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Future Of Nigeria Maritime Security very Bright To Move Cargoes As NIMASA Deploys its Floating Dock Into Operations

By Stephen Ubanna

 More facts have emerged how All  the  Heads the ministry of  Transportation  agencies, have  helped to sanitise the nation’s maritime domain  by coming out with bold initiatives  in their monthly meetings over the last four months which had helped the growth of the sector.

One of such bold initiatives that was said to have been  agreed  by All the Heads of the maritime agencies  in one of their meetings   was the use of barges to transfer  overtime cargoes from the Lagos ports of Apapa  and  Tin-can Island  to the Onitsha River port in the south east, Baro River, north central Nigeria and other Inland  Container Terminals, ICT, scattered all over the country.  

    Note that one of the major problems of the Lagos ports environment over the years  had  been   congestion. The situation was so bad that Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, the NPA, Managing Director, had approved the engagement of about 40 Barge Operating firms to help in the evacuation  of cargoes from the Lagos ports of Apapa and Tin Can Island  to the River ports and ICTs to reduce the pressure on the existing port facilities.    

Bashir Jamoh, who incidentally is the President of the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration, CITA, may have taken advantage of the monthly meetings of the All the Heads of the Maritime Agencies  to discuss the problems affecting the industry and proffer solution  to drum support for the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA in order to continue the use of barges  to move Containers from the Lagos  ports environment to  the Onitsha and Baro River ports including the ICTs because of the frequent falling of Containers  along the oshodi-Apapa  Express way and loss of live.  He had his way.

Jamoh: DG, NIMASA

 Rotimi  Amaechi a former governor of Rivers state and now, minister of Transportation who  broke the cheery  news  at the last World Maritime Day celebration said ‘’it would go a long way to decongest the Lagos ports environment.

 The minister may have gladdened the heart  Babajide Sanwo- Olu, the Lagos state governor, who was represented at the event  by  Obafemi Hamzat, a Medical Doctor and the state Deputy governor, as he gave kudos to President Muhammadu Buhari for the approval .The governor’s happiness was informed by the fact  that it would  reduce the pressure on the state roads forestall , frequent falling of Containers and loss of lives due  to trucks laden Container accidents that were not prperly lapped.

 M, using bargsembers of the   Onitsha  Chambers of Commerce,Industry, Mines and Agriculture, ONICCIMA were also  elated  over the government plans to move cargoes by barges to the Onitsha River port. The ONICCIMA leadership, had  been pushing   over the years for such approval  to be given but that was how far they could go.  

An Onitsha based  businessman, who had benefited from the $100 million  Tony Elumelu Foundation, popular, TEF, founded by Tony Elumelu, Group Chairman, United Bank For Africa, UBA, plc, a Pan African Bank,  , in giving out soft loan to  Small and Medium Scale Enterprises , SMEs, Entrepreneures, had observed  that if the government had acceded to their demand  before now  to facilitate the take-off of the Onitsha River port, the nation could not  have lost the billions of naira in overtime cargo.

The country may have lost the billions of naira  due to the problems of Congestion  at the  Lagos ports environment which was made worse by the Apapa gridlock  and the ongoing rehabilitation of the Lagos Railway network which had made it impossible for the trains to run, let alone move Containers to the ICTs.

Hajia Hadiza Usman: MD, NPA

Signs that the government may have  finally given the nod To NPA, to transfer overtime cargoes  to the Onitsha River port emerged when  George  Moghalu,an indigene of Anambra state and Managing Director, Nigerian Inland Water ways Authority, NIMWA,  gave an insight that   a preferred Concessionaire   would soon emerge for the River port.

 Moghalu, was said to have  told  a selected group  that a strategic process is ongoing  to select the preferred  Concessionaire for the River port. It is instructive to note that  the process to select the preferred bidder for the Onitsha River port had been stalled since 2015, due to the build up to the general elections which saw former President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, losing the election to Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress., APC.

Given the strategic importance of the Onitsha River port to the south east economy, the ONITCCIMA, members  , at the  end of their Annual General Meeting, last July were said have called on the Katsina state born Nigeria President  to revive the Onitsha River port, which  Infrastructural facilities were said to have been  developed with Tax payers money but wasting.

Many believe that the ONICCIMA,  call may have informed why Moghalu  , the Managing Director of NIMWA, took up the matter  at the ministerial   and inter-agency level in order  to facilitate the dredging of the Onitsha  River port.

The Onitsha River port had  remained a drawback to the take-off of the   Baro River port in Niger, home state of a former Military President,   General Ibrahim Babandida,rtd  and  Abdulsalami Abubabakar, also a retired Army General and former Head of State .  The seriousness of the government in selecting a credible Concessionaire for the Onitsha River ports became pronounced as the  NIWA Officials  plan of travelling to the port of Atwerp in Netherland  for due Intelligence as a model for the River port.

