‘The Change Agenda’: Misdirection and Compounding Anomalies in NIMASA Appointments

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Kabiru Issah

At the dawn of the 2015 presidential election campaign, the APC-led campaign team along with President Muhammadu Buhari, unequivocally promised Nigerians a new order as far as how things will be done in the polity, if they succeeded in unseating the 16 years reign of the PDP in the presidential election. They dubbed their campaign slogan, THE CHANGE AGENDA!

Sixteen months after their electoral success, the euphoria has finally waned and the actual business of governance expected to be in top gear. As a stakeholder with special interest in the maritime sector, I want to make a cursory assessment of the ongoing change being witnessed at the nation’s leading maritime agency, NIMASA and the Federal Ministry of Transport, as a whole.

The Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), was created on August 1st 2006 when the National Maritime Authority merged with Maritime Labour Industrial Council. Its mandate was to ensure shipping development, protection and manpower training and safety regulations in the shipping industry. It is worthy of note that since NIMASA was created, the agency has been led by incompetent Director Generals; Beginning with Mr. Raymond Omatseye to the erstwhile, Mr. Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi. The duo failed to make any significant improvement in the agency, largely due to their ineptitude and lack of capacity to lead such an agency. For instance under the Cabotage, fees are being collected but has never been used for what it is supposed for which is to promote indigenous ship ownership. In 2013, Engr Vincent Udoye, a director of NIMASA claimed seafarers documents can be verified through an e portal and postulated that NIMASA was one of leading agencies to have achieved this feat and recognised by International Maritime Organisation (IMO). They provided www.nimasaseafarers.com as the portal. To date, this portal is not functional.

With 10% of the Agency’s budget going to the Nigerian maritime academy, Oron, the erstwhile inept leadership of NIMASA was busy wasting tax payers money in training Nigerians at various maritime Academies overseas. The irony was that the Nigerian Maritime Academy graduates are still struggling to gain employment, not to mention the foreign graduate trainees. These clueless and visionless leaders, instead of investing and creating enabling environment for indigenous ship ownership, which in turn will create jobs for these graduates, rather invested first in human capacity development without any employment opportunities to absorb the created capacities, This is a classic example of putting the cart ahead of the horse.

According to the act that established this agency,

Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act. 2007

Merchant Shipping Act. 2007

Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003

NIMASA is supposed to be a technical regulator in our maritime space but the past leaderships, due to lack of understanding and personal greed failed woefully to implement these acts. Rather, they saw the agency as a revenue generating monster and source of slush funds for their personal and political interest. Mr. R.Omatseye was recently convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment for fraud related charges while Mr. Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi is still awaiting his day at the court.

Now, looking at the current NIMASA leadership, even in this perceived era of change, we are still witnessing the same mistake that the past governments have made in appointing the leadership of the Agency and that is why this article is airing.

Following the new NIMASA leadership coupled with the change mantra, Industry stakeholders were expectant albeit hopefully for a competent helmsman that will reposition the agency. These expectations were short-lived as the Federal government appointed a career politician to navigate the agency

Mr. Dakuku Peterside, was former APC gubernatorial candidate in Rivers State in the last election. He was appointed as the Director General by the Federal Government and on March 15, 2016, he arrived at the Burma Road Head Office of the Agency amidst mixed feelings to say the least from stakeholders and interest groups. It is pertinent to state that NIMASA, itching, for a rebrand and repositioning needed a seasoned technocrat with tested and proven abilities in the maritime industry to get it going.

In appointing a Director General for NIMASA, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency ACT, 2007 states:

6. (I)The President on recommendation of the Minister shall appoint to the Board only persons with relevant experience and capacity applicable to maritime administration, recognised expert knowledge, qualification and experience in one or more of the following fields: Maritime Safety; Maritime Security; Maritime Pollution; Nautical Sciences and Hydrography; Marine Engineering; Finance; Marine Laws; Transport Logistics; Maritime Administration; and Marine Labour.

For the purposes of clarity, prior to being elected to the House of Representatives, Dakuku served twice as Rivers State Commissioner for works (2007-2011) He was also, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State on Works (2003-2005), the current supervising Minister for NIMASA. Dakuku holds a Bsc in Medical Laboratory Technology from Rivers state University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, and a Post Graduate degree in Management University of Port Harcourt. If his profile is anything to go by, Mr. Dakuku is not professionally and technically compliant to lead the Maritime Regulatory Agency NIMASA, according to the ACT that established this esteemed agency. Dakuku’s appointment was no doubt a compensatory appointment by his former boss Rotimi Amaechi, after his failed bid for the governorship of Rivers State. This appointment was only to cater for personal and party interest at the expense of national interest.

