Where is Akpobolokemi’s national carrier?

Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, “This is what the Lord has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth,” the Holy Bible stated in Numbers 30:1-2.

In May 2014, Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, announced to the world that his agency had obtained the approval of President Goodluck Jonathan to float a new national shipping line.

Speaking at a workshop on public-private-partnership (PPP) strategy for infrastructural development and modernization in the Nigerian maritime industry organized by NIMASA, Akpobolokemi said that the new national carrier would be afloat within six months of his announcement.

He said the new carrier would be floated on a PPP basis.

Akpobolokemi said the new national carrier would be floated with the aim of ensuring that the nation’s crude oil and other vital cargoes were lifted by Nigerians.

His words, “In the next few months, we will work with the private sector to get our national shipping line back because it is important for our development. The government will have minimal participation.

“It is a huge economic waste that most of our hydro carbon is being transported by people other than Nigerians and I don’t think the agency can have the patience or keep waiting, drastic measure must be taken.”

At the same event, Akpobolokemi also assured cadets of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron that his agency would provide sea-time training for them.

“The agency is spending massively in training of seafarers to get sea-time abroad but should the national carrier be on, the government won’t be spending much on the training.

“If a shipping line is floated, we won’t spend a third of what we are spending to train our cadets abroad today.

“The president is pushing us to work on the national carrier issue and the way to go is to bring private people not the government. The government will only provide an enabling environment with minimal participation. The private sector will manage it,” he added.

Almost a year after making that promise in public, it is sad to note that NIMASA under Akpobolokemi has neither floated the new carrier not assisted cadets of MAN Oron acquire the mandatory sea-time experience.

For Nigerians who have kept tab, a plethora of failed promises has characterized the past four and a half years of Akpobolokemi’s leadership of the nation’s apex maritime regulatory agency.

When he arrived the Maritime House in December 2010, the timid, inexperienced, unqualified and somehow arrogant NIMASA chief executive promised to revamp the fortunes of Nigerian shipping companies through a committed implementation of the Coastal and Inland Waterways Act 2003, otherwise known as the Cabotage Law.

He also promised to ensure prompt disbursement of the money, running into several billions of naira, which had accrued under the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund.

He did not fulfill any of these promises. If anything, the fortunes of Nigerian shipping companies dipped under Akpobolokemi with about 90 per cent of these companies going under.

Akpolokemi became everything but a good administrator. He awarded a controversial security contract to one of his kinsmen, neglected the welfare of NIMASA staff and turned an otherwise professional maritime agency into an ethnic kingdom. He ran NIMASA as a feudal lord, promoting mediocrity and hypocrisy above professionalism.

In a sane clime, a public servant like Akpobolokemi would have since been booted out of office and brought to trial.

It is hoped that the government of President-Elect, General Muhammadu Buhari would look critically into the affairs of NIMASA and return it to the path of decency.

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