Stories by Isaac Anumihe
Of all the agencies in the maritime industry, none has received so much bashing like the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
So much missteps have been recorded against the agency. Such gaffes include, failure of Nigeria to clinch the exalted office of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Council seat for which the agency spent over N100 million to no avail; the lack of infrastructure in the shipping industry, the cabotage vessel financing fund (CVFF) controversy and the failure to restructure NIMASA for which a committee was set up to study and make recommendations.
The agency has also been accused of spending billions of dollars to train cadets abroad instead of developing the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron (MAN) and making it viable. The flag administration has failed to register Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) which owns a large fleet of trading worldwide and it is unable to register their ships in the Nigerian flag and boost tonnage. Instead, they have all their ships registered in foreign flags.
“NLNG actually approached our flag administration to express their desire and preference to register all her ships in Nigeria if the flag administration can be enhanced and recognised to meet international standards. They went further and paid for a consultant to carry out a study of our flag administration and make recommendations to achieve this objective. The report and recommendation have been awaiting implementation by the maritime administration since then, over three years ago” the president of Ship Owners Association (SOAN), Greg Ogbeifun, lamented.
However, the most worrisome of all the allegations is the refusal to restructure the administration.
The ship owners had complained to the Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi regarding the DG’s indifference to the recommendations of the committee set up to restructure the administration.
“The Minister of Transportation, on assumption of office and with the promptings from stakeholders, set up a committee to study and make recommendations for the revamping and restructuring of our flag administration to make it more attractive for international patronage. A team of sound professionals worked assiduously to produce a comprehensive report and recommendations to achieve the objective but there has not been the political will to implement the recommendations of their report” Ogbeifun, also regretted.
But in a sharp reaction to Ogbeifun’s demand, Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi blamed Peterside for refusing to implement the recommendations which he had already given approval to, in writing.
“For me as Minister of Transportation, I sat down with all of you and set up a committee. The committee submitted a report. You indicted all of us. The chairman of that report was NIMASA DG. When I got the report and they sent it to me and I asked him (NIMASA DG) why not implement the committee’s report and he said he needed a directive from me and I gave that directive in writing. So, he is to answer if the report has been implemented or not” Amaechi, replied.
Earlier, Peterside had admitted that the Committee was mandated to draw up a template that will be used for the restructuring, reforming and repositioning of NIMASA to make it perform optimally.
He explained that the Committee worked diligently to achieve its mandate and in the course of the committee’s work, a few challenges militating against the optimal performance of the agency were uncovered.
He later told the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) that the restructuring of the agency was not a vendetta and a ploy to weed out those whose employments were considered inappropriate.
More than a year after the report was submitted and directive for implementation given, the report is still in the cooler.
NIMASA is structured into three directorates. Each directorate which is under the leadership of an executive director has two or more departments, headed by a director. In general, there are eight departments reporting to the EDs and nine departments/units reporting to the Director-General/CEO.
However, owing to the operational nature of the agency’s functions, it also operates a zonal structure to facilitate effective coordination of its activities in the four principal maritime zones of the country (Nigeria).
The zones and their respective headquarters are: Western Zone – Lagos; Central Zone –Warri; Eastern Zone – Port Harcourt and Northern Zone – Abuja
While the head office is in Lagos, its principal operations are in Apapa (Lagos), Warri, Sapele, Port Harcourt, Onne, Bonny, Yenagoa, Eket, Calabar, Abuja and Lokoja.
These are manned by crack professionals who are experts in their chosen fields. But unfortunately, the structure has been abused by powerful and influential Nigerians, a situation that caused some people to occupy positions they are not qualified for.
This is what the restructuring was supposed to address but it was truncated.
Co-ordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Chief Patrick Osita Chukwu, suggested that until the industry is led by professionals, the problem of the sector will persist.
“Federal Government has not come out with the truth on NIMASA. The issue of NIMASA is enormous. Is it the people they sent on scholarship to Malaysia who came back stranded without a job? Am I talking about Oron? Graduates of three, four, five years are still roaming the streets. If the federal government had listened to us, there is no way Amaechi should have been the Minister of Transportation. It is the job for professionals,” he said.