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The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Akwa Ibom State government were among critical stakeholders that continued to express their support for the establishment of two maritime universities for country.
NIMASA in a statement by its Head Corporate Communication, Mr. Isichie Osamgbi, last weekend, denied a press statement by the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), which insinuated that the agency is opposed to the establishment of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko, Warri South West Local Government Area, Delta State.
“This assertion is far from the truth…as the Federal Government is committed to the actualisation of the project which the agency conceived. It is pertinent to note that NIMASA is supporting every aspect of the law in its determination to fulfill its obligations.”
It further said that the benefits derivable from the setting up of the institution will be quite numerous. Apart from becoming a citadel for knowledge and development of human capital, job opportunities will be created to the Nigerian people, particularly the community.
Also, the Akwa Ibom State government and the Host Communities of MAN, Oron and Maritime University of Nigeria, Okerenkoko, had penultimate week, said at a Public Hearing by the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND, that they are anxiously looking forward to the establishment of the two maritime universities.
This came as the President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki who was represented at the public hearing by the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan; said that the 8th Senate was committed to ensuring speedy passage of the two bills for the establishment of the Maritime University of Nigeria, Oron, Akwa Ibom State and the Maritime University of Nigeria, Okerenkoko, Delta State; to further boost the nation’s capacity to exploit its maritime potentials.
Saraki noted that the NIMASA has revealed that Nigeria needs about 29,000 seafarers to achieve her current local industry capacity needs, saying, “The Nigeria Senate is sensitive to the social and economic plight of the people of the Niger Delta region, and determined to address these challenges through meaningful developmental projects, hence the 8th Senate is committed to ensuring passage of the bills for the establishments of the two maritime university to assuage some of the problems in the area”.
According to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND, Senator Barau Jibrin, the committee will make sure that the two maritime universities are fully established with an enabling law.
He said his colleagues who sponsored the two bills, Senator James Manager for the Okerekoko University and Senator Nelson Effiong for MAN, Oron have carried out intensive legislative lobbying to persuade their colleagues to support these bills as such his committee called for the public hearing to get more inputs for the two bills to be pass into law seamlessly. The bills have passed through second reading at the Senate.
During deliberations, all stakeholders expressed the need that Nigeria is overdue for two maritime universities and even more. According to the Minister of Education, who was represented by the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Adamu Abubakar Rasheed, the NUC is happy with any attempt by anybody or group to establish credible universities. He said the NUC supports the bills seeking to establish the maritime universities. The NUC boss further explained that the Commission was involved in the establishment of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko in 2015, which the Federal Ministry of Transport conceived in conjunction with NIMASA, saying that former President Goodluck Jonathan gave his approval which was subsequently ratified by the Federal Executive Council. The NUC boss, however caution on the names which resemble each other, and called on the senate to harmonize that.
However, speaking on the bill for an Act for the establishment of Maritime University of Nigeria Oron, former Senator Anietie Okon said that the proposed name for MAN, Oron was Federal University of Maritime studies, Oron and not Maritime University of Nigeria, Oron as proposed in the bill. He also said that if smaller countries like Phillipines, Korea, Singapore, etc. with lower populations could have more Maritime Institutions, then Nigeria with over 180 million people needs more maritime universities.
Also contributing, the president of MAN, Oron Alumni Association, Mr. Austin Umezurike advised that it is better for MAN, Oron to be upgraded into a degree awarding institution, so as not to loss the professional aspect of maritime training as enshrined in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the Merchant Navy Act, which provides for professional training offered by the Academy.
However, neither the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi nor officials of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron attended the public hearing.
Though the Ministry reportedly said that they were not properly invited, the absence of the Minister from the event, Sunday Telegraph learnt, fueled the speculation the Mr. Amaechi may had stayed away from the hearing because of his well publicised stance on the cancellation of the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko, which has been overruled by both the Federal Government and the Senate. It could be recalled that, Rotimi Amaechi on assumption of office as the transportation minister said that the Federal Government cannot continue with the maritime university at Okerekoro, in Delta State.
The cancellation is believed to have infuriated the militants in the region, who went wild blowing Nigeria pipelines and strategic oil and gas installations, resulting in the country’s oil output falling to as low as 1.1 million barrels a day from about 2.5 million barrels per day in 2014.