By Stephen Ubanna
For the past three months, Bashir Jamoh, who replaced Dakuku Perside, the Rivers state born politician, as the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has been working round the clock in order to restore viability into the nations maritime sector.
According to insider sources he is not doing so alone as he was carrying along the relevant government agencies and stakeholders to achieve his goal.
Having watched the abuse of the Temporary Import Permit , TIMP, from the side line over the years and now in a position to make an input on how to stop it , Jamoh was said to have utilized the opportunity by reaching to Hammed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS on the need to work to gether.
He was said to have told he Customs Comptroller General when he visited him at his the Customs Headquarters, Abuja, the Federal Capital territory, FCT, last Wednesday, on the need to join forces ’’to close the loopholes in the TIPS, that many importers have abused to prevent further loss of revenue due to the government’’.
He was said to have made it clear to the retired Army Colonel and the Customs helmsman, that ‘’ the abuse of the TIPS, was one of the biggest challenges faced in the nation’s maritime sector ’’stressing that that it has caused the government loss of billions of naira over the years and now.
An aggrieved Jamoh had said that “Those who had had benefitted and are still benefiting from the TIPS, use the opportunity ‘’to bring in their own ship and after one year will take it back to their country of origin where it was Chartered, rename it and bring it back to country.
They do it constantly which is ‘’to the disadvantage of the Nigerian ship-owners’’, he said.He pointed out that the Cabotage trade, which falls within the core functions of NIMASA, was suffering as a result of the abuse of the TIP. It is indigenous ship-owners that bear the brunt and therefore the need to stop the mess”, he remarked.
The Maritime Regulatory agency Director-General, who could not hide his feelings had said ‘’’the Merchant Shipping Act had provided that vessels used in importation should be registered with the Nigeria Ship Registry but in most cases, the importers the beneficiaries of TIPS, never obeyed the law. .
He was said to have used the opportunity of the visit to the Customs Comptroller General’’ to call for greater synergy between NIMASA and NCS, and indeed, all relevant government agencies in the maritime sector, to address the pertinent issues in order to improve the sector.
Jamoh may have said informed Ali, the Customs boss, that it was in pursuit of such cooperation that a regular meeting of Heads of maritime agencies in the ministry of Transportation was initiated. Recall that the first meeting, was held by Hassan Bello , a Lawyer and Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, on July 7, 2020, at the ,agency Corporate Headquarters in Lagos.
The meeting was a no hold bar discussion as they were said to have touched major challenging issues in the sector and proffered solutions to them. The bottom line was that they had agreed to improve on their working relationship and share information.
Note that Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA George Moghalu; Managing Director, Nigerian Inland Water Ways Authority, NIWA, and Commodore Emmanuel Effedua a Naval Commodore, rtd, Rector , Nigerian Maritime Accademy Oron, Akwa Ibom state , were part of the meeting which had the backing of Rotimi Amaech, minister of Transportation.
Jamoh who could not hide his feelings told Ali that the essence of the meeting was’’ to identify and speedily tackle challenges faced by operators in the sector without the impediments of official bureaucracy’’. He invited the NCS, Comptroller-General to join the Heads of maritime agencies meeting. Whethe he will join the high profile meeting remain to be seen.
The Customs Comptroller General who was said to have listened patiently to Jamoh’s presentation was said to have pledged the Commitment of the NCS, to pooling resources together with the Jamoh led NIMASA to address the abuse of the TIPS, b they beneficiaries and other problems in the sector.
. He was said to have agreed with Jamoh’s suggestions that ‘’there was need for both agencies to design a common framework for tackling the the issues’’ faced in the sector. Henoted that ‘’such an approach would ensure that ‘’if the Customs could register a Ship and gave it a TIP,NIMASA would also have the records of the registration on its platform’’.
Giving an insider information, he said the service by taking such a step should be able to have more identity of the ship beyond the name, as name could be erased and another name used. ‘’We must now collectively get some identity of the Chartered vessel that goes beyond name that could be registered in our records and that of NIMASA, so that if there is recycling of the vessel, and using the platform ‘’it could easily be identified and the full weight of the law applied on it’’.
The look in their faces at the end of the meeting shows that the parties have actually agreed to join forces to close the loopholes in the TIPS. Many believe that if the agreement could be into practice by the NCS and NIMASA, it would go a long way to stop the mess.
Ali, the Customs boss, may have improved on the NIMASA Director General suggestions, by adding that the synergy should be based on Information Communication Technology, ICT. ‘’I request that your IT staff synergise with ours to develop a platform that will create that Collaboration, such that everything we record or register will reflect in your records’’, he has said.
He revealed that the service had already mounted the necessary machine guns to check mate the movement of vessels in and out of Nigerian ports but one of the mainchines had an accident but it has been repaired. He disclosed that hey would soon be launched into operations.
He may have gladdened the heart of the NIMASA Director General when he said the Customs Authorities will keep him posted as they plan to synergise with the agency to ensure the safety and security of the country water ways. He opined that the service was’’ in the process of launching two boats that would go beyond the Creeks, to enhance the nation’s maritime security’’.
An insider told The Value News that “at the end of the meeting the parties also decided to incorporate the Freight Forwarders’ Regulators to be on board,”. The source disclosed that Jamoh, who had earlier told Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, that Hajia Usman, the NPA, Managing Director and himself, had agreed to extend the fellowship to him said it was done in order for him to have the liberty of joining them via zoom.
In a related development, Jamoh had appreciated the efforts of the NCS under Ali’’ to curb the smuggling of Contraband, into the country and enhance the service revenue generation over the last three years for the government’’.
The special accolade given to the Customs under Ali, over the successes achieved in its anti –smuggling war that had led to the seizure of thousands of ‘50’ bags of the Asian country of Thailand produced par boiled rice and scores of exotic vehicles including bullet proof, worth millions of naira, may have emboldened him to make a bold Statement .
‘’ The security of our people is more important than the revenue, because no matter how you collect, if our people are not settled or not in peace, then the whole essence of the revenue is nonsense’’.
This may have informed which the Customs Comptroller General told Jamoh, the NIMASA boss, ‘’so it is our hope that we join hands with you and make sure we work assiduously to ensure that the country water ways and the Gulf of Guinea are safe and profitable’’.
Appreciative of Jamoh’s initiative to enhance NIMASA and the NCS, working relationship, Ali declared: it would help to boost the nation’s maritime sector.