Moghalu: DG, NIWA

Jamoh, the NIMASA , Director General, who is happy at the turn of events regarding the government’s approval for barges to be used to transfer cargoes from the Lagos ports environment  to the Ontitsha and Baro River ports,  said  ‘’it is a confirmation of the Nigerian President unwavering Commitment  to he security of  the nation’s marine environment  through the Deep Blue Sea project or  Integrated National Security   and Water Ways Protection Infrastructure’’.

The NIMASA, boss had said that  85 percent  of the Assets  needed  for the  Deep Bluse  Sea Project’s full  takeoff had been delivered by HLSI  Security  Systems  and Technologies Limited, an Israeli  security firm which won the $195 million security  Contract.   The Contract also  gave  the Israeli   Company a total control  of the country’s maritime  security, which includes   the security of all  secure anchorage areas  in the nation’s maritime domain  , where all vessels  berth.  The NIMASA, helmsman believes that the takeoff of the Deep Blue Sea Project   would reduce  the cost of shipping  of cargoes  into the country seaports including the Ontsha and Baro River ports.  

The NMASA  boss , may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians, particular, ONICCIMA, members , when he said  that ‘’the training process  for Officers   that would  operate the various  equipment that had been delivered by the Israeli firm  had been concluded. At present the ONICCIMA members are in a hurry to see the first Consignment of overtime cargoes being transferred to the Onitsha River port, which may believe will call Celebration in the entire   south east geopolitical region.

He had expressed   the ‘determination of the Maritime Regulatory Agency,’’to ensure the sustainable  use  of the seas  and oceans   to move cargoes in Nigeria waters  which is clearly  demonstrated  by the agency  establishment in 2008  of a Specialised  department  to oversee the nation’s marine management’’

He is optimistic that with the current Collaboration  between the agency, and other sister gencie, Navy, Air Force, Nigeria Police, Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS and Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, ‘’ the future of maritime security  is very bright’’.

In a related development, Jamoh , the NIMASA, Director General, had confirmed that  the agency had  deployed the $50 million floatingdock  which was idling away at the Naval dockyard Victoria Island and  transferred it to the Continental Dockyard, Apapa , owned by NPA, where it has been put  into operation. The inter-agency monthly meetinsg may have opened the doorway for Jamoh to initiate discussions with Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, the  NPA   Managing Director to move the floating  dock from the Naval storage berthing place where operation could not be  undertaken     to the sister agency Continental dockyard  facility at Apapa.‘’We have been  discussing  with the Managing  Director  of the NPA , to move out the NIMASA  floating dock  from the Naval dockyard  to Continental dockyard AT Apapa  owned by NPA ’’, he had said.

Until his removal as the Director General of  the Maritime Regulatory agency last March, by the retired Army Gneral,  Dakuku Peterside had said that as the time  multi-million dollar arrived the country in June 2018,  the agency was  spending   close to $10,000  daily  to keep it in a private Jetty. He had stated that when it was moved to the Naval dockyard at Victoria Island, Lagos, it was gulping a whopping $30,000  daily  as Wharfage . The Whrfage charge, according to sources, excluded  the  billions of naira that was said to have been spent  on the floating dock as   running  cost and payment  of the array  of Consultants and experts servicing the facility.

There are indications that but for his removal after the expiration of his first four years in office  in what was described as a political Conspiracy by the President, the  agency under the former NIMASA boss   had concluded  arrangement   to deploy the floating dock into  operations in an undisclosed permanent location before the end of 2020 fiscal year. It was therefore not very surprising that Jamoh, his successor, followed it up to its logical conclusion as a  Chip of the old block.

 Many believe that there was no basis for the agency to have acquired the  floating  dock  by Patrick Akpobolokemi, he a one-time Director General  as he was said to have been warned  by Industry operators  and experts against  giving the nod to the Foreign Shipyard for the building of the dock.  He was said to have ignored the expert advice and awarded the Contract  a  few months  before he was sacked in 2015, by the incumbent President.

Given that the agency had deployed the floating dock  into operations at the NPA facility at Apapa, it had been projected   a monthly revenue  generation of N1 billion. This is good news for the nation’s maritime Industry if the Foreign shipping Lines would agree to patronise  the  NIMASA facility without taking their vessel to Ghana or other countries in the West African sub-region to dry dock.

Maritime analysts  said the NIMASA officials may have step up their marketing of the services offered at the floating dock to win Customers to it as  there are other dock yard  both within and outside the country Competing for the same market.     

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Stephen Ubanna

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