Akpobolokemi targets non-Ijaw at NIMASA
… Moves to sack Tumaka, Mgbemena, others
Commendation for a good deed inspires the doer to do even better, goes the popular saying.
The above, however, may only be applicable to Delta State-born Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi, in irony.
SHIPS & PORTS DAILY can authoritatively report that, since December 2011 that President Goodluck Jonathan catapulted Akpobolokemi from relative obscurity to the helm of the nation’s apex maritime regulatory agency, the former Lecturer at Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State, has swum endlessly in controversies.
Seemingly inured to the aberrant situation that these persisting controversies have entrenched in the Nigerian maritime industry, analysts posit that this may be inspiring Akpobolokemi into even fresh controversies that greatly distract from NIMASA’s core brief of capacity building – human and tonnage.
Barely one year of the Akpobolokemiadministration at NIMASA has witnessed Nigeria losing her category ‘C’ membership of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), relegating the nation to backbench position in the global apex maritime regulatory body.
Apart from allegedly “invading” the office of then Transport Minister, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman, at the Federal Ministry of Transport Bukar Dipcharima House headquarters in Abuja, with a retinue of armed Nigerian Navy personnel, who serve as his regular bodyguards, Akpobolokemi allegedly engaged the SokotoState-born Suleiman in a shouting match, before the NIMASA boss departed, allegedly threatening to get the Minister sacked.
Indeed, shortly after the incident,Akpobolokemi’s alleged ominous prediction came to be, and Suleiman was sacked.
Suleiman’s immediate successor and incumbent Transport Minister, Senator Idris Umar, it was learnt, in spite of his (Umar’s) easy-going and matured disposition, has not had a rosy relationship with the alleged stormy petrel of the Nigerian maritime industry, Akpobolokemi.
Unimpeachable sources informed SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that Akpobolokemi routinely, with the refrain “I’m going to the Villa”, storms out of meetings with the Minister, or other fora where the Minister is presiding, or inter- ministerial fora where the Minister and others are present.
If the criticisms of discerning industry watchers have fazed him, Akpobolokemi, according toSHIPS & PORTS DAILY checks, has not in a way shown this, except to do more in earning more criticisms.
Even as he has concession the security of the nation’s waters to a private firm, Global West Vessel Specialists Limited (GWVSL), reportedly promoted by repentant Niger Delta militant and fellow Ijaw, Chief Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo, Akpobolokemi has gone ahead to transform NIMASA headquarters, Maritime House, and other facilities, into quasi-garrisons, allegedly on the advice of Tompolo and other ex-militants-turned-security consultants of Ijaw extraction.
A first-time visitor to the Director-General’s office suite at Maritime House, Burma Road, Apapa, Lagos, would be forgiven on mistaking the location for a Joint Task Force (JTF), because of the varied gun-toting uniforms swarming there.
Akpobolokemi has been particularly pilloried for alleged ethnic agenda, which mission is to install the Ijaw in all facets of NIMASA.
Eloquent testimony to this, according to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY findings, is that Ijaw has become the veritable lingua franca at most NIMASA facilities, notably the Director-General’s office suite, and the Nigerian Maritime Resource Development Centre, Kirikiri, Lagos, which houses the IMO Regional Maritime Rescue Centre (RMRC), which Akpobolokemi may have converted into a camp for an army of Ijaw purportedly employed by the GWVSL.
Similarly, the NIMASA boss may have affirmed his parochial credentials with the siting of three of the sixNIMASA-sponsored educational institutions in the nation’s South-South geopolitical zone, where he hails from.
Of the trio, two – NIMASA Science and Technical College, Okoloba, and Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko – are located in Akpobolokemi’s home state – Delta – and the third, NIMASA Institute of Maritime Studies at his former place of work – Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State.
The other three are: NIMASAInstitute of Maritime Studies, Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State, North-Central; NIMASA Institute of Maritime Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, South-East; and NIMASA Institute of Maritime Studies, University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos State, South-West.
In the latest controversy in which he has allegedly entangled himself in what has been described as his Ijawnisation of NIMASA, Akpobolokemi may, however, have bitten off more than he can chew.
Consequently, the NIMASA boss was last week summoned to Abuja by a number of agencies of government to respond to series of petitions raised by some aggrieved NIMASA officials over alleged moves by the Akpobolokemi administration to sack them from office.
The agencies include the National Assembly, Federal Character Commission (FCC), and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), which summonedAkpobolokemi to testify on the appointments and disengagement of NIMASApersonnel since his assumption of office to date.
NIMASA has been particularly troubled following the purported decision of the NIMASA boss allegedly ordering three Directors to proceed on retirement, with a package of so-called “golden handshake” of financial incentives, even as they were not yet due for retirement.
Matters at NIMASA have been compounded by a similar order issued to other NIMASA Directors and Deputy Directors, including Director of Administration and Personnel Services, Mr.Chuks Mgbemena; Director, Maritime Environment Management, Mrs. Abiodun Gunwa; Deputy Director, Public Relations, Hajiya Lami Tumaka; and two other Deputy Directors, Ms. Ego Nwokocha and Mr. Mohammed Sani.
Sources informed SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that Akpobolokemi’s separate testimonies before the National Assembly, the FCC and the ICPC, respectively, were not convincing enough to these bodies, and he is expected to make further appearances before them in the days and weeks ahead.
Meanwhile, in a press statement dated April 24, 2013, and emailed to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, and titled NIMASA MGT INVOKES VOLUNTARY LUMP SUM RETIREMENT SCHEME, Tumaka stated:
“The Executive Management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has invoked the Voluntary Lump-Sum Retirement Scheme for all staff of the Agency on Grade Levels 15 to 17 with less than 5 years in service.
“In a memo signed by the Director of Administration and Personnel Services, Mr.Chuks Mgbemena and addressed to all staff of the Agency, this scheme is open to all staff on Grade Levels 15 to 17 who have less than five (5) years in service prior to attaining the mandatory retirement age of 60 years or 35 years in service and in the case of Directors, eight (8) years on present position.
“The memo further urged all interested staff in this category willing to benefit from the scheme to indicate their decision in writing and seek further clarification from the Administration and Personnel Services Department. “The Voluntary Lump Sum Retirement Scheme is part of the conditions of service in NIMASA under Chapter 7 section 7.10 of the Agency’s Conditions of Service handbook. This sections stipulates that “in order to encourage early voluntary retirement, staff who have five (5) years or less to retirement by years of age or years of service may be offered lump sum payment. The payment shall be based on Annual Terminal Base Salary for the remaining active years of service and prorate. All other entitlements shall also apply. The lump sum payment inducement option shall however be subject to management discretion to invoke it as and when it deems necessary”.
“This scheme was put in place in order to encourage staff who may be willing to retire early to go into some other ventures not to lose out entirely on their outstanding years of service.
“Contrary to speculations in the media, this is a voluntary scheme enshrined in the Agency’s Conditions of Service and only members of staff who are willing to accept it can benefit from the scheme.
“It is also not the right of staff as this scheme can only be invoked by the discretion of the Executive Management when it deems it fit.”