Shortly after commissioning its renovated facility in Lagos,Reverend Abimbola Aduroja, the Chaplain of the Mission to Seafarers Centre in Lagos, talked about the organisation’s short, medium and long term plans to impact on seafarers visiting Nigerian ports.
The clergyman urged players in the maritime sector to give attention to a center that caters to the need of seamen who make invaluable contributions to trade as they bring in over ninety percent of imported items into the country.
He told Ismail Aniemu about the mission’s selflessness and advocacy for benefits of workers in an area of critical importance to trade between Nigeria and the world
Q: Congratulations on the recent commissioning of Mission to Seafarers Centre in Apapa by the Honourable Minister of the Marine and Blue Economy. Tell us about your work and what is the implication of that commissioning?
Thank you very much for having me and for this opportunity to tell the world more about the mission to seafarers.The Mission to Seafarers is a charity, non-governmental, non-profit making organization. It’s an international organization, that has its existence in more than 50 countries, in over 200 ports across the globe .
What we do majorly is to cater for the welfare of the seafarers coming to our ports.For Nigeria, we have a centre here in GRA Apapa where we use as home away from home, for the seafarers that come to our ports.
This centre has been underdeveloped for years not until recently, when we came on board and through the help of God and the support of Nigerian Ports Authority. The NPA helped us to renovate the facilities that are here.We thank God because this is what we have been looking for.
Meeting individuals, philanthropist, stakeholders in the industry, government agencies to solicit for support as to how we can develop this place because these seafarers that bring goods and services to us , especially this part of the world, bring about 90% of the goods that we use.
Unfortunately, we have little or no attention for them because they spend larger part of their lives in the ship .They can be there for months without coming out.The only thing they see is the sky and the water.They see the same set of people everyday.This kind of centre is an opportunity for them to go and see the world outside there.It is also an opportunity for us to identify with them,what they go through and for us to let them know that we have some people outside there that still care because they have faced a lot of challenges like piracy, attack, non payment of wages and being away from their families.
Sometimes, they are being arrested for offences committed by ship owners and charterers .Immediately the ship is arrested, it is the crew members that are thrown into prison.Ship owners sometimes are no where to be found.
These are what we do because firstly, primarily what we do is ship and centre visits and that is our major work.We go to meet them up , interact with them and ask about their wellbeing.This organization has nothing to do with religion.We attend to every race, colour or creed.Our major concern is welfare of the seafarers.Sometimes we visit them in the hospital, sometimes we go to prison, to visit them, buy things for them and all these services are rendered to them freely.
We also look into advocacy issues.We ask them if they want to go out for shopping and come to our centre to relax and have some drinks, eat , swim or play games.They always feel welcomed and fulfilled even if it is just for one hour.
Q:Many people never knew about the Mission to Seafarers until the recent commissioning.With that, it is like you are brought to the limelight afresh.How do you think the maritime industry in Nigeria aside those coming from the world visiting Nigeria will feel the impact of this mission?
The event that took place last week Wednesday has announced us because right from that day, those who have never been to this place are coming to make enquiry and ask questions to know more about us and what we do.They are now showing interest in using our facilities.That programme has made people to know more about us and what we do.
Sometimes, people misinterprete us .They don’t know our identity.What happened last week Wednesday has shown to people what we do and what we stand for.
Q: Still talking about your impact, the structure looks world class even if there is still room for development.How do you intend to maintain, and improve what you have on ground?
Like I said, this is a charity organization, we depend on support of people, industries, stakeholders, government agencies, maritime sectors and lover of seafarers.Those are the people that we depend upon.We have discovered that some people have little or no understanding about us and what we do.I am hoping and believing that after that commissioning, many people that are getting to know about us will come to our aid and assistance because we don’t really have a major source of income.
It is people that knows you that can be convinced about what you are doing that will render support.That is why this place has been underdeveloped for years until recently.I am believing God because it has been an Herculean task for us to maintain this place.
Before this renovation, we had few staff members that were here working . Paying their salaries was so hard .It was so serious to the extent that members of the management board were taxing themselves to pay them.Wheras the government agencies, shipping companies, terminal operator have what it takes to carry us, meet all our needs and do whatever we want .
We are believing that at this time, people will come to our aid so that we can do more than what we have been doing.For example, the seafarers bus that we use to go on board, bring the seafarers that want to visit us and other places needs to be maintained.We even need more than one utility vehicle and some other things to maintain the day to day running of this office and centre.
Q:Let us know about projections in the short term ,In the next one year, what do you intend to achieve; In the medium term, in the next five years where do you think this centre should be and In the long term, where should it be in the next ten years?
We thank God for where we are today. We got renovated facilities on ground.As from now, we are believing that all the facilities will be in use by seafarers and the industry.We are already planning more publicity fully from our own side to expand awareness.We know where to go, who to talk to, as to how to bring people here.We are planning that in the next one year, if you come around this place, you will see people coming in and going out every day and every minute.
In another five years, we are looking at a situation whereby we will have more structures because we still have land here and there are spaces that are yet to be developed.
Where we are now is small for us and we are looking at a larger picture but that cannot be done except people come to our aid.Other government agencies should emulate NPA. We are pleading that other agencies do something even if it is not up to what NPA has done. We have a list of things that we need.In the next five years, we want a situation whereby the entire compound here would have been fully developed.
Before the next ten years, this would be one of the best Seafarers centre in the world.Remember I said there are more than 200 centres across the globe.We are also looking at a situation whereby in another ten years, we will be ranked among the first three in the world as a maritime country giving priority to seafarers welfare
Q: In Nigeria, is this the only space you have because we have ports in Rivers State, Cross River state, Delta, and there are emerging ports that will likely come up in Akwa Ibom, Ondo, Edo, Niger and others.Does your long term dream capture these other places or is it only for seafarers who call at the ports in Lagos?
We have a global picture and nationally, in Nigeria, we know all these ports.As at today, this is the only Mission to Seafarers centre that we have in Nigeria.We already have it in plan but before we can spread our tentacles, we must have fully established ourselves in one spot especially like the headquarters.That is what we are trying to do.
If we have the resources and all it takes, we know where to go in Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri and all other ports where seafarers berth onboard vessels.They are already calling us and we have group of people like partners there.All we need now is to go there and establish a centre like this .But all these things comes with cost and that is the challenge.