Finally, the last batch of board members of government agencies in the Nigerian maritime sector has been appointed.
Expected to have been inaugurated last week by the Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi, were the boards of Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) and that of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). Those of Nigerian Shippers Council and others had earlier been constituted and inaugurated.
By their appointment, the number of political appointees in the maritime industry has increased, the new appointees are now the ‘responsibilities’ of their various agencies.
However, one fact is certain and that is that, all the new board members must have contributed in one way or another to the success of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In the appointments of people into boards of government-owned agencies, the first and perhaps most important rule is that they must be loyal party members.
Second is that, they must come from states and zones to which those positions have been allotted. It is rare for relevance of academic qualifications and professional leanings to be considered as paramount factors.
For the politicians, immediately you lose out as either a state governor, minister, special adviser or an ambassador, the only remaining option is to lobby to be appointed as chairman or a member of boards of government agencies.
We are told that to make it to the position of chairman or member of boards is dependent on where he or she falls on the party loyalty scale. We are also told that the boards are categorised to reflect their strategic importance to the economy and of course, the party.
In the maritime sector, we are told that both Nigerian Ports Authourity and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) enjoy category ‘A’ status, while, Shippers’ Council enjoys a relatively higher rating than both Maritime Academy of Nigeria and the National Inland Waterways Authourity.
This categorisation was reinforced by the fact that it is only NPA and NIMASA whose boards were constituted last.
We are however worried about the relevance of these boards and their members. Our concern is however, not with the yard stick that was used by the ruling APC, to appoint board members into these agencies. We are worried about the relevance of these party men and women to the needs of their respective agencies.
Members of the board (including their chairman may have nothing to contribute other than adding to the recurrent expenditure profile of these agencies. From the day that they were appointed, they have all become the ‘responsibilities’ of their respective agencies.
With due regards to the calibre, pedigree and diverse competencies of the board members, we are of a very strong opinion that if the essence of creating boards and appointing politicians into them is to inject new and informed ideas into the administration of the affected government agencies, the maritime industry will fare better if those appointed have maritime sector-related experiences and competences; it does not matter how deep or shallow.
Our position on this issue also takes cognisance of the presence of technocrats and institutional representations on the board. But, it is a common knowledge that the representatives of the ministries can only reinforce the position of the minister or the ministry. The same goes for other institutional representations.
We have asked questions as to the relevance of the board and what we got is the fact that board appointments are either: ‘jobs for the boys, a thank you to political loyalists or a ‘come and chop’ gesture to loyal party men and women.
Wouldn’t it have been a good idea to have a minister who is knowledgeable about the maritime industry to team up with a crop of board members whose knowledge is equally relevant? It certainly will make the jobs of the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) easier.
But, in the case of the transportation ministry, we are left with CEOs who will have to cope with the minister, cope with board members and also, (all alone) face the National Assembly.
For the boards to be relevant, its members must have cognate experiences and they must act as the shock absorbers for the CEO and the management of the agencies that they sit over. We dare say that most of the board members whose names have so far been announced do not have such experiences. Their only qualification may just be that they are politicians!