Mission To Seafarers Requires Improved Funding to Serve it’s Purpose Well – Aduroja

Reverend Canon Abimbola Aduroja, Vicar of St. Andrews Anglican Church Apapa is also the Head of the Mission to Seafarers (MTS) centre in Lagos.

He spoke to Ismail Aniemu on the challenges and prospects of the organisation in meeting industry stakeholders expectation

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Give us an update on the Mission to Seafarers activities since the commissioning by the minister of Marine and Blue Economy in October 2023?

Since last October when this place was commissioned, after the renovation, it firstly became a center of attraction for the industry.Every week, we have nothing less than two or three industry stakeholders coming around to relax and ask questions, especially those who knew how this place used to be many years back who also knew how dilapidated the place was.

Now seeing the newly renovated facilities.They were all happy and they wanted to know how it happened, who did it and the facilities in place.We discovered that since then, they want to keep coming.That’s for the industry stakeholders in the community in Apapa or Lagos.

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For the foreign seafarers who are our target beneficiaries, we have increased the rate of ship visit because part of our major assignment is to go on board, meet with the seafarers, interact with them, ask about their wellbeing and tell them about this place.

Now, we are proud to introduce this place to them because of the renovation. We have raised the standard in line with what the mission is known for across the globe. This is a center that has a replica of what obtains here across the globe in over 200 centers and the seafarers have been to other ones .

Before the renovation we didn’t have the boldness to tell them about this, but now, we are proud of our facility.We have pictures and fliers that we have shown to them and so they are willing and eager to visit our center here.They have been coming.We take them with our bus, we bring them here, and take them back on board.

We have some of them who have lodged in the apartment we have here, they used our swimming pool , played games , used our bar, sat by the sea side and enjoyed the fresh air.It has been wonderful since then.On daily basis, we are improving.We have more people visiting the place.We are getting good reports and comments about us from our headquarters unlike in the past when they had this unpleasant impression about Nigeria and how we treat the seafarers coming to our ports.That mindset is changing now . I won’t say it has completely changed. People used to think that seafarers are not taken good care of in Nigerian Ports .

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This is home away from home for seafarers that we are talking about.These are people who live the larger parts of their lives on the Sea.It is now that things are getting better.Last week, I was on board and I interacted with some seafarers.One of the crew member came directly from US and I was asking about how many weeks it took him to get to Nigeria and he said four weeks.I asked about how many years he has spent in his vocation and he said it’s about fifteen years.It means from ten to fifteen years ago from, US to Nigeria will take how many weeks and he said three to four months.Technology has made things to improve and for that three to four months, they will be on the say without being on the land.

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When they get to their point of destination, they are also looking forward to go to seafarers center where they can relax, recreate and feel at home.Thank God for what has happened now.We are now seeing them around.Sometimes we take them out for shopping at no cost to them .

Looking at the facility, it looks very much sophisticated and beautiful.It requires some level of finance for maintenance.How do you maintain this and where do you get your funding from?

This is one thing that is really giving me concern as Chaplain.Having renovated this place, and the facilities, we need a lot of money to maintain it.The mission to seafarers is generally not meant for profit. We have facilities that must be maintained.The little money we collect from people ; those who swim, lodge and from the sales we make are at a subsidized rate.The money is not up to one third of what we are spending to maintain the place.

We have staff that we pay monthly.In other parts of the world, especially the Western World, they thrive more and they have enough resources to maintain their own center because every vessel that visits their ports pay a certain amount to the mission’s account .We have this maritime industry that arranges themselves and remit to our MTS account.

They also have individual philanthropist who donate money and properties to them.Those are the things they use to maintain their facilities.That is why when you get there, you will see facilities that have been there for over fifty years but they look new.From different sources . Thhe maritime stakeholders and Government Maritime Agencies have something that comes in to Mission to Seafarers from CSR and other means on annual basis.

In this part of the world, we are not enjoying that but we are trusting God that it will get to that level.Probably, that has not been happening but because of how we operate our system and for many years , this place has been abandoned and nothing is happening .Now that things are working,we are trying to reach different stakeholders, government agencies and maritime organizations because that is the only way by which the facility can be maintained, otherwise, there will be problem in the future because what comes in is not up to one third of what we need.

