Captain Jide Olugunwa is not new to the industry. He is popular within the maritime shipping sector. His name rings bell. And those who know him know what he stands for. As an expert in the shipping operations and a master mariner of many decades, he had paid his dues. Capt. Olugunwa is the current vice president of the Association of Master Mariners of Nigeria (AMMN) and also the former president of AMANO. In this exclusive with Sandra Chukwunyere, he bared his mind on some challenges facing the shipping industry. He also spoke on why Nigeria is not yet the hub of maritime activities within West and Central Africa. Read on!
Q: Can we meet you sir?
My name is Capt Jide Olugunwa ,I am a pioneer cadet of MAN Oron. I served my sea time on Nigerian NATIONAL Shipping LINE (NNSL) I am a former President of AMANO and currently, the vice president of the association of Master Mariners.
Q: How would assess the Maritime Industry presently?
Ans: My assessment of the industry currently is that we are under par in many aspects. In the West Africa area,you can see that we have not been able to take advantage of Nigeria been a maritime hub for West Africa, then when you also check the resources, we are doing poorly especially in human resources, we don’t have enough mariners. Talking about certification, we are not doing enough in terms certification even those who do the certification have to go outside Nigeria to do their professional marine certification.
Q: There are a lot of potential in the maritime industry, how can these be harnessed?
Ans: From my perception, the main challenge in the maritime sector is that the professionals and the stakeholders are not properly positioned to take care and address leadership question. Non professionals are those incharge of maritime affairs mainly because of politics and when they come in ,the first thing they will do is to learn. Politics is receiving priority of professionalism and if you look at NIMASA, you find out that the number of the mariners are small and even those numbers, I understand that there are still a lot of internal issues.
In NIMASA, where are the professional mariners? So I think the major problem in the maritime industry is poor leadership occasioned by lack of professionals in leadership and critical department we have not been able to educated enough Mariners and we have no professionals Incharge of the maritime industry. I think the government is over bearing.
Q: Our ports supposed to be the hub of maritime activities with West Africa subregion but that is very far to achieved. Why is it difficult in achieving that?
Ans: The reason is currently difficult to achieve,we have not made end investment in the maritime sector, it has not been proper and we have actually not gotten our acts right in order to attract the real shipping activities, even when you talk about ship owning, the structure is not there, government ship registry is not attractive enough for Ship owners to come and register in Nigeria. Talk about the development of the maritime facilities, we are far behind and the problem in the maritime industry is not different from Nigeria generally. We grossly under perform. And earlier I say,politics has been given more prominent as against professionalism even nationalism and for us to move forward as a country, the interest of the country needed to be put first instead of political consideration or personal interest. So, when we talk anything about Nigeria, you find that we talk about Potential but are we moving toward achieving the potential?
And I think the honest answer is NO,we are far behind. So maritime education is very important particularly when you look at the current Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN),ORON, enough of money has been put in there but they have not been properly utilized. It is supposed to be training for mariners but it is just a means for people to make money and professionalism is not giving adequate attention. Political consideration and personal interest are the same problems we have all over Nigeria, especially in government parastatals I would want to focus more about the MAN ORON currently, you find out that the problem is sea time and you cannot complete the training without having sea time. Arrangement for the Cadets ,we serve and you cannot complete the training without having sea time. Arrangement for the cadets we have sea time is most important but everything the government does in Nigeria currently ,they are political undertows, personal interest and the professionals that are concern and the stakeholders are not consulted and if at all they are consulted, it is inadequate and theft of strategy to achieve intention is not there. It is a leader taking a decision and driving it down for the stakeholders to line behind it, political patronage and personal interest. I wouldn’t like to say more on that because the governing council of MAN ORON is not structured to even have ALUMNI,and no body who has the interest of academy more than the ALUMNl if actually we want those coming to have better opportunity than we have in our time. For currently, I think the the cadets don’t really have the opportunity we have because there is not national line. Support NIMASA needs to give, NIMASA actually challenging the Academy. So if we really want to solve the problem, we must remove politics and be sincere in addressing MAN ORON issues or addressing maritime development issues in Nigeria.
Q: How do you think we can achieve the maritime industry of our dreams?
Ans: To achieve maritime industry of our dreams, we need to have a Long Term Strategy, Medium Term Strategy and Short Term Strategy.
In all those strategies, human development is most important but if we don’t do the adequate, there is no way we can achieve it.
On the Short Term strategy, you may be able to employ foreigners to come and support you but it is not sustainable,and bearing it in mind that seafaring is in decline world wide and there is also employment opportunities at least the Medium Term,because in the Long Term strategy,automation will come in ,you find out that the number of seamen required will be redeemed. But currently, we need to develop that school and we need to properly rekeyed the seafarers not only to work in West Africa in order to be foreign and to be able to work outside Nigeria and remit into Nigeria because employment is the major problem in Nigeria and Maritime has a lot of potential that are on ground.
Q: Nigeria is not training enough seafarers, is there anything that can be done?
Ans: Yes, when we say enough seafarers, I will say Nigeria is not even training seafarers properly because if you have the MARITIME ACADEMY OF NIGERIA and the product cannot get sea time so there is a big gap there. NIMASA for political consideration got some cadets from each States and send them abroad because sea time is also challenged, they cannot get sea time, they come around so what we are doing is just been late service. So I will say that maritime training in Nigeria is in a quotic situation. It is in crisis, for my opinion,what is currently happening is pretends, there is no real desire to solve the problem.