Nearly 20 years after the liquidation of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL), the nation’s defunct national carrier by the Federal Government, a frontline master mariner has faulted that decision, saying it was hasty and ill-advised.
The Federal Military Government of late General Sani Abacha had in 1995, announced its decision to liquidate the company, which follows its in ability to meet its obligations to staff and the other shipping community, as her vessels were impounded several times because of their in ability to pay relevant dues and meet other port and flag state regulations.
A former president of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), umbrella body for retired indigenous ship captains, chief engineers and engineers Captain Adewale Ishola, who spoke in an interview in Oron, Akwa Ibom State, said the choice of liquidating the national carrier was not in the best interest of the country.
Ishola, who is also coordinator of the ongoing training programme for maritime journalist holding at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron noted that there was no any form of consultation by the government with the relevant stakeholders to ensure that adequate steps were taken in addressing the problems of the company.
According to him, at the time of liquidating the NNSL, it was doing far better than the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), which is also a governmentowned and managed corporation.
“Many of us were still working with the NNSL and what we heard suddenly was that the government had decided to liquidate but I think that the challenges faced by the defunct national carrier were not irredeemable and so could have been amended and put the company back on its feet”, he said.
While recounting the circumstances that led to the demise of the company, the master mariner noted that the over-bearing interference of the government contributed significantly to the demise of the company.
It was gathered that on several occasions, the government appointed political cronies and friends and family members, who know next to nothing about shipping business as chief executive officers, which over the years led to mismanagement of the resources of the company.
Captain Ishola also disclosed that more often than not, the government would refuse to pay for the carriage of its cargo, claiming that the company itself belongs to it.
He said: “NNSL was always used in carrying government’s fertilizer consignments and other numerous goods imported by the government and its agencies and they will refuse to pay and you know the company incur cost in rendering these services and yet it was not paid”.
He also cited instances of the war time when vessels belonging to the company were used in lifting crude to foreign buyers of the product and when they are coming back, they lift arms and other cargoes used to prosecute the civil war.
The cumulative effect of the hasty liquidation of the company has been the absence of ocean going vessels to train Nigerian cadets on the International Maritime Organisation’s mandatory sea time training, which must be done on board sea going vessels.
Captain Ishola also blamed the in ability of indigenous shipping companies to lift crude more than 54 years after the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity.
Information from National Mirror was used in this report.