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We also appeal to religious organizations.Like every second Sunday in July, there is what we call Annual Sea Sunday Service.We invite stakeholders, maritime agencies, philanthropists to join us.We use the opportunity to pray for all the seafarers and appreciate what they do .We also use the opportunity to appeal to people to support what we are doing.In other parts of the world, the organization uses the opportunity to raise large sum of money.We have also been trying to do something in that aspect but the response has not really been encouraging.We are trusting God now that things have changed , we will have more people to buy in and key into what we are doing .

Is it possible to have something similar in Port Harcourt where seafarers would visit Nigeria a ports outside of Lagos to enjoy this, Or must they travel from other ports outside of Lagos to enjoy it?

It has been part of our plans but in Lagos where we have at least three ports and we have a centre like this.For years , we have been looking for how to make this place work by renovation and keep it running as we are having now.When we are fully stabilized, and we are able to maintain it, it is part of our plans that from there, we will go to Port Harcourt,Calabar and other places where we have ports.We are already discussing with them over there.

Presently in Port Harcourt, we have the mission to seafarers.We have been discussing and having meetings.One of them came around last year for training.We are already working that out because we will do that in conjunction with our international head quarter.They are ready to help in that regard.It is their desire that all the ports must have a center like this where seafarers are being taken care of.

Sometimes, some passions or projects are driven by individual passion for it.You are a clergy man and a resident here.What if the Anglican Church post you away, Is there a succession arrangement that will not disrupt this good work that is ongoing?

There is a clergy man here who I trained to receive visitors.As I speak, I have fourteen or fifteen that have been trained that go with me to the ports to meet with the seafarers.

They have been trained both virtually and physically.Even from the regional headquarters.Two years ago, the Regional Director came to do some training for them that got them certified.Now, they know what it means to interact with the seafarers, what to tell them and so on.

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Whenever we go, we don’t preach religion.Our message for them is welfare .It is just to make them have feeling that there are some people outside that care about them because the kind of job they do makes them feel abandoned.

They are the ones that make the World Trade to flow every now and then.In this part of the world, like 90 percent of what we use are being imported into the country using ships.Are the people doing this not supposed to enjoy some level of care and welfare?

In my own case, we already have this in our plan if something happens.This is my seventh year and if I am transferred , we already have that in our plan.Among fourteen people that I trained, anybody can take over and continue the work.

What should we expect when this commissioned edifice is one year is one year by October 2024 ?

What we are projecting is that firstly ,we have data and record for all the sea visits we do and all the seafarers that come to the center.Looking at the last one year performance alone, we will be able to say we have done well when we see the record of the seafarers we have come in contact with like those who have enjoyed the facility and our welfare services compared with what we used to have in the past.

Another thing is that because of the number of people from the industry that are now coming to the center, those who didn’t know MTS before now know us. There is no office we enter into that doesn’t recognize us.It was not like that before . That Commissioning alone announced us to the maritime community.We are not resting.

We are trusting God to help us to do more so that by the time we are clocking one year after the Commissioning, we want to look back and be able to point our fingers to many achievements that we have made.

We still have a long way to go.Like we talked about resources, we need more than one mission bus.We need more staff, and to do all these, we need money.We have our challenges but we are trusting God. Presently, we are not where we used to be.We know that in another six months, one year, or thereabout, we will not be where we are now .

Lastly, you have geographical proximity to Tincan ,Apapa Port.Do you go to Lekki port ?

I have not been to Lekki port.We have plans to expand our tentacles and we want to have more Ship visitors?

If we have another mission bus, I can commission them to take care of that side of Lekki Port.It is part of our plan to extend to all the areas but we need more resources and support.

Joshua Okoria

Joshua Okoria is a Lagos based multi-skilled journalist covering the maritime industry. His ICT and graphic design skills makes him a resourceful person in any modern newsroom. He read mass communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University and has sharpened his knowledge in media practice from several other short courses. 07030562600,

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