Birthdays come around once a year, but summoning up the ingredients to make it a memorable time for the celebrant takes a long time and effort. Dr. Dakuku Peterside launched this effort some decades ago. He was only 29 when he came into public life. And he came with a lot of hope and promise.
“My greatest ambition in life is to always make a difference wherever I find myself, and to also help others make a difference,” Dakuku says. “I shall pursue this desire as long as God gives me life and opportunity.”
As he turns 48 tomorrow, the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) says, “I am thanking God for the wonderful opportunities He has given me to serve humanity. My prayer is that He will continue to afford me the strength and wisdom to take every opportunity He brings my way to do good.”
A man of fierce determination, the drive to succeed and inspire change has been among the most remarkable features of Dakuku’s public life.
He came to NIMASA in 2016 with ambitious reforms, from staff orientation to maritime industry operations and laws. Today, the reforms are yielding good fruit and the effects are there for all to see. Both staff of NIMASA and industry stakeholders are agreed on the fact that the agency, which was virtually rundown, has been given a new lease of life.
At NIMASA, Dakuku hit the ground running. He launched a quick response operation, Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP), aimed at returning the agency and the maritime sector to the path of growth and sustainability. That was followed by an expanded strategic repositioning and restructuring initiative captured under five pillars, namely, Survey, Inspection and Certification Transformation Programme; Environment, Security, Emergency Search and Rescue Transformation Initiative; Digital Strategy Reforms; Capacity Building and Promotional Initiatives; and Structural and Cultural Reforms.
To build staff capacity and create new work ethics, the Dakuku-led management introduced a series of professional and leadership trainings called the Knowledge Transfer Sessions (KTS). Under the programme, scheduled teaching and learning activities are organised all the year round where in-house resource persons mentor staff on various professional and leadership themes to try to enhance their competences.
Under Dakuku, NIMASA has achieved a lot in the discharge of its duties ofadministering maritime safety and security, seafarers’ standards, maritime labour, shipping regulation, promotion of commercial, coastal, and inland shipping activities, and pollution prevention and control measures in the marine environment.
NIMASA has reviewed downward the freight rates benchmark, in response to operators’ yearnings, and this has helped to boost shipping and foster a harmonious regulator-operator relationship. The review has resulted in over 30 per cent rise in cargo activities this year, compared to last year’s figures.
The administration has championed a Change of Terms of Trade for the affreightment of Nigerian crude oil from Free on Board (FOB), where the country has virtually no control over the distribution of its crude oil, to Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF), which favours indigenous operators.
It has intensified training for seafarers under the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme. Last Thursday, Dakuku announced in Lagos that no fewer than 500 seafarer cadets will be placed on various vessels by January, to undergo their mandatory sea-time training. This would bring to over 1, 000 the number of cadets that have undergone such training.
As part of efforts to enhance shipping, the Dakuku leadership of NIMASA is negotiating a special interest rate with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for acquisition of assets by indigenous ship owners.
Under the Survey, Inspection and Certification Transformation Programme, Certificate of Competency (CoC) examinations have been conducted at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, leading to the issuance of different categories of CoCs to successful candidates. In 2017 alone, NIMASA issued 3,752 certificates to successful seafarers, which represented a 149 per cent increase from the CoCs issued in 2016.
The agency leased six fast intervention security vessels under the maritime security strategy project, and this is already making impact. Port State inspections rose by 10.53 per cent in 2017, up from 475 in 2016 to 525 in 2017. Flag State inspections are also experiencing an upswing, from 77 in 2016 up to 98 in 2017, representing a 27 per cent increase. The increase has continued in 2018.
The Dakuku administration has launched an effort to ensure effective maritime domain awareness and better compliance enforcement through the establishment of a satellite surveillance control and command centre with coverage capacity of up to 312 nautical miles from the coastline (approximately 100 nautical miles off our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone)). The system can detect vessels with their Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders switched off as synthetic aperture raider (SAR) images, which can be interrogated immediately by near point of sight patrol/enforcement boats.
The system has facilitated effective enforcement of maritime regulations. It has helped to preserve cabotage trade for indigenous operators by identifying and differentiating Ship-To-Ship (STS) operations that take place at the secured anchorage and offshore locations from cabotage trade to avoid foreign domination of the trade under the guise of STS.
Accordingly, there has been an increase in indigenous participation in cabotage vessels manning, ownership, building, and registration with the agency’s zero tolerance on the granting of manning waivers.
The agency has introduced an electronic software for vessels monitoring and investigation, and improved interface with the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), leading to a harmonised marine vessel categorisation standards and delivery of a common database.
Ship registration has been on the rise since the current management took over. About 125 vessels have been registered this year, as against 94 vessels registered in 2017, representing an increase of 33 per cent. The number of Nigerians manning vessels has also increased. About 2,840 Nigerian officers and ratings were recommended to be placed onboard cabotage vessels in 2018, as against 1,789 Nigerian seafarers in the same period in 2017, which is an increase of 58 per cent.
NIMASA recently installed some new ship demolition equipment at its new ultra-modern shipyard in Port Harcourt to ensure safer navigable waterways for vessels in Nigeria.
To facilitate effective regulation of the maritime industry and provide a kind of compass for local and international stakeholders intending to do business in the Nigeria maritime domain, NIMASA has initiated a yearly publication of its outlook for the maritime industry. The initiative debuted with the unveiling of the 2018 Nigerian Maritime Industry Forecast in February. NIMASA intends to publish the next edition of its Outlook and Forecasts for the Nigerian Maritime Sector, covering 2019, no later than the first quarter of 2019.
Dakuku has raised the bar in public administration.
Within NIMASA, many are thanking God for the “wonderfully made leader He has brought our way,” as one staff, who preferred anonymity, put it.
The Dakuku reform agenda has also become topical in the broader conversation about how to reform the economy and position Nigeria properly in the comity of nations. Stakeholders have been commending him since he set about rebuilding the maritime industry.
“In the last two years NIMASA has taken steps in the maritime sector, which are unprecedented, and one area that the agency led by the Dr Peterside has focused on is identifying the dangers posed by the presence of thousands of abandoned ships along the Nigerian waterways, which also have a lot of negative environmental implication for the country,” Group Managing Director of Uni-Trident Group, a leading marine support and logistics company, Prince Chukwuma Obiorah, was quoted as saying recently in Port Harcourt.
When in April 2017, Dakuku was elected chairman of the Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA), President Muhammadu Buhari stated, “Peterside’s unanimous election is not only a personal honour and affirmation of confidence in his ability to lead AAMA, but also places Nigeria in a pivotal position to rally other maritime administrations in collaboration with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) towards safer global maritime activities.”
Educated at Okrika Grammar School, in Rivers State, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, and the University of Port Harcourt, Dakuku has degrees in Management and Medical Laboratory Sciences, and a doctorate degree in Organisational Management, with research interest in Corporate Political Strategy.
He began his public service career in 1999 as Special Assistant to the Governor of Rivers State on Student and Youth Affairs. He has served as commissioner in the state and a member of the House of Representatives. In 2011, he was honoured with the prestigious award of excellence in public life as “Student-friendly” by the University of Port Harcourt Students Union Government.
Dakuku is a member of Nigeria Institute of Management, fellow of Institute of Management Consultants of Nigeria, fellow of the Chattered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), and member, Institute of Medical Laboratory Sciences of Nigeria.
At a time when dedication to duty in public life seems to be as rare as anti-matter, Dakuku has demonstrated capacity to stand out from the crowd and make a difference.
––Obia writes from Lagos.