The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Dr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh, during an interactive session with journalists in Lagos recently spoke about developments in the agency in the first 100 days of his appointment. Dike Onwuamaeze brings the excerpt:
With the coronavirus, what incentives is NIMASA providing for operators in the maritime industry?
It is interesting to know that the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) are enjoying a lot of incentives in terms of what they manufacture and at times in terms of custom duty for imported machineries and other things like that. Also, if you look at the aviation industry, they are also enjoying a lot of incentives in terms of spare parts. There is also focus on agriculture, which like the industrial sector is enjoying a lot of incentives. There is no sector of the economy that you can say that NIMASA policies have not offered some level of incentives. So, it is only the maritime industry that. If you look at the history of shipping you will find that shipping is the only business that offers easy means of transportation in terms of maintenance of the navigation area, which is called the waterways for the layman. You do not have to invest much in maintaining the navigational water as well as the ship itself. You can have a ship that is as old as 100 years and still sailing. So, traditionally, shipping gives a lot of comfort to the human race. But in all the time you will find out if you conduct research that there is no country today that achieved any level of development without shipping. There is always an element of shipping in the development of any nation. What am I doing for the maritime industry? I have already set the pace with the approval of policy for incentives that cut across the importation of diesels as well as spare parts. I don’t want to disclose the levels on incentives but the papers are still with authorities concerned that giving it attention. I believe that within a short while from now the maritime industry will start enjoying physical incentives, even with monetary incentives also. I have the plan to also present a case for policy in terms of what the industry will have to benefit from the central bank.
What has NIMASA done in response to the petition against Nigeria an international shipping organisation you mentioned recently?
It is because of Nigeria’s satisfactory response to the issues they raised in the petition that earned the country the United Nations commendation and congratulatory letters. We have been engaging them and they are happy with us. If you have been following me on my twitter you will see the resolutions that we passed in which they agreed that we are working together. There was a meeting some time ago where one of the groups insisted that they have to slam sanctions on Nigeria. But as we continued to engage them this group said that the sanctions would no longer be necessary because Nigeria is focused on specific targets, which we are achieving. So, I am happy to announce that they are very satisfied with our efforts a result of our performance the International Maritime Organisation sent a congratulatory message to appreciate Nigeria’s efforts.
What has NIMASA done in terms of seafarers’ welfare?
We are taking a lot of measures on this. I mentioned that we have a committee on Seafarers’ Welfare Development Fund that is tackling issues on welfare as well as their salary enhancement and discrimination on salaries. We have a full plan that will be unrolled within three months about their welfare.
What is the state of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund?
The Minister is inaugurating a committee so it is not appropriate for me to preempt the committee whose responsibilities is to see how to remove the bottlenecks attached to the guidelines. So much has happened between 2003 and now so we must show consideration for the difficulties people are faced with in getting their money from that fund.
What are you doing to ensure that staff are protected from the COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a global problem that is affecting businesses all over the world. Our major problem now is that we don’t have enough workforces to achieve the targets we set out to accomplish. Our own action plan is suffering. There are lots of setbacks. Workers are exposed to many dangers as those who do not have their own personal vehicles but rely on public transportation are exposed to the danger of being infected. So, what we are planning to do is to make sure that we abide by the guideline given by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Secondly, on our part we are trying to introduce waterways transportation by getting some ferries that will be taking staffs some going to Lekki, some going to Ikorodu, some going to FESTAC as a pilot scheme. We are also planning to bring back the issue of staff bus so that we can reduce the level of exposure of our workforce to ensure that everyone is safe. These are to assure the staff that we are concerned and taking measures for them not to be exposed to infection as the entire world is opening up for operation. Meanwhile, we are addressing the issue of providing PPE (personal protection equipment) and the contamination of offices on a continuous basis. These are the measures we are putting in place to ensure that we take care of the industry’s stakeholders. We have suffered a lot and that is why I mentioned incentives for the stakeholders to offer them a little relief in terms of incentives like tax holidays and other things.