By Bolaji Akinola
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is at the heart of the growth and development of the nation’s maritime industry. NIMASA is responsible for not only regulating shipping activities and docklabour but also for developing Nigerian tonnage. Unfortunately, the agency has consistently failed to deliver on its mandate since inception. The failure of NIMASA is the failure of the maritime industry and a disservice to the Nigerian economy.
Two factors stand out strongly for the failure of NIMASA over the years. One is leadership instability while the other is the undue politicization of appointments into the board and top management positions of the agency. The offices of the Director-General and those of the Executive Directors have been most hit by politics. Before the appointment of Patrick Akpobolokemi as head of the agency in December 2010, there had been too frequent changes in the leadership of NIMASA, with an average tenure of 1.57 years for each Director-General. From May 1999, when the nation returned to democratic governance to date, NIMASA has had 10 Directors-General with an average tenure of one year seven months each.
In the history of the nation’s apex maritime regulatory body – former known as the National Maritime Authority (NMA) but now known as NIMASA consequent upon the fusion of the NMA with the defunct Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council (JOMALIC) on 1st August 2006 – only two people have been appointed from within the organisation as substantive CEOs. The first was John Egesi. Unfortunately, Egesi spent barely three months in office before he was thrown out in 1999 as a result of series of political intrigues. The second was Dr. Ade Dosunmu who served as DG/CEO from May 2007 to July 2009. In between Egesi and Dosunmu’s, Enugu-born politicians had a field day as they contended with each other for headship of the agency with George Eneh taking over from Egesi. He was in office for less than a year before his replacement by Ferdinand Agu. Agu had the fortune of heading the agency for over four years. The Cabotage Act was passed during his tenure but after he allegedly fell out with then Governor of his state, ChimarokeNnamani, he was replaced by Festus Ugwu of blessed memory. After Ugwu came the creation of NIMASA and the appointment of MfonUsoro – the first female DG – on 1st August 2016. Usoro’s tenure lasted for barely nine months before the appointment of Dr. Dosumu in May 2007. By July 2009, another political power group had emerged paving the way for Dosumu’s replacement by TemiOmatseye. 18 months into Omatseye’s four-year tenure and with the demise of President UmaruYar’Adua in 2010, yet another power block emerged. Omatseye was kicked out, paving the way for Patrick Akpobolokemi who had the fortunate of completing his first four-year term and of a reappointment by his fellow Ijaw kinsman, President Goodluck Jonathan. With Jonathan losing the presidential election in 2015 to MuhammaduBuhari, it was clear that Akpobolokemi’s days in office were numbered. By August 2015, his second four-year term came to an inglorious end, eight months after.
The leadership instability at NIMASA – a function of the brazen pursuit of powerful individuals to seize control of the agency in order to control its enormous resources – has led to underdevelopment of the maritime industry.
NIMASA is struggling because there has been undue over-politicization of appointments into its Board and Executive Management at the expense of professionals and to the detriment of proper policy formulation, growth and development of the shipping sector.
The politicians have no respect for the law setting up the agency. Appointments of the agency heads were done in clear contravention of the NIMASA Act of 2007. The intrigues and power play that characterized appointments and removals of NIMASA chief executives in the past followed the same pattern and until this trend is halted, meaningful progress may yet be far from the maritime sector.
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