By Frank Odinukaeze
The recent protest by Batch 2 cadets in Philippines under the National Seafarers’ Development Program (NSDP) has elicited comments and reactions,even as it has raised a lot of administrative and managerial issues.
The NSDP Programme is a brainchild of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as an intervention programme to train and ensure supply of qualified seafarers from Nigeria.
However ,recent developments in that programme have given rise to doubts as to the seriousness to truly develop local content for the shipping industry in Nigeria.
It is pertinent to recall that in August 2022, the Batch 2 cadets had complained of neglect and nonpayment of their allowances by the NIMASA authority, making it impossible for them to renew their house rents, procure their visas and other expenses.
While the actions of the cadets have been roundly condemned by Nigerians,as it has done some damage to not only the Nigerian government but also the agency responsible for their training,it is also important to note the administrative and managerial lapses that had occasioned this protest by the cadets.
How much monitoring of the cadets is being done by NIMASA,to know their welfare and condition in the Philippines and other countries? Is there a dedicated office or means of frequently monitoring the activities of the cadets not only in the Philippines, but also in other places where there are Nigerian cadets undergoing training?
It is our view that if these measures were in place, this kind of embarrassing protest would not have happened ,as the contentious issues would have been nipped in the bud.
For the cadets to embark on a protest shows there is a communication gap between the cadets and the NIMASA authorities
That the protest is coming barely two months after the Director General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh approved an additional $2,000 dollars for each cadet, as extra fund due to inflation,leaves much to be desired
One is therefore tempted to ask:Was the approval of additional 2000 dollars for each of the cadets done from an informed perspective of the fact that the additional fund would cover the expense of the cadets for the duration of their study; take care of their rents , feeding, and all other incidentals?
Again, it is not clear if the additional fund is a one- off thing or monthly or for the duration of their stay in Philippines? If there was close monitoring and clear understanding of the challenges of the cadets , perhaps NIMASA would have come up with better additional funds,that would have adequately taken care of the needs of the cadets
Recall that NIMASA had announced in August 2022 that it is currently reviewing the cost of direct sponsorship of Nigerian cadets undergoing foreign training through the NSDP programme.
The Director General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh had noted that the review of ongoing sponsorship cost has become necessary due to the global inflationary trends which is very pronounced in the Philippines, India and some other countries where Nigerian cadets are undergoing Certificate of Competency (CoC) Examination training under the NSDP programme. The sponsorship covers training leading to obtaining a Certificate of Competency, CoC.
There is no doubt that the review of the sponsorship cost has become more than ever before very important.
The global effect of COVID-19 has brought in its wake crumbling global economy,with high inflationary trends which has greatly affected the purchasing power of many.
NiMASA should set up a dedicated office for the close monitoring of cadets in all the countries where they are currently studying.The office should synergize with the Nigerian embassies in those countries with the aim of keeping abreast with the activities and well being of the cadets,and report same to the Director General.
The Nigerian embassy in those countries should also take interest in the well being of Nigerians in the country where they are holding forth.
The manner with which the Nigerian Embassy in Manila , Philippines handled the cadets issue clearly replicates the indifference attitude often exhibited by our leaders in Nigeria.
The Embassy coming out to criticize the Batch 2 cadets under the National Seafarers Development Program for displaying what it termed, “Total disregard for the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on whose sponsorship they were in the Philippines to study”, is begging the question and smacks of ineptitude.
It is nevertheless relieving ,when the Director General of NIMASA set up a fact- finding team to go to Philippines to have first hand information of what the complaints of the cadets are .This will help the agency to better appraise the situation and find lasting solutions to its recurrence. This measure taken by the DG,is commendable and would no doubt douse tension among the cadets and stakeholders.