We are going the rounds again. Power change hands, a new Director-General is appointed, he makes promises then derails when he eventually comes to terms with the enormity of resources at his disposal, internal wrangling begin; petition and all; he is fired and then arrested by the Special Fraud Unit (SFU), the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) or the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as the case may be.
It happened to George Eneh in 1999. The intrigues were very strong and Ojo Maduekwe as Obasanjo’s second Transport Minister threw Eneh out, replacing him with his fellow kinsman, Ferdinand Agu. Agu completed his first term and even managed to secure a second term ticket but was not lucky enough to survive more than three months afterwards.
In came another Enugu man, Festus Ugwu who was Ebeano Governor Chimaroke Nnamani’s commissioner. Eneh, Agu and Ugwu – of blessed memory, were total strangers to the maritime business. Their appointments were totally political leading many to believe that the ‘Enugu mafia’ as it was then known had a stronghold on Obasanjo’s government.
Agu was lucky to escape scrutiny by the security agencies but not Ugwu. Few days to the end of his turbulent tenure, NMA Board Chairman and Lagos State Governorship aspirant, Funso Williams was gruesomely butchered in his Dolphin Estate residence by some unknown assassins. Suspects were rounded up by the CID. Ugwu was one of them. Musiliu Obanikoro was also arrested among several other ‘political arrests’.
I remember stopping over one day to say hello to Ugwu at Alagbon. I enjoyed a good working relationship with him and he had personally graced the maiden edition of our annual Shipping Career Summit at MUSON Centre. His spirit was high and he even managed to exchange banters. His sack was announced while he was still in detention at Alagbon. He was eventually released but never prosecuted.
August 1, 2006; Obasanjo approved the merger of NMA with JOMALIC to form NAMASA, which later changed to NIMASA. Mfon Usoro emerged the agency’s first Director-General with Tijjani Ramalan as Board Chairman. The once close friends soon became sworn enemies. Usoro’s two Executive Directors, Engr. Oliver Ogbuagbu (Operations) and Dr. Ade Dosunmu (Finance and Administration) publicly pitched their tents against her. Infighting broke out. Tempers flared. Petitions started to fly all around as usual. There were series of unsubstantiated allegations against the DG. With the support of then Minister of State for Transport, Habib Aliyu, the traducers had their way. The first female head of Nigeria’s maritime administration, largely described as a highly knowledgeable and selfless professional, lost her plum job ten months into it.
EFCC also got involved somehow but the Ministry of Transport would later issue a letter apologizing and clearing her of any misdeed. But she still lost the job.
In came Dr. Shamsideen Adegboyega Dosunmu – roundly described as a policy strategist and maritime administrator. With Dosunmu came some level of stability. He introduced quite a number of initiatives including the Nigeria Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), Ship Repair and Maintenance Subsidy et al. Dosunmu also completed the construction of the agency’s Maritime Resource Centre – a multipurpose edifice located at Kirikiri, Lagos. The project was initiated by Agu.
Nigeria hosted the Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and won re-election into the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) council consecutively under the astute administrator. He was a thoroughbred civil servant who understood the inner workings of the agency. He boosted the welfare of workers of the agency and tried to induce some level of professionalism. He was loved by many, of course not by everyone.
Two years into his tenure, the intrigues kicked in again. The enemy this time wasn’t within. It was mostly from outside the agency. NIMASA had been highly politicized and many knew it as a contract awarding agency. They would go to any extent to either control the sitting chief executive or have one of their own on the seat.
Dosunmu struggled to save his seat but by July 2009, the centre could no longer hold. President Yar’Adua caved in and handed the job to Temi Omatseye who was said to have enjoyed some strong support from some powerful politicians at the time.
Perhaps it was just as well that Dosunmu did not do the politicians’ biddings because he walked away without undue harassment by EFCC.
Omatseye wasn’t that lucky. He lost his job to Patrick Akpobolokemi after one and a half years. EFCC moved into his case and he is still being prosecuted at a Federal High Court, Lagos by the anti-graft agency. He is the first to be so prosecuted.
Omatseye’s successor, Patrick Akpobolokemi emerged on the scene towards the end of December 2010. He enjoyed the strong backings of President Goodluck Jonathan. He was arguably the most powerful chief executive of a federal agency under the Jonathan administration. He wielded enormous powers and influence. Three months to the expiration of his first four-year term, he got a second term approval. He was a regular face at Aso Rock Villa. There were tons of petition against Akpobolokemi but he was untouchable. He bestrode the landscape like a colossus.
But Jonathan’s defeat in the hands of General Muhammadu Buhari changed everything. Akpobolokemi has bitten the dust and EFCC has moved in. Who is next?
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