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Funding constraints impede multibillion naira shipbuilding, maritime varsity projects

Posted: Apr 23, 2015 at 12:45 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Andrew Airahuobhor  / Lagos


The construction of ship building/dockyard facility and a maritime university by the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) at Okerenkoko, Delta State is experiencing funding constraints.

There are indications that the projects, which had already gulped over N58 billion mainly for sand filling, bush clearing etc, will become abandoned as the country prepares for inauguration of a new President that may not be favorably disposed to the project, largely viewed as white elephant.

The projects were trailed by suspicion from the beginning because of the perceived influence of Government Ekpemukpolo alias Tompolo in the location. Many hinged the project completion on President Jonathan’s success in the Presidential elections because Muhammadu Buhari’s administration may not be favourably disposed to continuing it, apparently because of unconfirmed due process issues.

Request made by the director general of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi to the federal government for exemption from contributing to the federation account for a period of five years has not been granted since last year. Akpobolokemi said they made the request, “Because of the capital intensive nature of these projects that we are embarking upon,” which he said could hit over a billion dollars.

NIMASA was also financially exhausted throughout the period of presidential election campaigns and this impacted on workers allowances and other commitments of the Agency.

Consequently, the university that was supposed to commence academic activities in a temporary site since November 2014 is yet to take off. Also, construction works at the permanent sites of both the shipyard and university have been suspended indefinitely even though monies have been paid to various contractors. But the Agency has been unable to give a specific budget it is working with.

The Agency is building the first maritime university in Okerenkoko, as well as a shipyard and a dockyard in Delta state, these are projects with potentials to revolutionise Nigeria’s human and technical capacity in the maritime industry, were level of indigenous participation has remained abysmal, despite Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003. This situation gave room for more than 80 percent domination of the industry by foreigners contrary to provisions of the Cabotage Act.

NIMASA initiated the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) in 2008 as a stop gap measure in building capacity by sponsoring young Nigerians’ training abroad in nautical science, marine engineering and marine transportation and naval architecture, up to degree level. This is because of the urgency in the development of human capacity for the maritime industry, reputed to be the largest revenue earner for government after oil and gas.

NSDP has gulped over N20 billion from 2011 to date, for school fees, feeding allowances and laptops, according to Akpobolokemi. NSDP has 2500 trainee cadets out of which over 2000 are fully sponsored by NIMASA. The other 355 cadets are being co-sponsored with the Agency by 15 state governments of the Federation on a 60:40 percent arrangement.

President Goodluck Jonathan performed the groundbreaking of the NIMASA Shipyard, Dockyard as well as the permanent site of Nigeria Maritime University at Okerenkoko, a riverine community in Warri Southwest Local Government Area of Delta State on Saturday, May 10th, 2014.

Minister of transport, Idris Umar, said the reasons for the citing the shipyard and dockyard project in Okerenkoko, a riverside community, are based on the natural endowments of these areas such as natural affinity, proximity to the shipping routes, the volume of shipping activities and the high hydrocarbon reserves in the area.  It is also a fulfilment of Mr. President’s desire to spread development to the nooks and crannies of our great country, Nigeria, he said.





There is high prospect for establishment of more shipyards in the country. More than 5400 ships call ports in Nigeria annually, and more than 500 reportedly operate on coastal and inland waters daily. It is mandatory for a ship to be dry docked in an interval of between two or three years for underwater inspection and survey by classification societies, which takes an average of 10 days.

However, most of the vessels operating in Nigeria are compelled to undertake an average of 10 days journey to places like Abidjan, Namibia, Cameroon and even Tema, in Ghana, just to dry dock the vessel in line with standard requirements, like the car owner would always take the vehicle to a workshop for service at regular interval. Time and money is lost when done outside the area of operation.

“What is the essence of the university project is it supposed to be there, what happened to Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron?” Lucky Amiwero, the national president of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, queried.

He said NIMASA got it wrong by establishing the university as it does not have the requisite manpower that will teach there. This is because, the over 30 year old maritime academy of Nigeria in Oron has been ailing due to poor funding. Its lecturers are just now being upgraded in anticipation of being granted degree awarding status.

Senior special assistant to the president on Maritime Services, Olugbenga Leke Oyewole told Daily Independent that there is no need to entertain fears about the fate of the university and shipyard projects. He said, “this is a national project’ and the new government will have to continue with it because the National Assembly is there to ask questions about why anybody would want to abandon it.

He said he is not aware if NIMASA wrote formally to the president requesting exemption from contributing to the federation account for a period of five years.

The Nigerian Maritime Sector remains a critical catalyst to commerce globally.  In Nigeria, it is responsible for the carriage of 95 percent of the exports and imports of trade in Oil and Non-oil products.