Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, an activist and Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, fears, that there might be dearth of women in the nation’s maritime Industry if the present Operators and Investors retires from the sector. This may have forced the NPA, Managing Director, to challenge the older women stakeholders in the maritime sector to embark on a training programme for more women maritime Professionals that would take over from them when they eventually retire from the Industry into private life.
The NPA Managing Director who already has a working agenda for women since she joined the Authority about four years ago disclosed that it only way to to encourage them to venture into the male dominated sector and make an appreciable impact, stressing that it would further tilt the’’ unfair balance between male workers and the women the Industry.
An aggrieved Hajia Usman who could not hide her feelings that the maritime sector, the world-over, is dominated by the male folk spoke at the Conference of Women in Africa, WIMA, recently in Lagos, where she noted that in ‘’line with the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG’’, which took off about four years ago, ‘’there is need for inclusiveness and gender equality as a way of achieving the best in every sector of the world economy including Maritime.
Given an insider information, the NPA Managing Director revealed that at present only 2% of the maritime workforce are women, which she described as very ‘’disheartening’’. She is right. Investigation by The Value News, shows that these women who had found their way into the maritime sector , particular, NPA, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA ,Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC , and Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, occupy sundry positions: Administration, Marketing Communications or the legal leaving the professional maritime and Engineering jobs to the male workerforce.
She frowned at the influence and religious practices which exclude women from certain career Opportunities, thus shunting out the the women from being fully involved in port operations
Hajia Usman, the NPA, boss, believes that the only way out of the gender inequality is that ‘’there should be concerted efforts aimed at ensuring that women get into the real professions in the maritime sector and remain with the prospect of being appointed into the Management cadre
Appealing to the established female maritime Operators to encourage young girls to develop interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, STEM, subjects in order to pursue career in shipping , Marine, Operations and Engineering sub-sectors of the Industry.
I is not surprising why she has suggested for the establishment of specialised Institutions and the provision of incentives/scholarship for the girls by the government. Note that the National Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has been instrumental in establishing a Maritime Academy, equivalent of a Polytechnic, an OND and HND, degrees awarding Institution at Oron , Akwa Ibom state, and a University at Bayelsa state, which has seen the young girls competing with their male counterparts to gain admission into the schools to read professional maritime courses.
Those of them who have qualified to be called Seafarers including the young girls were said to have been attached to both local and International ocean –going vessels to acquire the practical experience on seamanship. Many believe that NPA, under the close watch of Hajia Usman, could throw NPA Financial weight on the specialised Maritime Institutions by supporting Dakuku Peterside led NIMASA, in the funding of the Institutions.
Take the case of the financing of the MAN, Oron. Past and present Rectors of the Academy , had always cried out to the Maritime Regulatory agency to improve the funding of the Institution but to no avail. The funding problem of the Institution may have become pronounced that it had attracted the attention of both past and the present minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who was said to have taken it upon himself , to ensure that there is ministerial financial provision for the school , from the ministry budgetary budgetary allocations but that was how far he could go.
There are fears that the pressure on the funding of the maritime Institution may weigh heavily on NIMASA this time around with the current state of the economy which had left the agency with little or nothing to accommodate other extra expenditures like the maritime institutions, without support from other agencies from the maritime sector.
With her experience and interaction with the stakeholders in the maritime sector over the last four years ,Hjia Usman, has made it clear to those that cares to listen that ‘’it was imperative to ensure good working conditions for women in the sector that would encourage their retention at work’’. She cited the case of the Authority where the women are allowed to resume work one hour after the normal resumption time of 8 a.m and close by 4 p.m, one hour earlier than the Official closing time of 5 p.m 12, months after giving birth to a new baby.
Hajia Usman may have gladdened the heart of the women at the WIMA Conference, when she revealed that under the current Management of NPA, Headed by her, the status of the woman does not determine her enjoying her privilege.
She is right. At present, there are more female General Managers and others holding strategic positions and making appreciable impact in the Authority that had has been produced under her Management team. Take for instance, the port Manager , of the country’s premier port is a woman . The port Manger of Calabar port in Cross river state was also said to be a woman.
Feelers from the port indicates that the woman has started turning the fortunes of the port around to attract ocean going vessels, that most of the staff who had been transferred to either the busy Apapa or Tin-can Island ports on their own prompting are now regretting it, ‘’I would have stayed put at the port, if I had known that the situation of things would one day change at the port that had been deserted in the past by shipping Companies and importers, who prefer the busy Lagos ports for their operations.
Perhaps, to ensure that more women gain employment in the nation’s maritime sector, she has suggested the need for establishment of more platforms whilst engendering togetherness and unison with the purpose of speaking with one voice.
According to Jato Adams, the Authority General Manger, Corporate and Strategic Communications, the NPA, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, had concluded her speech at the WIMA,Conference , by insisting that ‘’for efficient port operations and inorder to raise the bar in productivity , ‘’there is need for capacity development across board’’. Recall that Peterside, the NIMASA BOSS, has succeeded in enthroning capacity building in the agency, across the board, in the last four years which had started paying off in its, Operations .