By Stephen Ubanna
When Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state, and minister of Transportation initiated, initiated the ministry of Transport, MOT, retreat last year to rub minds with the Heads of the Maritime agencies, Directors agencies and those in the ministry as a way to enhance their operational efficiency and set a new agenda for the year, it was seen as a welcome development.
On Friday, August 7, and Saturday, August 8, 2021, the second edition of the MOT, retreat was held in Lekki, Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center.
Edward Osagie, an Assistant Director, in the Corporate Communications Department of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, had confirmed that Senator Gbemisola Saraki, minister of state, Magdalene Ajani, the Permanent secretary and other Directors in the ministry were at the retreat.
Also present were the Heads of the Maritime agencies under the ministry. They included, Bashir Jamoh, Director General, NIMASA, Koko Bello, Acting Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, George Moghalu, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Nigerian Inland Water Ways, NIWA, and Emmanuel Jime, Executive Secretary , Nigerian Shippers Council , and other Directors from the agencies among others.
In he opening remarks at the retreat, Senator Saraki, the minister of State,, who was said to have been represented Amaechi, the senior minister of TRansportation, had said that the retreat was organized to assess the performance of the agencies under the MOT, in order to enhance their efficiency and service delivery to Nigerians. ‘’We are here to assess the progress made so far in the nation’s maritime sector in order to enhance efficiency in our operation’’, she had said.
She may have gladdened the heart of the Heads of the ministry Maritime agencies when disclosed that this that the President Muhammadu Buhari, Administration over the last six years has achieved a lot in the aresa of rail transportation, maritime safety and security’’, noting that the goad of the Administration ‘’is to do more to enhance productivity’’.
Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, may have used opportunity of the retreat to speak of the efforts being made by the agency in the removal of the abandoned ship wrecks and derelicts in Nigerian water ways with the approval granted by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, last April to do so.
`Recall that between 2017 and 2019, Dakuku Peterside, a former NIMASA, CEO, had boasted of plans to remove the over 3,000 ship wrecks littering the nation’s coast line but that was how far he could go. This is because he could not back his words with action thus , giving room to the likes of Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, a former Managing Director, of NPA, and Maghalu, her Counterpart in in NIWA, to also, lay claim of their responsibility to remove the ship wrecks as contained in the ACT setting up their respective agencies.
Many believe that the removal of Peterside, in March 10, 2020, after completing his first term of four years, in office and the appointment ofJamoh, the then, Executive Director, Finance and Administration , as a replacement may have given expedited action for the removal of the ship wrecks from the Nigerian waters.
Jamoh, described as a strategist, in maritime circles may have known that the issue of which agency has the responsibility to remove the ship wrecks in Nigerian waters has to be resolved between the contending ageencies: NIMASA, NPA and NIWA, before any meaningful can be done. There is no gain saying the fact that the functions of the three agencies on ship wrecks removal were’’ overlapping’’.
Take for instance, section 22 of the NIMASA Act gives it the power to remove ship wrecks from Nigerian waters. A further look at the ACT, sections 365 and 366 also made it’’ the responsibility of the ship owner to remove a wreck within a specified period., upon notification by the Receiver of the wrecks’’.
The Act also’’allows the Receiver to dray the expenses for removing the wrecks by selling the ship wrecks on three grounds : that is where the wreck is under N50,000, where the wreck is damaged that it could not be kept for future use or where the wreck is not of sufficient value to pay for its warehousing’’.
Moreso, it noted that in the event where the ship owner was unable to remove the wrecks within a specified period, or where the Receiver of the wrecks is of the view that immediate action is required to secure Nigerian water ways , the Receiver may undertake the removal of the wrecks in line with the international standards. This may have informed why NIMASA Act was said to have made it clear that the ship owner would be held responsible for reimbursing the Receiver of wrecks for all expenses incurred in the process of the ship wreck removal.
More worrisome was the fact that section 9 of the NPA Act also gives t power to remove the ship wrecks in Nigerian waters as section 7 of the NIWA Act equally saddled it with the responsibility of the ship wrecks removal to facilitate safe Navigation of vessels in Nigerian waters without any obstruction.
The Value News online Magazine learnt that the issue of which agency have exclusive right to remove the ship wrecks in Nigerian waters was exhaustively discussed at one the monthly meeting of the Heads of Maritime Agencies, August, 2020. At the end of the debate, both NPA and NIWA, were said to have been asked to struggling with NIMASA, on the removal of the ship wrecks in Nigerian waters.
