Steve Agbota, [email protected] 08033302331
Few days to the expiration of the former Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Dr. Bashir Jamoh, as the new helmsman of the apex maritime regulatory agency.
Buhari’s agenda is to reposition the nation’s maritime sector for economic growth and to utilise indigenous shipping as a fulcrum of national development to increase the maritime industry’s contribution to employment generation and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
As the second highest revenue earner for Nigeria, the maritime sector is now being recognised by lawmakers for its potential to the nation’s economy and now giving it attention.
However, on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, the newly appointed DG assumed office with a pledge to engage more deeply industry stakeholders to come up with policies that would drive the maritime sector forward.
The new DG with over 30 years of public service experience and who was also the Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the Agency will oversee the affairs of the NIMASA over the next four years.
Already, stakeholders have identified key areas they expected the DG to focus on which include, rejigging of the Nigerian ship registry, maritime safety and security, boosting the national fleet, and disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF).
Ironically, the CVFF was established alongside the Nigerian Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act of 2003, to empower indigenous ship owners to take control of the nation’s coastal and inland shipping business, otherwise known as Cabotage trade.
Sadly, 17 year after, the Federal Government is yet to disburse the over $200 million accumulated in the Fund for the acquisition of vessels, the real reason for its establishment.
Stakeholders who spoke with Daily Sun said they expect Jamoh to use his wealth of experience to engage key players in the industry to develop modalities for disbursing the fund to qualified local shipowners.
The Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL), was established in 1959 with huge investment and subsidies from the Federal Government. But the state-owned company was unable to compete with European and Asian shipping lines leading to its collapsed in 1995.
Much of the investment went to enriching the political elite, which left it badly indebted, before it was finally wound down in 1995 and all 21 of its vessels sold.
Since the collapse of the NNSL, Nigeria has not been able to participate in international carriage of cargoes including its own crude to major customers overseas currently being borne by foreigners. Over these years too, the country has lost so much in terms of earnings from freight to foreign shipping companies.
With about 2.2 million barrel of crude oil produced per day, coupled with the export gas NLG, LPG and other petroleum products and non-oil export products, no indigenous ships are currently involved in the carriage of these products.
The scenario is so bad that, Nigeria is believed to be losing $9.1 billion yearly on freight revenue that would have accrued to its treasury. This amount is being lost to foreign ships due to the absence of active indigenous shippers involved in global trade. This implies that Nigeria does not have a vessel that can fly the country’s flag as a maritime nation, and this needs to be pursued vigorously under Jamoh’s administration through inter-agencies and stakeholder’ engagement.
However, in order to change the situation, shipowners have called for a timely disbursement of the monies accumulated in the long awaited CVFF worth over $200 million to enable indigenous shipping development.
Shipowners, who commended the appointment of Bashir Jamoh, as the new Director General of the NIMASA, believed the new DG would bring development and greater efficiency to the industry especially given his vast knowledge of the industry.
Former President, Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Greg Ogbeifun, described the choice of Jamoh as good development for the industry.
He urged Jamoh to ensure the timely disbursement of CVFF and to also use his wealth of experience to build indigenous capacity as well as address challenges of maritime security in Nigeria’s domain.
He added: “He should conclude the issue of CVFF, which has just been initiated. The CVFF is an issue that has been on the drawing board for a long time and finally a committee has been set up by the Minister of Transportation to review the guideline. So, he should quickly step into that and make that a reality. That way he would have the support of the entire maritime sector.”
On maritime security, he stated that Jamoh is an expert in the area of maritime security and would articulate an effective solution to the lingering maritime security issue that is making Nigerian waters very unsafe for international shipping.
According to him, the issue of capacity development both in human capacity and infrastructure are platform that are critical to actualising the pillars of the Cabotage Act.
“It is a rare opportunity to have somebody who has been in the system over a couple of decades, without needing to be tutored on the agency’s mandates. This is the first time a true insider is being appointed as the DG and that to me is a very good development. Jamoh definitely will have his own strategy on how to deliver on the mandate,” he said.
He said Jamoh has taken his time to develop himself, careerwise going by his profile, meaning that he has the practical experience as well as the field knowledge.
However, the immediate ex-President of Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Aminu Umar, who commended Jamoh’s appointment, stated that his presence in the outgoing management team will enable him to continue from where the past administration stopped.
“With Jamoh’s appointment, the presidency has put a round peg in a round hole and it is very different from bringing an outsider to start learning the industry. Jamoh has been in NIMASA for long and as part of the management team of NIMASA, I believe he will continue from where Peterside stopped,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chairman, Port Consultative Council (PCC), Kunle Folarin, who expressed gladness over Jamoh’s appointment, said the industry has been pushing that an ”industry- person” rather than politicians be considered for the office of NIMASA DG.
Folarin expressed optimism that Jamoh’s appointment will help grow the industry to make it relevant not only in Nigeria but also globally.