The Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) clocked a year in office on the 10th of March 2021 . With high expectations from maritime stakeholders and industry watchers, DAILYFOCUS NIGERIA, x-rays his performance in furtherance to checkmate some of the challenges confronting the sector. Roland Ekama writes …..
When President Muhammadu Buhari approved the appointment of Dr. Jamoh as the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) with effect from March 10th 2020;industry stakeholders applauded the appointment because it was seen as a development that would return the nation’s apex maritime regulatory agency to the path of real progress.
As part of a show of solidarity, the maritime media have continued to project him with positive write- ups in recognition of an insider expected to serve the industry and stakeholders better.
He was appointed on the 4th of March and eventually took over from Mr. Peterside Dakuku as the DG of NIMASA a week later.
But from the scale of one to ten, to what extent has the twelve months old administration of Dr. Jamoh paved the way for better days ahead? To what extent is the twelve months period portend a dramatic departure from the lackluster of past administrations especially considering that a ‘home boy’ is now in charge?
Without discountenancing the negative effects of the covid 19 pandemic on the economy generally, there are concerns, however, about the emerging trend among people in high places to refer to it as reason for non-performance. But can this realistically serve as an alibi for non-performance especially for a technocrat who has been part of the top echelon of the apex maritime regulatory agency for years? To what extent can this convincingly serve as reason for slow performance?
To this end, the NIMASA boss announced that his administration hit the ground running with a tripod mapping framework he dubbed, 3-S, namely Maritime Security, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development, essentially designed to rejig the maritime sector and redirect its primary aims and objectives to gain traction, while not neglecting its revenue making components.
But to a factual logical reasons and constructive criticism, it appears that none of the 3-S strategies have yielded any positive results to the maritime sub sector growth.
For the Jamoh administration, the best achievement so far is in the area of consultation and courtesy visitation, a development which can be overlooked and tolerated for a green horn. But for Dr Jamoh, an insider for many years, can an excuse for non performance be realistically made of this?
To start with, there are indications that under the current administration ,sea pirates had a field day in the nation’s maritime domain as several attacks were recorded in the last twelve months .
The Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund is one focal point the DG has failed to address. There were indications of the fund’ s disbursement in late 2020 but one year down the line nothing has been done to better the lots of indigenous ship owners who are no more in the shipping business.
As chairman of the Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund CVFF Disbursement Committee, as appointed by the Minister of Transportation , Mr. Rotimi Ameachi, last year, the DG had promised to fulfil all righteousness by ensuring that ship owners get the funds before October 2020. But here we are again ,like past leaders of the agency had promised one way or the other ,Jamoh’s case is not an exception on this issue .
“We are working to disburse the CVFF, maybe before October, we hope to be able to disburse the first leg of the fund to beneficiaries, ” the DG was quoted saying at a media chat.
Informed sources told DAILYFOCUS NIGERIA that during the world seafarers’ day celebration of 2020, there were attacks on fishing trawlers on Nigerian waters unreported by local media outfit .
Ransoms were paid days after for the release of the crew; Two trawlers with a total of sixteen crew were hijacked in the Escravos and Fish town routes both in the Niger Delta region.
But according to Maritime Executive, an online e-news platform with strong knack for maritime reportage, reports that piracy was a routine threat in the Gulf of Guinea, and the region has become the world’s epicenter for maritime kidnapping. Over the past several years, experienced criminals and insurgents from the Niger River Delta have transitioned away from fuel theft in favor of seafarer abduction, ranging hundreds of miles from Nigerian shores to attack vessels off the coasts of neighboring countries. Attacks have been reported as far as 200 nm offshore.
A patchwork of national regulation interferes with the use of embarked private maritime security contractors (PMSCs), and many vessels sail through the region undefended. In particular, the Nigerian Navy has repeatedly used Nigerian anti piracy laws to target suspected private security guards.
PMSCs were a major factor in the effort to end piracy in the high-risk area off Somalia. Nigeria only permits private contractors to provide for-hire Security Escort Vessel (SEV) services using civilian boats and armed Nigerian Navy active duty service members. According to one well-regarded security services firm, this system has historically been challenged by “extremely high costs and issues of poor performance and reliability.”
Also , Dr. Jamoh is well informed about the controversies surrounding the Nigerian Ports Authority’s (NPA) insistence on disbanding the Secure Area Archorage (SAA) which Ocean Maritime Services Limited (OMSL), a private security firm, has been autonomously running. Even from his vantage position in NIMASA prior to his elevation to the apex position, Dr. Jamoh is privileged to know about the issues involved, the monies collected and the game plan involved in the deal.
