…Seek Extension of President Tinubu’s Student Loan to Seafarers
…Tips Cabotage Act to Generate $50 billion Annually
By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Joint Body of the Nigerian Seafarers Professional Group has called on the Federal Government to scrap the importation of vessels into Nigeria, arguing that it negates the intents of the Cabotage Act 2007 which stipulated that ships should be built and crewed by Nigerians.
This is even as the seafarers have called on President Bola Tinubu to extend the recently passed Policy on Student Loan to also include Nigerian seafarers, adding that many of that need such facility to break through.
The Nigerian seafarers who gathered at an event organised on Sunday 25th of June 2023 at the National Institute for Sports Hall located at the National Stadium in Lagos commemorated the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) World Seafarers Day 2023.
The theme for the celebration is; MARPOL At 50: Our Commitment Goes On.
Speaking at the event, frontline seafarer, Capt Oluwasegun Alfred Oniye said that currently, 80% of vessels operating in Nigerian waters are owned by foreigners and crewed with 80% foreigners, this he said is a clear violation of the Nigerian Cabotage Act which supposed to be implemented and monitored by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)
Capt Oniye advised NIMASA management to ensure that the accrued CVFF Fund ready for disbursement must not be spent outside Nigeria, but that the Vessels can be built in-country.
Speaking, he said “If the law says any ship that would sail within the Nigerian waterways must be built here, so why are we importing ships into the country? We are already building ships in Nigeria, all we need is to fine-tune the technical aspects. The approved CVFF should not go out”
Capt Oniye said thehe Federal Government should come out with a policy that would encourage ship building in the country.
According to him, building ships alone in Nigeria would create jobs for over 5000 Nigerians.
He noted that the implementation of the Cabotage Act is enough to create jobs for over 15,000 Nigerians because the ship would be built in Nigeria and owned by Nigerians.
“If the ships are built here, manned and owned by Nigerians, it will create jobs here, so, if we are taking such money out, it is like taking money to buy unemployment to be shipped into Nigeria.
“Taking such money out of Nigeria now is going to cause Nigeria another havoc. Anyone who said CVVF money should be taken outside for the importation of ships is an enemy of this country. Nigeria is overdue and we must start building ships locally” Oniye argued
Speaking further, Capt Oniye said the implementation of the Cabotage Act is enough to generate not less than $50 billion for the maritime industry yearly because it will open channels for opportunities in the industry.
Also speaking, Capt Rotimi Ogunsakin lamented that the Federal Government is not encouraging implementation of the Cabotage Act in Nigeria.
“The Cabotage Act says the ship must be built in Nigeria, owned by Nigeria, and manned by Nigeria, that is, when cargo come from abroad, if that cargo has to leave Lagos to Warri, it must be on a ship owned by a Nigerian, but it is not like that presently.
“So, all those people that own these vessels, they are the one collecting the economy, so the maritime alone is supposed to make Nigeria buoyant, all these money they are borrowing, maritime can pay it out”
Capt Ogunsakin sent an appeal to President Bola Tinubu on the Student Loan Policy, saying that Nigerian seafarers are in dare need of such loans.
“If not that I am old now, I would have applied, because I don’t know when I will pay, maybe my children will help me pay, because the money to sponsor anybody to masters level, like this year, I spent over N3 Million to renew my certificate.
“Nigerian seafarers are not getting paid enough, you just collect salary and you use everything to renew your certificate, and you are not even guaranteed of getting the job back. Let them bring this loan to seafarers” he said