There will be loyal stakeholders and interest, pandering for favor and succor that may posit that his Management degree aligns with one or two tenet of this ACT but that will be totally absurd as he is yet to work anywhere under such management capacity, let alone manage and administer a robust agency as NIMASA begging for professional know-how and daunting repositioning. The obvious fact is, the new helmsman has no requisite capacity and ability to drive the agency to the promise land. To enable him achieve any meaningful stride and results, there were expectations that the appointment of competent Executive Directors will address these lapses. However, this held opinion as at press time has woefully failed to address this concern. The Executive Directors are supposed to be the catalyst that drives the agency and a fortnight ago, precisely on the eve of a presidential trip to Kenya, a list of governing board members was hurriedly presented for approval. This clandestine process was orchestrated to avert and douse any would be pressure or tension from stakeholders who have been waiting for the Executive Directors’ appointments. It is not traditional to have Executive Director Appointees embedded in the governing council even though the Executive Directors serve as governing board members as well. The usual process, appoints the executive Directors which is released with an official camaraderie.

The Federal Government on recommendation by the Minister of Transport appointed the following Executive Directors; Mr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh is the Executive Director Finance and Administration, Mr. Joseph Oluwarotimi Fashakin is the Executive Director, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development while Mr. Gambo Ahmed is the Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services.

The Executive Director Finance and Administration, Mr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh is the son-inlaw to President Mohammadu Buhari. Until his appointment, he was an Assistant Director in NIMASA in charge of Training and Development. He had served in the Kaduna State government before transferring his services to the then National Maritime Authority (NMA) in 1994. Jamoh also holds a Master’s degree in Management from the Korea Maritime and Ocean University, with a Diploma in Accounting from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.

Mr. Jamoh an Assistant Director is being elevated to an Executive Director, ahead of his superiors, which goes contrary to Nigerian civil services guidelines. Some may say that this was a political appointment but Mr Jamoh never resigned from NIMASA before being elevated to his new position. Based on fairness to official hierarchy which was applied to oust a former Executive Director, Mr. Callistus Nwabueze Obi in favour of Mr. Haruna Jauro who was a NIMASA acting DG for 72 hours after his former boss (DG) was sacked, Mr Jamoh should not have been elevated to this position.

His appointment above his superiors is a major disregard to due process. Obviously you don’t expect a director to take directives from a one time subordinate. This type of appointment breeds bad blood and puts a clog in the wheels of operations and administrative duties. In fact I am compelled to believe he was appointed because he is a son- inlaw to President Mohammadu Buhari, being married to his daughter. This is a deceitful and improper appointment.

Another ED appointee, Mr. Joseph Oluwarotimi Fashakin, is a well-known APC mouthpiece as they sought for this change agenda and quite vocal to say the least. He is the Executive Director in charge of Maritime Safety and Shipping Development. He is a Telecommunication Engineer having graduated from the University of Ife with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. Mr. Fashakin is a career telecommunication engineer and his appointment gratifies the saying that states ‘putting a square peg in a round hole’! He is versed in his qualifications cum experience albeit in the communication sector and one wonders why he was not appointed into the Nigerian Communication Commission, (NCC) or even the Nigerian broadcasting Commission (NBC) where his experience will be brought to bear and well appreciated. What does Mr. Fashakin bring to the table as far as Maritime Safety and Shipping Development are concerned?

Finally, the third appointee, Mr. Gambo Ahmed, the Executive Director of Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services holds a Bachelor’s degree in (Business Administration) Actuarial Science from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and a Masters in Banking and Finance from the Bayero University, Kano. Mr. Gambo has spent a number of years of his career in the financial sector. If common sense had prevailed in this process, he should have been assigned to Mr. Jamoh’s portfolio of finance and administration or better still sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) where his wealth of experience in the sector would be well appreciated. At a time when our economy is in dire straits, he should have been able to introduce innovative concepts and ideas to the nation’s stock exchange market and by so doing set a pathway to revamping our ailing economy. These appointments are truly lopsided and unthoughtful for NIMASA’s progress.

–Kabiru Issah, a Merchant Mariner Email; kabiruissah2001@yahoo.com