Considering the position of NIMASA as a “safety and security” regulator, wouldn’t it have been improper for him to take advantage of his solidarity with the sister agency and his sister at the helm at NPA to take a definite stand on the controversy in a period of six months?
Before the eventual cancellation of SAA by the presidency , the DG did not do anything tangible to lend a voice concerning NIMASA’s official position on the Secure Area Anchorage issue. What has been his position on how to support, assist and fight a just cause of a sister agency (NPA) that has singlehandedly stood its ground to say NO! to SAA activities?
Based on some media reports, the DG was highly celebrated during his 100 days in office even as many stakeholders were expressing worry over issues of pirate attack on vessels and insecurity in the territorial waters.
But one would love to know the essence of the achievements on the first 100 days in office.
Collaboration Without Solidarity Among Maritime Heads
Apparently seeking collaboration among sister agencies in the maritime industry, Dr. Jamoh spearheaded the moves to engage others on how to push the sector forward, no doubt, a brilliant innovation and first of its kind in the industry. To a large extent, the then tussle between NPA and OMSL needed some level of inputs from NIMASA. This is not forthcoming. Instead, what we have seen is collaboration among maritime heads orchestrated by the DG NIMASA without any affirmative solidarity contribution.
The nobel coming together maritime heads as orchestrated by Jamoh would have addressed key factors of the industry which is not limited to safety and security on the waterways. For example the agencies heads would streamline their activities in enforcing sanity to roads linking the seaports, superior of wreck removal by three key agencies under the Transportation Ministry, the loom danger of barge operations etc.
However, since the beginning of the year (2021), the meeting of heads of maritime agencies has failed to converge on how to move the sector forward.
Courtesy Visitations By DG NIMASA Since Appointment
Dr. Bashir Jamoh met with at least fifteen agencies and stakeholders with robust interactions but those parley is yet to yield positive results in the first six months in office. In a bid to develop the maritime sub sector for sustainable development, he met with the Honourable Minister of Finance, Zainab Shamsudeen, to discuss various fiscal incentives for stimulating growth in the sector and how it can be positioned to attract greater foreign investment for more revenue for the government .
Similarly, former Chief of Air Staff Abubakar Sadique was visited by the DG who reiterated the agency’s commitment and partnership towards a more secure maritime domain.
During the visit, Jamoh was quoted as saying “With your support, we are taking one more step closer to our goal of calmer oceans. We had very fruitful discussions on the 16th of September.”
On September 7th 2020, the executive governor of Bayelsa State, Douye Diri, came calling at the apex maritime regulatory agency in Apapa where vital issues bothering on Agge Deep Seaports were discussed.
“Bayelsa is rich in maritime assets. We’ve committed to partner on multiple fronts: wreck removal and ship recycling, fisheries, security, Agge Deep Seaport, youth training, etc”, the governor said.
On September 5th 2020, Sir Billy Okoye, Group General Manager, Crude Oil Marketing Division, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) visited the agency in a working visit aimed at strengthening the partnership and enhance efficient crude lifting and shipping through Nigerian waters.
There was also a farewell lunch with the outgoing Consul General of Embassy of Korea Republic, Kim In-Taek where issues of ship building, repairs, recycling, and how Nigeria can learn from and partner with their shipping industry were discussed.
August 21 2020, he met with the NNPC Group Managing Director, Mele Kyari, in furtherance of the agency’s partnership towards boosting Nigeria’s economy using the maritime assets. “We both share a common goal. We’ll continue to clear the pathway for the oil & gas sector.”, Jamoh stated.
August 19th 2020, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) played host to the DG of NIMASA, to further address the twin security and economic issues of pirates crossing the border to commit crimes in Nigeria and foreigners abusing immigration permits to deprive local and competent seafarers of jobs.
On July 22 2020, Hameed Ali , Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service played host to Jamoh as part of efforts to discuss the way forward for maritime growth.
June 24th 2020, with the hashtag #AllHandsOnDeck, the Managing Director NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman visited the Dr. Jamoh to discuss maritime growth.
June 12, 2020, Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu said ” I am glad that Nigerian Police through its Marine Police Division is onboard with NIMASA on “Security is Priority”. He addd,” We are partners for Stable Seas in our region to guarantee shipping development.”
Still on the visits, Jamoh met former Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Abas, in furtherance of the agency’s partnership to boost maritime security.
“For us at NIMASA, Security is Priority isn’t a cliché but a continuing commitment to our duty as Nigeria’s maritime regulator. Stable seas in our region will guarantee shipping development.”he said.
The visits to other relevant agencies and stakeholders still ongoing but the manifestation of all the parleys matter to stakeholders in the sector.
In all these visits, how many core industry stakeholders have the DG NIMASA visited as part of efforts to move the industry forward? In this wise, master mariners, labour groups , marine institutions freight agents, transporters ship owners and the seafarer unions quickly come to mind .
