nigeria, yet we don’t have a maritime university. If we begin to purchase our fleet (national carriers), are we going to Ghana or Kenya (who have maritime universities) to employ people to manage our fleet? We have what it takes to develop human capacity and sell to other nations.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has been in the spotlight for wrong reasons lately as numerous corrupt charges spring up against the former DG Patrick Akpobolokemi and several others. This has led the Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi to ponder scrapping the agency. What is your take on this?
Rotimi Amaechi is not a maritime person. NIMASA is a maritime administrator and there is no country with such coastal line as ours that does not have a maritime administrator. It is the business of NIMASA to manage our maritime resources. So, thinking of scrapping NIMASA is wrong.
The function of NIMASA in our maritime domain is very critical. If Amaechi thinks they are not getting it right in NIMASA, he should restructure and rearrange NIMASA especially through the managerial team. I am aware that NIMASA has sponsored over 2000 Nigerian students studying maritime courses abroad.
Nigeria has the largest number of students in the World Maritime University (WMU) in Sweden. When these people return most of them will join NIMASA and the output of the agency will definitely improve. WMU is considered as the best maritime university in the world and it is a good record that Nigerians are the most in the university, so we are expecting these people to return very soon with vast experience.
We also have Nigerians scattered abroad in several maritime universities. These people will also add value to the Nigerian Maritime University when they return. They are possible human resources and it will be a shame to scrap NIMASA which is the agency that has been responsible for sponsoring most of these students.
Midstream activities in Nigeria have been on the rise, especially ship to ship transfer of oil. This anomaly coupled with piracy, has become very worrisome. How do we address this problem?
This resulted from corruption but it must not be curtailed. The Nigerian Navy and NIMASA are responsible for the safe keeping of our maritime areas; therefore, they must wake up to their responsibilities. I admonish the federal government to investigate those posted to such areas and if they aren’t doing their jobs they should be sacked and punished.
The Nigerian maritime water remains on the war risk zone of the joint war committee (JWC) of Lloyd and International Underwriting Association (IUA) both of London, consequently foreign vessels have to pay extra war risk charges when they stray into Nigerian waters. This has led major companies in Nigeria to embrace ship to ship transfer. What is the way forward?
Is there any war in Nigeria? Our waters are safe. This is just a ploy to cheat Africans especially nations like Nigeria who don’t have a maritime fleet. I remember vividly that the DG of Kenyan’s Maritime Administration told us about such issues. He said that there was a time the West ganged up to hike the freight charges for cargo going to Kenya. What the Kenyan government did was to use their vessels to go and pick their cargo and this made the foreign bodies to review the charges.
In Nigeria, the new government of change sacked some vessels conniving to defraud Nigeria, but when the issue was resolved freight charges were hiked because they know that we don’t have the capacity to do it ourselves. The main problem in that we don’t have national vessels to say if you don’t transport at this price we would convey our cargo ourselves.
We don’t have pirates compared to what is obtainable in other parts of the world. The onus is on the Nigerian government to look inward to find a way to support the acquisition of vessels by Nigerians.
The maritime sector is one that is tipped to cover for Nigeria’s revenue as a result of continuous drop in global oil prices. What pragmatic steps would you proffer to enable us realize the many potentials of our maritime industry?
The government of change is talking about creating employment for Nigerians but the maritime industry can produce over 3 million jobs. Real jobs and not make-shift jobs but the federal government should be keen on exploring the maritime sector. Look at our oil sub-sector, how can Shell mine oil, Shell loads the oil, Shell gauges the oil and does the documentation before giving it to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Agents and Customs should be allowed to go in to do the gauging and documentation. This would ensure that we have full records of how many barrels of oil goes out of Nigeria everyday and corruption will be curbed. This could also create over 3 million jobs for the oil sector alone.
For the shipping sector, we can apply the same approach we use for aviation; NIMASA doesn’t have to spend their money to get vessels. What they have to do is guarantee the ship builder and the financing banks that peradventure the Nigerian who wants the vessel fails to pay, they will seize it. If NIMASA can give this guarantee, vessels will begin to come into Nigeria and you only imagine the number of employment one vessel could create. We have fishes, hence we need fishing trawlers to go into fishing big time. Maritime clusters should also be established and this will ensure massive creation of jobs.