How Exchange Rate, High Customs Tariffs Inflated Cost of Our Simulator Beyond Budget – Provost

By Sylvanus OBASI, Lagos

In this final part of our exclusive interview with the Provost of the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology, Dr Chuks Onuoha, he reveals how increase in foreign exchange rate, increase in customs tariffs as well as other administrative bottlenecks in cargo clearance inflated the cost of the Class A Full Mission Bridge Simulator recently acquired by the college.

He also provided some insights on what motivated him to embark on the project despite the challenges he encountered in the process. Enjoy! Excepts: 

PLATFORM REPORTERS: When I made a WhatsApp post about the ongoing handover ceremony, the reactions I have been getting already on social media is a welcome development; people are now saying that the competition is now set between the College and the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) in Oron.

DR ONUOHA: We are always ahead of Oron in every thing. The only competitive edge Oron is having against us is that they are directly under the control of NIMASA and NIMASA is giving them all the necessary support while shying away from the one closer to them. 

See, NIMASA is beside us here, our next door neighbor, by Ajose Adiogun Street, and see us here in Bar Beach, both in Victoria Island. So how can you go  thousands of kilometers away. If you are a seaferer and you are to choose, will you come to Lagos or go to MAN Oron in Akwa Ibom state. So you journalists should go and ask NIMASA why is it that they are not seeing what is closer to them, but what is far away from them. We are not saying that MAN Oron should not have their fair deal, but at least, they say charity begins at home, why not start with the one closer to you.

The newly acquired Class A Full Mission Bridge Simulator acquired by FCFMT being unveiled by Prof Garba Hammed, ES ARCN at the College campus in Lagos recently.

But a golden fish has no hiding place, there is a limit to which they can shy away from us, now the whole world is looking at them, as far as this college is concerned, they can’t continue to to shy away  from us as far as these facilities and infrastructure are here so what is holding them, unless there is more to that.

PLATFORM REPORTERS: The Head of Quality Assurance from NIMASA, I leant he is also an ex-student of the college. I interviewed him after the event on the certification processes and he said it begins with the College sending Application letter to DG NIMASA. Has the College sent in the letter or about to do so?

DR ONUOHA: We will definitely send the letters next week, immediately after the Easter holidays, he will get the letter, and you will help us to follow up (laughs). I spoke with him after the ceremony and and I put him on the spot when I told him that as an ex-student of the institution, you can’t stop at anything to ensure that your Alma mater is good because that is your glory, that is the name you mention anywhere you go, it’s not even the house you build or the money you have in your pocket, it’s your school. 

 I use to see our ex-students, when they come here now they say wow! I can now be proud that this is my Alma mater. I saw one in the simulator room when we were doing the hand over. I don’t know if you have watched some football fans, if you are sitting close to a passionate football fan during a live game, the person will be kicking your leg, that was what the guy was doing. The General Secretary of the College Alumni Association. He couldn’t hold his joy, the only thing remaining was for him to shed tears of joy. He said can this thing be happening in Federal College of Fisheries where I finished from and he is witnessing it. 

PLATFORM REPORTERS: Finally, I know that this journey didn’t start today, the journey of bringing this facility to the college won’t be an easy one. Can you in a summary take us through what you went through in your efforts to achieve this feat?

DR ONUOHA: It is not really an easy task. First, what motivated me is the passion and commitment to bring change to the system, and one of that change is motivated by needs assessment.

Just as I said before, how can you say you are a captain and you have not been trained on how to use some of the applications on the simulator? How? Which kind of captain are you? or which kind of graduate are you, which kind of skills do you have. That’s why the ship owners and shipping companies find it difficult to employ them, even the foreign going vessels see the graduates as very poor quality graduates that need to be re-trained and re-trained, and doing that is going to cost them money and waste their time because they are business men, they want quick turnaround. 

So with that passion and commitment and the desire to ensure you bring quality and technology to the mode of training in the system, I believe that is the major driving force. 

In the finance aspect, some one said, ideas rule the world, you may have the money and not have idea on what to do. But when you have the idea, if you are able to talk to investors, partners, stakeholders, government or private, they will key into your vision. 

Newly acquired Class A Full Mission Bridge Simulator acquired by FCFMT recently.

What is important is what is your vision? Do you have a vision? And can you convince people to buy into your vision, you may not even have one naira. It is that your vision that will  attract the money, it’s not that easy. You have to lobby also, you need to build confidence of your investors. 

It wasn’t easy, when we started, some of our investors dropped by, we started the project when dollar was around five hundred and something Naira and by that time, I don’t think we have paid up to fifty percent of the cost and we ended when dollar was around one thousand,  eight hundred and something Naira. So you know what that means. 

Even when the container arrived the Port, they were asking us to bring all sorts of documents. DSS said it is for piracy, that we need to get security clearance from National Security Adviser. Customs increased their tariff very very high. So that even increased our cost because while all these were going on, the container was already in the wharf and incurring demurrage. So the extra budgetary expenditure is very very high. Honestly, the current value of this simulator now cannot be less than One billion Naira. Yes, it can’t be less than one billion naira.

Dr Chuks Onuoha, Provost of FCFMT

PLATFORM REPORTERS: Moreover, what is your message to your students, especially looking at the significance of this simulator to their training?

DR ONUOHA: The message to the students is that the simulator is meant for them. They have to make the best use of it, just like their colleagues who have graduated are saying that these current students are lucky to have these kind of environment and facility for their training, they never had it. So it is up to them to make the best out of it and use these facilities to improve on the quality of their learning so that they will be able to compete favourably with others in the international community. 

Just as I said maritime is global, so if you don’t know it, you don’t know it. Whatever they teach you here is the same everywhere when it comes to maritime training. IMO sees simulator as you are having a ship, it is a kind of virtual reality ship, so they also give license for you to use and train people on it that is why any certification issued has the logo of the IMO on it because they are part of the training.

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