Two significant maritime events have held under Jamoh since his appointment, namely, World Maritime Day and Seafarers Day. There was no form of engagement with the key stakeholders to sound them out on how to move the industry forward. At least to hear them out on the numerous challenges confronting them and how to foster resounding resolutions. Thanks to technology , a virtual conference for the sake of the ravaging Covid-19 would have been encouraged in order for him to hear some of the problems faced by players of the sector .
Stakeholders’ Assessment Of The DG In Twelve Months.
Though nobody is expecting any form of miracle under twelve months of his appointment but the foundation can speak volumes about what to expect in the coming years of the maritime industry.
A cross section of maritime stakeholders who took turn to evaluate the DG’s performance were unsatisfied considering his wealth of experience in the industry.
Some however attributed the slow pace on performance to the COVID19 pandemic.
Some of the operators also stressed the need to give the DG more time in addressing confronting issues of the industry.
Former President,Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, Engineer Matthew Alalade stated that 2020 was turbulency and Nigeria economy was not spared in the fight against coronavirus.
Alalade pointed that the DG was able to support Nigerian seafarers’ through Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) which according to him, is a sign of good things to come.
A top member of Nigerian Indigenous Ship Owners Association who prefers anonymity said nothing has changed since Jamoh’s appointment as DG NIMASA.
“Am a bit constrained to respond to your question appropriately because the man at the helms of affairs is very very close to us.
“However, going straight to your question, nothing has changed. Everything is standstill. No deliberate efforts to revive the industry. The industry is still the way it was under the previous administration. My brother, things are even getting worse.
“There is nothing bad in courtesy visit. It’s a way of selling his agenda to parties he visited but if in 6 months no meaningful progress, then the visit can be described as jamboree.
“Any government or agency that is undermining the implementation of Cabotage law and obstructing full disbursement of CVFF, is the number one enemy of this country. Enough of rhetorics.!”,he said.
On his part , NISA Steering Committee member , Captain Franklin Taiwo Akinpelumi noted that “He has performed creditably well within this period and to the best of his ability, don’t forget that the global pandemic affected businesses and economic activities worldwide and maritime was not spare either.
“Jamoh ensured that the effect of the ravaging Covid-19 was minimal on shipping and shipping activities in Nigeria, even though the pandemic started just few week after taking over the leadership of the agency.
“His performance presently might not have met the expectations of some people in the industry but I have no iota of doubt that eventually and with little time he will meet up and surpases the expectations of stakeholders and industry watchers.
“What reinforces my conviction are lots of issues being addressed behind the scene, which might not be apparent immediately to stakeholders. Examples are; firstly, the paradigm shift to the war against maritime insecurity. It is clear departure of the old order with plenty talks, workshops and conferences without positive outcome. But the new NIMASA leadership is now collaborating and working in unison with the IMO, international Shipping Organizations, major industry Stakeholders and other GoG member states to design a strategy to nip the menace of maritime insecurity in the bud.
“Secondly, a commitment was extracted from the CBN ti provide the needed intervention fund to the maritime industry. You will agree with me that it is a feast previous NIMASA leaderships were unable to attain.
” Thirdly, there is sustained efforts to ensure the disbursement of the long awaited and protracted CVFF Fund.
“Also, I am privileged to be aware of the in-road made with the Nigerian Customs to ensure reduction or abolition of import duties on vessel acquisitions and Spare Parts. These are to mention but few”, he said.
Akinpelumi however, stressed that”My passionate appeal is let”s be patient with Dr. Bashir Y. Jamoh. I know he won’t disappoint us eventually. He has put in lots of efforts and they will start to manifest soonest”.
A consultant to International Labour Organization (ILO), Captain Thomas Kemewerigha noted that there is no point blaming the DG on his performance in the last one year but added that issues of Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 as amended should be addressed.
Kemewerigha lamented that enforcement of MLC since 2013 has been poorly management stressing the need for the DG to throw his weight behind the enforcement team of the agency.
With the slow pace performance of the DG , one would imagine if Nigeria can be able to get a seat at International Maritime Organization (IMO) considering the fact that no meaningful success was recorded in the last one year. One expects that Dr. Bashir Jamoh,who is also the President Chartered Institute of Transport Administration (CIOTA) could brace up and turn the fortunes of the maritime industry around for greater productivity.
Industry watchers have also advised the DG to streamline his operations with other sister agencies to ensure that wreck removal on the nation’s maritime domain records some enviable success as the channels are not impassable.
A one-stop-shop operations by all agencies involved in wreck removal might likely give him a pass mark this time around. The clock is ticking for another year in office thus delay in dangerous.