Maritime industry operators, especially Nigerian ship owners, seafarers, cadets and other workers in the maritime sector are full of appreciation for the appointment of Dr. Bashir Jamoh as the new Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Jamoh is a “homeboy” in the maritime industry. He is a well-respected maritime administrator who has worked diligently in the industry for 26 years when he joined the then National Maritime Authority (NMA). Jamoh’s name might not ring a bell in the public space because as a professional, he had stayed away from politics and from the limelight, preferring instead to concentrate on the tasks assigned to him.
Those who criticize his appointment do so, I believe, out of sheer ignorance or mischief. It might be instructive to note that most of the major players in the maritime industry have applauded Jamoh’s appointment. They obviously are better informed than ordinary Nigerians who know next to nothing about the industry.
Almost all of us in the maritime industry – ship owners, shipping agents, port workers, NIMASA workers – know that the performance of the outgoing leadership of NIMASA under Dr. Dakuku Peterside has been sub-optimal. The truth is that Dakuku is leaving the maritime sector worse than he met it. For one, the outgoing NIMASA Director-General failed woefully to develop indigenous tonnage and indigenous capacity. Indeed long before he completed his four-year tenure, many, including then President of the Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) had called for his sack, but President Muhammadu Buhari in his magnanimity, allowed him to complete his tenure.
Today, many shipping companies owned by Nigerians have folded up because Dakuku’s NIMASA failed to implement measures that support their survival. For instance, the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act Shipping Act 2003 otherwise known as the Cabotage Law, which makes coastal shipping the exclusive preserve of Nigeria-owned ships, has remained unimplemented thereby leading to the dominance of foreign ships – especially Greek ships – on our coastal waters at the detriment of Nigerian ships. This results in a huge capital flight and the massive unemployment of Nigerian seafarers. The poor implementation of the Cabotage Law is a clear failure of the Dakuku administration and the evidence of this failure is all over the coastline, which is replete with Nigerian ships rotting away.
Nigeria also lost respect in the comity of maritime nations under the outgoing NIMASA leadership. Before Dakuku, Nigeria served in top positions in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) General Assembly and also in the IMO Council. IMO is the United Nations specialized agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships. This loss of respect is self-evident especially in the shameful loss of two successive elections for the IMO Council seat. Nigeria woefully lost the elections for the seats it had gloriously occupied in the past. This is despite huge sums of money spent by NIMASA for the purpose of the re-election.
Nigeria’s position among the comity of maritime nations is so bad that recently, two international shipping groups, the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), and the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTER-TANKO) threatened to report the country to the United Nations and the United States of America if cogent actions are not taken to stem the recent spike in pirate attacks against their vessels and personnel. The groups had complained to Nigerian authorities that their members have been losing their investments and personnel to criminals on the nation’s waters.
Indeed, over the past four years, piracy has escalated on the nation’s territorial waters. One of NIMASA’s responsibilities is to ensure safety and security on our waterways; a task it has woefully failed to deliver on, under the outgoing NIMASA Director-General. This is despite the huge sums of money being spent daily for that purpose. The past four years have thrown up damning statistics of pirate attacks in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), around 73% of global kidnappings and 92% of global hostages are attributed to the region. In 2018, Nigeria witnessed 48 actual and attempted piracy attacks, up from 33 the previous year. In its latest report, the bureau ranked Nigeria again as the highest country for reported incidents, with about 21 attacks out of 77 reported globally. The situation was not any better in 2019 and two months into 2020.
Another reason for the clamour for change in the leadership of NIMASA is the wasteful spending in the agency. This lack of regards for public funds and assets is seen in the handling of the N50billion floating dock, a wasting asset and a white elephant project, which stands as an embarrassment to NIMASA and the entire nation. The floating dock project was initiated by Dakuku’s predecessor, Patrck Akpobolokemi, against the wise counsel and opinion of experts and industry operators, but adamantly he went ahead to arrange the contract. Few months after, he was removed from office. Dakuku came. He had the prerogative of canceling the white elephant project or adequately prepare the ground for the meaningful engagement of the floating dock. He didn’t. For nearly three years, he sang the praises of the project, enumerating its supposed benefits to the industry and the economy. When the floating dock eventually arrived Nigeria in June last year, it had to be temporarily kept in a private jetty at a cost of $10,000 (N3.6million) daily before it was moved to the Naval Dockyard where it has been gulping a whopping $30,000 (N10.8 million) daily as wharfage, not to talk of the running cost and payment of array of consultants and experts. Despite this huge running cost and the huge amount of money being spent on the floating dock, deploying it to a permanent location where it could be of any benefit to the nation is still a far cry, and Dakuku has not shown any remorse for the colossal waste of public funds, both in acquiring the floating dock it did not prepare for or know how to operate, and for the huge sums of money being spent daily since the facility arrived Nigeria. The question I ask Dakuku is, if he had used his own money to buy a vessel for N50billion, will he allow it to sit idle for one year?
Most maritime industry observers who want Dakuku out of NIMASA also point at the present running battle and unnecessary muscle flexing between him and the National Assembly – a situation, they maintain, is rubbing off negatively on the progress of the maritime industry. Last month, the agency faced probe by the House of Representatives for allegedly failing to audit its account for the past six years, including the four years of Dakuku’s tenure. The issue is still lingering. Earlier in December 2019, the Senate threatened to issue an arrest warrant against Dakuku over his refusal to honour an invitation of the Joint Committee on Navy, Maritime and Finance, to answer questions about the activities of a private security company and some government security agencies accused of collecting fees for securing vessels at the Safe Anchorage Area. Again, on Tuesday March 3, 2020, the NIMASA DG also incurred the wrath of the National Assembly by failing to appear personally in response to summons by the joint committee investigating activities of foreign vessel owners in Nigeria. This shunning of National Assembly summons is deplorable and uncalled for, as the resultant lack of harmonious relationship between him and federal lawmakers does not augur well for the maritime industry, NIMASA being Nigeria’s apex maritime regulatory agency.
In the face of his gloomy performance, the question is: does Dakuku Peterside really deserve a second tenure at NIMASA? The answer to this question by many industry experts has been a resounding no. The views of a Caretaker Committee member of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Captain Taiwo Akinpelumi, published by SHIPS & PORTS on March 7 2020, is instructive. According to him, “Dakuku did not make any clear or concerted effort towards the development of local capacity; it was all motion and no moment. His incompetence didn’t allow him to have full appreciation of what is required to build capacity for the indigenous shipping.
“The agency under Dakuku’s leadership lacks flag state coastal responsibility. This was one of the major reasons Nigeria lost the ‘Category C’ election in IMO. He also lacks clear-cut blueprint on maritime security. NIMASA, under him embraced joint maritime initiative that creates functions overlap, against developing an initiative that NIMASA can claim ownership with full control and make request for backup from other security agencies should the need arises.
“His leadership was fraught with underperformance, sectionalism, filtering away resources on frivolities such as payment on endless seminars, meetings, summits and humongous amount to hire musicians and people in the entertainment industry. It will be correct to tag him Nollywood DG.”
So it is crystal clear that Dakuku Peterside does not deserve a second term in office in NIMASA. It is time to allow a professional bring the maritime industry back to its feet so that it can create jobs for our teeming youths and contribute meaningfully to the growth of the Nigerian economy.