SENATE yesterday passed for second reading a bill for the Establishment of Nigerian Maritime University at Okerenkoko in Delta State. The bill sponsored by Senator James Manager (PDP, Delta South) said the bill is a bold step towards, not only addressing the educational backwardness of the people of the difficult Niger Delta terrain but also for joining the league of countries like the United States of America, South Korea, India, China, Britain, Azerbaijan, Panama, Canada, the Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina and Ghana, as countries with universities as platforms for the training of top class manpower for the maritime industry. Senator Manager noted that throughout the whole of West Africa, and indeed beyond, only Ghana has a maritime university, stressing that the bill seeks to provide a legal framework for the maritime university which actually started-off and was functional, using a befitting temporary site at Kurutie until sometime in January, this year. He argued that maritime sector had huge potentials and that Nigeria should have a university for the purpose of producing capable manpower for the sector which, as he said, is currently dominated by foreign interests. “The objectives for which the university is established are inter alia to encourage the advancement of learning and to hold out to all persons without distinction of race, creed, sex or political conviction, the opportunity of acquiring a higher education in maritime technology,” he said According to him, Nigeria being a country with an Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ, of 1,141,081 square kilometres, and given its strategic location in Africa has the potentials of being a major hub in shipping and other maritime activities. He stressed that way back in 2003, Goldman Sachs identified Nigeria as one of the countries with potentials to be like Brazil, Russia, India and China and that if the vision of increasing local content participation in the Nigerian maritime industry is vigorously pursued, Nigeria would immensely enhance her economic fortunes.
In his contribution, Senator Foster Ogola (PDP, Bayelsa West) who said giving legal backing to the school would make Nigeria become a “hub of manpower development in the maritime sector.” He added that Nigeria would be the first to have maritime university in West Africa once the bill ultimately receives approval of the National Assembly. Gbenga Ashafa (APC-Lagos East) and Jibrin Barau (APC-Kano North) also supported the bill. After the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, called the voice vote, Senators unanimously responded “yes.” Saraki ruled that the bill be referred to the committee on Tertiary Education and TetFund and to report back within four weeks It would be recalled that on January 19, 2016 while addressing the Senate Committee on Maritime, Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi had announced the scrapping of the project, which was to be financed by the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Administration Agency, NIMASA, a parastatal under his ministry. Amaechi then cited insecurity in the area, and said the project was a “misplacement of priority” because there are transport institutes in Zaria (Kaduna), and Oron (Akwa Ibom), already. Later on June 14 in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, the minister said the Federal Government lacked the funds to continue with the school; that unless the N13billion spent on the procurement of the land for the project was retrieved, the project stood scrapped. “Okerenkoko (maritime university), I am not against,” he said. “My argument about Okerenkoko is that land alone is 13billion (naira). If you give me 13billion, I will buy the half of Lagos. That 13billion has built the university already. “What to do: let EFCC retrieve the money and release the money and we build the university. If they bring the N13billion, I will build the university for them. That’s for land alone. I believe the Federal Government does not have money. When we have money, we can continue. The Minister of Petroleum has said he would look for the money. Minister, give me the money and we continue,” Amaechi said in Uyo. But the Minister of State for Petroleum, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu disagreed with Amaechi, saying he was in support of the project, drawing a loud applause from the audience. “First, let me say on Okerenkoko University, I disagree with the Minister of Transport. Any facility that is located in the South-South we should work close to developing it. I don’t care the circumstances under which you are placed,” he said Also, the Senate passed for second reading a bill to make the maritime academy in Oron, Akwa Ibom State a degree awarding institution. The bill, sponsored was by Nelson Effiong (PDP-Akwa Ibom South).

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