It was not surprising why on August 28, 2020, the Leadership of NPA and NWA, agreed to transfer their wrecks removal functions to NIMASA. The decision by Hajia Usman, the erstwhile Managing Director of NPA and Moghalu, the NIWA boss, to abide by the decision at the Heads of the Maritime Agencies meeting to abdicate their responsibility of removing ship wrecks in Nigerian waters to NIMASA, the may have may been communicated to Senator Saraki, the minister of state, overseeing the Maritime agencies , who in turn was said to have taken it up with, Amaechi, the senior minister in the Federal ministry of Transportation.
Given the decision of the Heads of Maritime agencies as regards to the approval of the removal of the ship wrecks, which had been a major problem over the years, and the ministerial confirmation, the Federal Executive Council on April 9, 2021, gave approval to NIMASA, to go ahead with the removal the over 3,0000 ship wrecks that litter Nigerian coastal waters.
There is no saying the fact that for years, abandoned shipwrecks in Nigerian water ways had posed great threat to maritime activities in Nigeria over the years as they obstruct’’ the free movement of vessels and were said to have in certain circumstances served as hideouts for sea thieves.
With the FEC, approval , Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, who had looked forward for such opportunity to come was said to have flagged off the ship wreck removal exercise in Nigerian waters.
The Maritime Regulatory agency who could not hide his feelings had said had said that the agency had made ‘’arrangements with the Nigerian Railway Corporation , NRC, which already has a foundary equipment in Lagos for the recycling of the ship wrecks’’, with the aim of creating wealth from such wastes while providing jobs for Nigerians’’.
The ministerial etreat may have also given Jamoh, the NIMASA , boss, an opportunity to speak on the automation drive in the agency, which maritime anaallysts believe had led ‘’to the integrated use of Technology in the issuance of Certificate of Competency, CoC and, Verification process which has drastically reduced in the manual verification practice.
This evident going by he report presented the NIMASA boss at the retreat which was said to have been reeived with applause. According to him, in 2020, the number of manual verification of CoC, dropped from 4,112, in 2019 to 2,750, representing a 33% drop in manual verification exercise. Giving an insider information, he had said that ‘’there was a total online verification of 9,723 in 2020, fiscal year, alone’’.
He was said to have also spoken on the efforts being made for the disbursement of the long awaited Cabotage Finance Fund, CVFF, by industry stakeholders. He had said that the agency was working with the ministry ‘’to resolve all the grey areas to ensure seamless distribution of the Fund’’ is in the Single treasury Account , stressing that ‘’there are guidelines, or the disbursement of the Fund. Note that as at July, 2021, the CVFF, already have about N 132 billion, in the naira Account and $209 million, in the dollar Component, in the Single Treasury Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. Informed sources told the Magazine that the Fund has continued to grow on a daily basis as the shipping companies continue to pany the mandatory payment.
The NIMASA , ceo, may have shocked Industry stakeholders, who had expected that the agency will disburse the CVFF , indiscriminately when he said that one of the guidelines for the disbursement of the Fund is the use of Primary Lending Institution, PLIs.
He had said that the agency have already advertised for Expression of Interest from the interested PLIs, assuring that they are following the due process to ensure disbursement according to the guidelines . At present eleven PLIs, were said to have been shortlisted, awaiting ministerial approval.
The ministerial retreat may have also provided opportunity for Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General,to open up on the NSDP Programme. He was said to have explained that 446 people have benefitted from the programme from different parts of the country and are currently undergoing ‘’ sea-time Training while 351 others have been assigned to maritime Training Institutes and are in the process of boarding for sea-time’’.
He was said to have also disclosed to the admiration of the minister that 93 beneficiaries of the NSDP were alredy undergoing CoC, while 360 have completed he mandatory sea-time Training and were awaiting the issuance of the CoC. He may have gladdened the heart of the minister and other people at the retreat when he confirmed that 368 of the beneficiaries of the NSDP project were already gainfully employed.
On the agency Maritime Distress and Safety system, MDSS, equipment at Takwa Bay and Kirikiri, in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve entre, he noted that the facility have been fully installed with the capacity to cover nine countrieswith in the West and Central African sub-regions. The retreat, according to a close Observer, had exposed Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General as a workaholic and Perforce because of the number of projects that have been executed and other activities being carried out in the agency including the removal of the abandoned shipwrecks in Nigerian waters.