The current Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside on assumption of office, promised he was going to reform and reposition the maritime industry for more effectiveness, revenue generation, job and wealth creation in line with efforts of the Federal Government to diversify the economy. Our correspondent, who monitored the trends in the last nine months reports that concrete steps have been taken to achieve these goals.

The decision of the Federal Government on March 10, 2016 to appoint Dr. Dakuku Peterside to head the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, the nation’s apex maritime regulatory agency, no doubt elicited mixed feelings and reactions not only from the maritime industry stakeholders but also political watchers across the length and breadth of the Nigerian nation.

Such feelings and reactions have over time become a common or normal phenomenon, especially given the socio-political environment in the country.

On assumption of official duty, the new NIMASA –boss left no one in doubt that he is in the agency on a serious mission, part of which is to bring his wealth of experience as a former Chairman of Opobo-Nkoro Local Government Area of Rivers State, a one- time Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Rivers State on Works, Executive Director of Development and Leadership Institute DLI, and Commissioner of Works in Rivers State and a former member of the House of Representatives representing Andoni/Opobo-Nkoro Federal Constituency to bear on the development of the maritime industry.

Armed with this zeal and vision, at his first public outing he said: “I am in NIMASA to serve the Nigerian nation and humanity and so I am ready to partner all stakeholders with a view to positively impacting not only the maritime industry but also the Nigerian economy at large”.

As is a mark of any good leader, the DG immediately went into series of closed door meetings with all segments of members of the senior management of the agency. Little wonder therefore he was quick to find out that the agency has a rare crop of competent hands in the agency, who are crucial to the achievement of his mission and vision for the agency. He therefore wasted no in soliciting their support and cooperation as well as those of other stakeholders to drive this new vision of repositioning the agency for greater efficiency and productivity.

This is borne out of his firm belief that improved efficiency and productivity would ultimately bring about the growth and development of the nation’s maritime industry, which has come to be his primary focus as the helmsman of the agency.

It was in line with this that the current executive management led by Dr. Peterside commenced work on a policy framework that would reform and overhaul the nation’s maritime over a one year period. 

This reform, which is also in line with the change agenda of the Federal Government, is part of efforts to diversify the nation’s economy for optimum performance. 

Part of the reform strategies is to boost the agency’s capacity that is expected to drive the growth and development of the maritime industry and ultimately enhance economic diversification.

“NIMASA is developing a medium term strategic growth plan which will aid the management to focus on its core mandate of promoting the development of indigenous capacity in international and coastal shipping as well as effectively regulating the maritime industry in Nigeria”

“We will not leave any stone unturned, including seeking legislative amendment if need be, to ensure full compliance with the Coastal and Inland Shipping Cabotage Act 2003, which is necessary to fast-track the desired growth in the maritime industry”, the DG said.

According to him, the agency has the required and knowledgeable human capital, adding that what was left was for the management to refocus and reposition the agency, which the new management is committed and willing to provide.

As part of measures to make these reforms work, the DG convened an all-stakeholders forum with the theme: “Repositioning the Maritime Industry for Greater Impacts”,, where the details of the medium term development plan was officially made open to the stakeholders with a view to getting their buy-in into the programme.

To effectively reform and reposition the maritime industry, the agency is evolving a three-year medium term development plan, which will cover between 2016 and 2019.

.The new plan would partly cover the core mandates of the agency such as promoting indigenous participation in shipping activities in the country, capacity building, ensuring safety and security on the nation’s territorial waters, effective port and flag state regulatory functions as well as maintaining pollution –free maritime environment, among several others.

This is in addition to the agency’s short policy framework that is expected to reform and overhaul the nation’s maritime over a one year period. 

It was gathered that the agency is working towards proper placement of staff in their areas of core competence and comparative advantage to enhance efficiency and professionalism.

Investigations further showed that the agency is also working towards the decentralisation of the operations of the agency, which before now focuses attention on the headquarters by strengthening and empowering the various zones, where these operational activities actually take place.

Part of these reform strategies is to boost the agency’s capacities that would drive the growth and development of the maritime industry and ultimately enhance economic diversification.

These would not only attract more vessels to the nation’s register, which implies more revenue for the government, it would also attract more foreign and local investments to the industry and by so doing create more job opportunities.

