When President Muhammadu Buhari approved the appointment of Dr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh as the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) with effect from March 11, 2020; many industry stakeholders applauded the appointment because it was seen as a development that would return the nation’s apex maritime regulatory agency to the path of professionalism.
Jamoh is a complete gentleman and a thoroughbred maritime administrator who rose through the ranks at NIMASA having worked in the industry for almost three decades without blemish. He understands the issues and challenges facing the sector and, prior to his appointment as NIMASA Director General, has gone as far as proffering solutions to the industry’s problem in his seminal book – Harnessing Nigeria’s Maritime Assets – published about two years ago.
‘Hit the ground running’ is a cliché I mostly avoid using, but that was precisely what Jamoh did upon assuming office. Exactly one week upon assumption of office – as if he knew such opportunity might not present itself in the near future as a result of the ban on public gatherings occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic – he held an interactive session with all key stakeholders in the maritime sector. The gathering, which was a reception dinner organised by some stakeholders in honour of the new NIMASA Executive Management Team, turned out to be the gathering of the crème de la crème of the industry.
The roll call include top Nigerian ship owners like Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho, Chief Isaac Jolapamo, Alhaji Aminu Umar, Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi and top terminal operators led by the Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess (Dr.) Vicky Haastrup. Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (NPCC) Otunba Kunle Folarin as well as two former Director Generals of NIMASA – Dr. Ade Dosunmu and Mr. Temisan Omatseye – also attended the high profile gathering.
Various groups such as the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Nigeria Maritime Law Association (NMLA), Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria (CIOTA), Women International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA), Women in Logistics and Transport (WILAT), Women in Maritime Africa (WIMA) and several others were duly represented at the event by their leaders.
In a rare show of his strong leader qualities, Jamoh sat quietly for more than two hours to listen to the various stakeholders, who only poured encomiums of President Buhari for Jamoh’s appointment but also expressed confidence in the abilities of the new NIMASA DG to take the shipping sector in Nigeria to the “next level”.
When Jamoh spoke after hearing the opinions of all the stakeholders at the event, he left no one in doubt about his understanding of the challenges facing Nigeria’s shipping sector and how he planned to address the challenges so that the maritime sector will be repositioned in a manner that enhances transparency and accountability and that will make meaningful contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He assured the stakeholders that NIMASA under his leadership will be committed to the enthronement of global best practices in the provision of maritime services in Nigeria.
Jamoh assured his audience that the agency would stay true to its mandate and ensure effective maritime safety administration, maritime labour regulation, marine pollution prevention and control, search and rescue, Cabotage Law enforcement, shipping development and modern ship registration, training and certification of seafarers, and maritime capacity development using modern tools that guarantee efficiency and effectiveness. He assured the stakeholders, who have long yearned for change in the sector, that the agency is determined to develop indigenous capacity and eliminate all hindrances to the effective participation of Nigerians in coastal and international shipping.
Jamoh has left no one in doubt about the fulfillment of these promises. He has since commenced the restructuring of the agency through the professional placement/redeployment of staff. The new NIMASA DG also ensured that the agency offered meaningful support to the Federal and State Governments in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic through the donation of relief materials as well as much needed ambulances and ventilators.
NIMASA under Dr. Jamoh also issued guidelines to visiting ships to ensure that they do not bring COVID-19 into the country. NIMASA was the first maritime administration in Africa to development and issue such guidelines. The agency also ensured that dockworkers and seafarers were designated as essential service workers in line with the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is of critical importance to allow dockworkers and seafarers free movement during the coronavirus lockdowns so as to ensure the free flow of trade.
Also worthy of note is the by NIMASA under Jamoh to begin implementation of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act. It is the first time NIMASA is implementing the Act since it was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 24, 2019. The law aims to tackle the menace of piracy and armed robbery in the country’s waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with a strong and specific legal instrument that prescribes punishment for offenders and deters criminal elements. It is the first standalone antipiracy law in the Gulf of Guinea region. The Act prescribes jail terms of between 15 years and life, and fines from N50 million to N500 million for individuals and corporate organisations convicted for maritime offences.
With the world’s waters accounting for over 80 per cent of transportation requirements in the global trading supply chain network across established international routes and trade lanes, the threats of piracy, armed robbery at sea and other maritime crimes have been an issue of global concern. Nigeria’s territorial waters and the larger Gulf of Guinea, sadly, had become the world’s epicentre of maritime insecurity, given the number of incidents recorded in the region.
This unfortunate development is, however, fast yielding grounds to a new narrative under the new NIMASA management. There have been several arrests criminal elements on the waters by officials of the NIMASA Maritime Guard Command and the Nigerian Navy. This is made possible by a renewed collaboration between the Navy and NIMASA.
NIMASA recently improved its collaboration with the Navy and other stakeholders in an effort to change the ugly narrative of piracy and sea robbery in its maritime domain and the Gulf of Guinea. The new collaborative arrangement involves information sharing between NIMASA’s Command, Control, Communication, Computers, and Intelligence Centre (C4i Centre) of the Deep Blue Project, which commenced operations on a 24-hour basis since last year, and the Nigerian Navy’s Falcon Eye to help track and combat criminal elements in the country’s maritime domain. The Deep Blue Project, also known as the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, aims to comprehensively tackle insecurity on Nigeria’s territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone, up to the Gulf of Guinea.
On the back of the new partnership between NIMASA and the Navy, the country has made record arrests of pirates, with some already facing prosecution.
“We have just witnessed the handover of pirates. This is as a result of the robust collaboration between NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy. There has been a lot of synergy between NIMASA and the Navy with regard to the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act. I also want to seize the opportunity to thank Mr. President for signing the anti-piracy law, which would facilitate sufficient prosecution of these pirates,” Jamoh said recently during the arrest of some pirates.
The new approach to the war against piracy and armed robbery at sea has been so effective it is attracting international commendation. Bodies such as the International Martime Organisation (IMO), which is a speacialised arm of the United Nations; the International Maritime Bureau (IMB); and BIMCO, which is the largest of the international shipping associations representing shipowners (its membership controls around 65 percent of the world’s tonnage and it has members in more than 120 countries, including managers, brokers and agents); have all commended NIMASA and its Director General for adopting a new strategy in stemming criminalities in the Gulf of Guinea.
IMO Secretary-General, Mr. Kitack Lim, earlier this month, particularly commended Nigeria’s maritime administration for sending a “strong and valuable message” to the global shipping community. He also commended Dr. Bashir Jamoh “for his brave and dynamic approach to maritime security” issues.
Lim said he was impressed by Nigeria’s efforts to address maritime security threats in the region adding that Jamoh’s “leadership and proactive response” to maritime security issues were laudable.
While commending NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy “on the successful capture and arrest of pirates from the fishing trawler Hailufeng II and more recently on the rescue of the crewmembers of the containership Tommi Ritscher,” he said “those actions, together with all the other initiatives you highlighted in our meeting, including progress with the deep blue project, send a strong and valuable message to the international community with respect to the considerable efforts your Government is making to curb piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Gulf of Guinea”.
Lim reiterated the organisation’s readiness to assist NIMASA in the training of its personnel and in offering technical assistance, and also declared his willingness to talk to other member countries to assist in that respect. He said IMO would help to deal with the issue of synergy in laws regarding piracy with other neighbouring countries.
This is very encouraging and is an attestation to the strong and purposeful leadership NIMASA is now enjoying.