Appraising Dakuku Peterside’s NIMASA: Three years after 

Dr Dakuku Peterside is the fourth Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). Since the then -National Maritime Authourity became NIMASA, following the merger with the Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council (JOMALIC), it has had Mrs Mfon Ekong Usoro, Dr Ade Dosunmu, Mr Temisan Omatseye,  Mr Ziakede Akpobolokemi and now D rDakuku Peterside. 

The history of NIMASA can not be complete without mention the fact that its progenitor; that is the NMA had Dr Bassey Ekong (deceased), Alhaji Munir Ja’far, Engr Buba Galadima, Mr Patrick Egesi, Dr George Eneh, Architect Ferdinand Agu and Engr Festus Ugwu (deceased).

Of course, the office of chief executive of NIMASA (and even, the then-NMA) has always been highly politicized. Each minister wants his own protégé to be the director general. It started towards the tail end of the tenure of Alhaji Munir Jafar’ as the director general of the then- NMA, when he was removed on the instruction of the then-Head of State (now late) General Sani Abacha, who directed his minister of transport (now deceased too) Major General Ibrahim Dahiru Gumel to kick the crown prince of Zauzau Emirate in Kaduna state out.

He was replaced with AlhajiBubaGaladima who was alleged to have used NMA to fund the transmutation campaign of late General Abacha. 

About 29 years of NMA and about 11 years of NIMASA and with seven and five chief executive officers respectively at the saddle, it will not be wrong to infer that NIMASA is one of the most politicized agencies of government in Nigeria. 

When it was established as the National Maritime Authourity, the intention of government was to have an agency that would engineer a rapid development of the nation’s shipping and maritime sector by creating a better platform and engender more opportunities for indigenous shipping practitioners in sea-borne trade. 

In a nutshell, apart from its general responsibilities for maritime safety administration, what is generally called commercial responsibilities, port and flag state control and of course, Cabotage, Nigeria’s maritime administration agency (in this case, NMA) was also created to improve the lot Nigerian ship owners and other categories of operators in the sector.

For those who still remember the early days of NMA; up until mid-1990s, the agency abandoned its core mandate and became an avenue for ridiculous award of contracts. The agency also became known for uncoordinated and ridiculous cargo allocation system as cargoes that would have been carried by genuine indigenous ship owners were offered to briefcase shipping companies. Much later, a good opportunity to retrace itself was offered in the name of the Ship Acquisition and Ship Building Fund (SASBF). But, rather than judiciously manage the funds which accrued from statutory payments into the agency’s coffers, the NMA only succeeded in creating millionaires out of non-ship owning individuals. 

The merger of NMA and JOMALIC was meant to refocus and harness the mandate of the two agencies into one. Did government make a mistake?

First, would the maritime industry have been better-off without the merger of both NMA and JOMALIC. In other words, did the merger overwhelm subsequent chief executives of NIMASA? Is NIMASA suffering from the carry-over of its ineptitude while it was called NMA? Is it true that from NMA to NIMASA, the problem has been with the appointment of non-professionals to manage the nation’s apex maritime regulatory agency? Are all these posers collectively responsible for the high turn-over of chief executives of the agency? 

The appointment of the current DG; Dr Dakuku Peterside is not a departure from the usual, in which case successive Ministers (or even President) try to bring in their protégé.  It is a known fact that Dakuku got the job through his god father; Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation.

While it may be argued that his appointment is a violation of the NIMASA Act, but that is not an excuse for failure. We recall that prior to transmutation to NIMASA; the then-NMA once had a Ferdinand Agu (an Architect) who still ranks as one of the best CEOs that the agency has ever had. It was Agu who saw the advantage in protecting indigenous ship owners; he fought for and got the National Assembly to pass the Cabotage Act. Sadly he didn’t stay long enough afterwards to ensure proper implementation.

 Dr Peterside came at a time when the image of NIMASA had been badly damaged by his predecessor; Mr Ziakede Akpobolokemi.

Apart from the plethora of allegations of fraud hovering on his head, Akpobolokemi also spent his more than four years building an Ijaw enclave in NIMASA. 

This newspaper wrote about three years ago, that Dr Peterside’s academic laurels should suffice as the DG of NIMASA, that what was left was for him to understand NIMASA’s mandate, have a grasp of his own mandate and be determined to succeed.

The challenge was why shouldn’t Dakuku Peterside prioritise and group his mandate into three, this way: Shipping Development (which will take care of Cabotage, increased bottoms, training, certification and employment), Maritime Safety and Security, and lastly Flag and Port State responsibilities. 

The question then was: Should Dakuku Peterside fail because ‘he is not qualified’ by virtue of the Act. The answer is No. If an Architect succeeded, why shouldn’t a PhD holder in Administration. 

Unlike his first year, no doubt, NIMASA is now witnessing some transformation.

Three years down the line, it is apt to ask: What has changed.  Not much has been achieved in the area of safety; incidences of pirate attacks still persist, there is hardly any week that at least one ship is not attacked, either  offshore  Nigeria or within the nation’s coastal waters.

While it may be argued that NIMASA’s responsibility does not include securing Nigerian waterways, the responsibility for safe passage of ships and even at anchorage or at berth  is that of NIMASA. 

It is not about how well the current DG is treating the agency’s staff, it’s not about how much NIMASA pays into national treasury, it’s certainly not about how grandiose NIMASA has become, it’s about how safe it is for ships to come to Nigeria. 

We think that it should worry NIMASA management that attacks on ships have become a part of Nigeria’s shipping.  The military Joint Task Force and the Navy are currently ensuring safe passage.

If one considers the lamentation of ship owners and the trending challenges being faced by cadets and seafarers, then one may be correct to say that, training and certification has suffered under Dr Peteside. Out of thousands that have graduated, how many has NIMASA secured seatime for?

Perhaps, a one major yardstick for appraising Dakuku Peterside is the number of ships in the nation’s registry. Arguably, Nigeria’s registry is depleted. It may be argued that it is not NIMASA’s fault and by implication, not the incumbent DG’s fault.  The answer rests in the lamentation of indigenous ship owners who shout daily that they have become poorer and that they can no longer participate in the nation’s sea freight business.

Need we state that the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) has remained untouchable even for those it is meant. Yes, they have been lamenting even before Dakuku became the DG of NIMASA, but shouldn’t he look into it.

There are still big questions in the area of Cabotage Act implementation, especially the controversies surrounding the Waiver Clause, which only recently NIMASA suddenly woke to broker a five-year waiver cessation deadline for non-indigenous ships.