The DG had while addressing the industry stakeholders, admitted that there has been communication gap between the stakeholders and what the agency does, which does not engender growth and development, which also accounted for the convening of the forum to interact with them.

“We are working on a three-year medium term business plan covering 2016 and 2019, which must be stakeholder-driven for you to proffer solutions to what we see as problems facing the industry, which I think we should maximise to the benefit of all”, he said emphatically.

Part of the plan would involve a comprehensive structural and cultural reform designed to right the current wrong work culture and ethics, among others, which are expected to enhance productivity and efficient service delivery

The DG argued that there was need to embark on a comprehensive overhaul of the agency’s structure with a view to correcting all the anomalies in its foundation to reposition it for effective service delivery, which is the only way its performance can be measured.

He also said: “Our performance cannot be measured by the amount of money we pay into the Federation Account. It can only be measured by the quality of service we render to our various publics because at the centre of all that we do are the stakeholders, who we are more than ever and committed to serving”.

Stakeholders have however been reacting to the proposed reforms, which many also believe have become imperative to drive the expected growth and development of the industry.

Founding chairman of the former Indigenous Shipowners Association ISAN, which transformed into Nigerian Shipowners’ Association NISA, Chief Isaac Jolapamo, while speaking in an interview commended the steps being taken by the Peterside-led management of NIMASA to reform and reposition the maritime industry.

He however called on the DG to also evolve strategies that would enhance indigenous participation in shipping activities in the country through the ownership of vessels to check the current domination by foreigners.

Jolapamo, who has variously been described as the doyen of the nation’s shipping industry, argued that ownership of vessels is the heartbeat of shipping activities and therefore enjoined the agency to promote vessel acquisition among Nigerian shipping companies.

Another stakeholder and president of NISA, Mr. Aminu Umar, while reacting to the medium term development plan by the agency, also made a strong case for the protection of the interest of the indigenous ship owners as well as promoting local content in the shipping industry.

He charged the management of the agency to ensure strict enforcement of 50 per cent cargo reservation for indigenous shipping companies as provided in the NIMASA Act 2007.

Umar also insists that NIMASA in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Transport and other relevant agencies of the government must synergise to create an enabling environment for the indigenous operators to acquire ships and by so doing boost indigenous tonnage.

In addition to these reforms, the agency is taking immediate steps to enhance activities in the industry. One of such was the recent award of contract to SNECOU for the recovery of over N197.6bn owed the agency since it requires a lot of money to fund these reforms.

The agency is also working towards delivering what could be Africa’s fifth largest floating dockyard the end of next year, a part of measures to curtail capital flight out of the country.

This is against the background that more than 90 per cent of the 5,000 vessels of various sizes and configuration that call at the Nigeria’s seaports and related facilities do their dry dock services outside the shores of this country, including countries such as Angola and Ghana, with the attendant high incidences of capital flight.

The facility is being built by one of the world’s largest ship building firms, Damen of Netherlands and its partners NIRDA.

The DG had said during a project evaluation and inspection meeting with officials of Damen Shipyards and NIRDA in Amsterdam, Netherlands, that the current management of the agency under his watch, has decided to revisit the project conceived in 2013 with renewed vigour given its economic importance not only to the shipping industry but also the macro economy, especially in terms of creating job opportunities and checkmating increasing capital flight out of the economy.

“Currently more than 90 per cent of vessels operating in Nigeria carry out their dry docking services overseas fretting away the much needed foreign exchange at great cost to the country, When fully operational, the facility generate wealth and create employment for the maritime industry as well as check capital flight”, he said.

Only recently, the agency also promoted a total of 311 members of staff, out of which eight Deputy Directors were promoted to full directors out of a total of 76 management staff promoted by the agency.

This is sequel to the approval of the Governing Board of the agency, which approved the promotion of the 76 management staff, who were deputy and assistant directors during its 34th meeting, which took place in Lagos between December 20- 21, 2016 under the chairmanship of General Jonathan India Garba (rtd).

It was also gathered that the Executive Management of the agency has approved the promotion of a total number of 222 non-management staff between grade levels 4-14, bringing to a total of 290 members of staff of the agency consisting of top, medium and lower cadres to be promoted, as part of measures to boost their morale and enhance productivity.

While the Peterside-led management of NIMASA pursues its medium term plans, stakeholders are optimistic that these strategies would achieve the desired goals as the scorecard has in the mean time shown.