National Assembly threatens zero 2018 budget for NIMASA …As DG pledges prudence, accountability
By FRANCIS EZEM
The National Assembly has threatened to approve a zero budget for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, for the 2018 fiscal year over alleged poor implementation of the 2017 appropriation.
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Education, Safety and Administration, Muhammed Bago, who issued the threat in Lagos, Wednesday, during an oversight function visit to the agency, warned that the House would be left with no option than to pass a zero allocation to the agency in 2018 fiscal year if it fails to fully utilise its capital budget for the 2017 fiscal year.
But in a swift response, Director General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside told newsmen during an interview on the sideline of the visit that the agency has achieved 80 per cent utilisation of its budget for capital, which he said was not bad, given the bottlenecks associated with the provisions of the Procurement Act, insisting that the chairman of the committee was being misunderstood. He assured that the agency would continue to maintain its policy of prudence and accountability in the use of public funds.
The chairman noted that if the National Assembly allocates funds to the agency through budgetary approvals and it fails to spend them because of bureaucracies, they should not expect more money next time because there will be no need for that.
He said: “We have pledge as a committee and as a parliament that any agency or establishment we appropriate funds to spend and it does not, we will only give in the next appropriation the percentage of what it spent in the previous year and I have told NIMASA that the National Assembly will give it zero allocation in 2018 if it does not spend money allocated for it under the 2017 budget.” The chairman, who charged the management of the agency to strive to improve on its performance in 2018, however expressed delight at the agency’s giant strides in repositioning Nigeria’s maritime industry since the inception of the current administration”.
Bago also noted that there have been improvements in the agency’s activities in the last one year, describing such improvements as a welcome development for the nation’s maritime industry.
While also commending NIMASA’s feat achieved in the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme NSDP, especially in the area of providing sea time training for cadets, which was hitherto a major challenge in the recent past, the Committee urged the agency to fast track the delivery of its fifth largest floating dock to Nigeria as it will help mitigate capital flight and also create more jobs.
“We have before now, visited beneficiaries of NSDP in some countries, in Egypt for example we discovered over 300 cadets undergoing sea time training. As a Committee, we will continue to give the agency the required legislative backing in ensuring that it achieves its mandate in order to ensure a robust maritime industry”, the chairman also said.
He however charged the agency to step up its coastal security to stem the increasing cases of illegal oil bunkering, crude oil theft, piracy and sea robbery as well as illegal poaching of fish by some foreign nationals, especially Chinese within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone EEZ.
Meanwhile, the DG, who spoke with journalists, having listened to a presentation by a staff of the agency on 2017 budget performance, which was based on the five transformation agenda of the current management, insisted there was a misrepresentation somewhere, insisting that the agency has expended 80 per cent of its allocation on capital project for 2017.
“I think we didn’t quite get the Chairman. We have achieved over 80 per cent utilisation of the capital budget provisions though we have challenges in some areas because we have to go through the regimented procurement process but I believe that we should be able to get to 100 per cent but if we do not accomplish that, with 80 per cent, we have done our best”, the DG said.
The DG also reacted to the issue of stepping coastal security considering the porous nature of the EEZ and the attendant illegal trading activities by foreign vessels, the DG stated that the agency has come up with various initiatives to enhance maritime security.
“The Chairman said we should step up coastal security and I recall that lots of initiatives have been put in place and one of them is the one approval by the Federal Executive Council called the Presidential Maritime Security Intervention where we are supposed to acquire lots of assets and we are working with the Nigerian Navy and Air Force to enhance the patrol of our waterways”.
“The project is on course and once we commence full implementation, it will yield the desired result. We are pursuing early passage of the Anti-piracy Bill, which will criminalise all these maritime crimes. We have also invested in maritime intelligence gathering through our Maritime Satellite Surveillance System and we are close to integrating the satellite surveillance system in the Navy Falcon I”, the DG also said.
It was also gathered that in addition to improving on its intelligence gathering, the agency has also improved its enforcement strategies, as it is working closely with the Navy and would renew the Memorandum of Understanding MoU, signed with both Navy and Air Force.
The DG however insisted that the agency has done tremendous improvement in coastal security, but assured that the management has taken note of the suggestions and pieces of advice and will therefore continue to invest time, talents and other financial resources in improving coastal security in the country.
While expressing appreciation to the committee for its support, he reiterated the agency’s commitment to continue to make accountability its watchword and would continue to cooperate with the Committee in the interest of the maritime industry and the country as a whole.
According to the DG, “when you are given an assignment, you are expected to be accountable; you are expected to conduct the assignment in a transparent manner and that is exactly what NIMASA is doing. We have the mandate to promote and regulate shipping activities in Nigeria and we have to continue to engage all Stakeholders both locally and internationally and assure them of a conducive environment for their businesses to thrive”.