By Elizabeth Chukwuma
For years, officials of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, have been hiding under the cover of the ministers of Transportation both past and present to spend its huge revenue allocation on white elephant projects that gulp billions of naira which industry operators had described as ‘’drain pipes’’
One of such white elephant projects of the agency was the N50 billion floating Dock which was said to have been built at the European countries of Netherlands and Romania Ship Building and Repair Yards. Note that Patrick Akobolokemi, a former Director General of the agency had taken the bold initiative to acquire floating dock for the agency in order to take advantage of the numerous vessels that call at the nation’s ports in order to put the country on the map of countries that have the capacity to dry dock and repair vesels. The original intention of the former NIMASA dIrector General was to deploy the floating dock to Okerenkoko, the permanent site of the Nigeria Maritime University, in Delta state.
It was one of the multi-million naira maritime projects that was said to have been inherited from the former President Goodluck Jonathan Administration going by the report from the agency. Recall that the administration had the option of cancelling the contract but it was said to have been reviewed upwards which facilitated the completion of the building for the vessel and fitting of the facilities by the foreign Ship Building and Dockyard and subsequent delivery to NIMASA on June 11, 2018.
At the instence of Dakuku Peterside, a former member of the House of- Representatives and now Director General, of NIMASA, Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and minister of Transportation with the support of President Muhammad had pushed for the re-approval of the multi-million naira floating dock at the federal Executive Council, FEC. He got it.
He may have read the handwriting on the wall which attracts hundreds of ocean going vessels to the country’s seaports annually it needed to have a floating dock to bridge the gap of not having a functional Ship Building and Repair Yard. This is because of the International Maritime Organisation , IMO, insistence that all ocean going vessels must undergo dry docking every three years to ensure their sea worthiness.
It was not surprising why he pursued the completion of the floating dock project statrted by by his predecessor , with regular visits to the Ship Building and Repair Yards in Netherlands and Romania to monitor the extent of work done.
Note that lack of a functional Dry Dock Yard in the country may have forced the shipping Companies which take their vessels to Nigerian ports to take it to the West African country of Ghana and the Central African country of Cameroon for dry docking when it was time to do so. A ship agent who spoke to The Value News disclosed that that it cost between $300,000 or N45 million and $500,000 or N75 million to dry dock and repair a vessel
The NIMASA Authorities may have put up a convincing argument to support the agency to acquire the multi-million floating dock when stressed that it will save the country $1 billion by taking over the delivery of the floating dock facility ostensibly to dry dock and repair merchant vessels , fishing Trawlers and crude Oil Tankers to ensure their sea worthiness .
The Rivers state born politician was said to have been applauded in both official and unofficial quarters as a man with vision who has come to take the nation’s maritime sector to greater height because of the support he was said to be getting from the ministry and the Presidency He may have gladdened the heart of Industry operators when he said that the floating dock would commence operation as soon as it was delivered by the foreign ship Building Dock Yard. Many believe that Amaechi and the President may have thrown their weight on the floating dock project to facilitate work on it by the oversea Ship Builders because of the financial gains to the country.
They had expected the NIMASA Authorities to keep to their promise of putting the floating Dock to work as promised. Between 2018, when it was delivered to the agency and inaugurated by the Katsina state born Nigerian President and now, it remained berthed at the Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, Lagos, an indication that the agency may not have carried out due intelligence before going ahead to seek for the FEC, approval to procure the floating dock. Moreso, the agency appears not to have had had a target market to deploy the floating dock t for business.
Going by the initial arrangement of the taking the floating dock to the floating dock to the Naval Dock Yard, the NIMASA officials were optimistic that it would remain berthed at the Naval Dock Yard for only a year to enable the Naval personnel carry out the necessary repair works and replace broken down parts in order to effectively dry dock vessels without problem.
Given an insider information, the NIMASA Director General had said that the floating dock would be operated in conjunction with the builders as technical partners, in order to save the much needed foreign exchange for the country.
He was said to have told those that cares to listen it would also be used as a training facility for the students of the Okerenkoko Maritime University and other maritime Institutions in the country. But that was how far he could go. The floating dock appears to have been abandoned at the Victorian Island Naval Dock yard, over a year after it was delivered by the Ship Building and Repair Yard to the agency.
For the over one year that the NIMASA multi- million naira floating dock had been at the Victorian Island Naval Dock Yard, it was said to said to have been incurring running expenses as the generators powering the facility has to be kept 24 hours running as minor and major repairs have to be carried out t to ensure that it could effectively dry dock vessels whenever NIMASA is ready to put it into use.
Unconfirmed report said the abandoned floating dock at the Victoria Island Naval Dock Yard gulps about N3.6 million daily or about N100 million by to maintain, repair and fuel by the Navy. Maritime analysts believe that by abandoning the floating dock at the Victoria Island Naval Dock Yard since the ship Building Yards delivered it to the agency, not many shipping Companies or agents would want to take their vessels to the floating dock for fear that some of the parts may have deteriorated as it had remained stationery in one location for over a year for fear and as such may not do a good job. This is may have informed why many of the foreign Shipping Companies including some indigenous ones are still looking up to Ghana or Cameroon ,which have better dry docking facilities to repair their vessels. This is bad news to NIMASA officials who had hoped to save $1 billion for the country if it could quickly deploy the facility to start dry docking vessels.
Analyststs would want Peterside and his Management team to go back to the drawing board to ask themselves questions on why the agency had deceived the government to go ahead with the acquisition of the floating dock when it was clear that they were not ready to operate such a complex facility.
Given the billions of naira that was said to have been spent to acquire the floating dock and the millions of naira spent monthly, to maintain and repair the facility by Naval personnel, there is need for the government to carry out a forensic audit of the accounts of the agency to ascertain the genuineness of the transactions and the deal with the navy to maintain and service the facility which had gulped millions of naira when it had never been put to use since it was delivered to the agency in 2018.