INTERVIEW WITH ALHAJI TIJJANI RAMALLAN

The responses that followed the first part of this interview is a testimony to the fact that  whatever anyone says, the perceived acrimony which  supposedly exists between  the gentlemen and lady who piloted the affairs of  NIMASA from birth was blown out of proportion. Having spoken to the arrow heads and reading their lips, I am convinced that the face–off was official and nothing more. I hope it will be possible to move on from here, believing the possible reunion will move the maritime industry forward. Thank you. 

NIMASA INTERIM BOARD: “YES WE DISAGREED, BUT WE DID OUR BEST” Tijjani Ramalan

W hat is your assessment of the way that NIMASA is pursuing its objectives?

Well, as far as I am concerned, we have done our own bits as the interim board of NIMASA and our greatest achievement is to bring NIMASA the enabling law to put the necessary reforms in place in line with the federal government directives and I believe that the present management is doing quiet a lot in terms of implementing the NIMASA Act which contains so many ways that can to make it a truly apex maritime agency.
Would you say that the merger of JOMALIC and NMA was well thought out and in order?
I was the executive chairman of JOMALIC when the issue of the merger and the reform came up. Of course, and I have my own reservations as to the desirability of the merger but, because it was a government directive, I had no option than to accept the directive of the then- minister of transport. So, the responsibility of the merger actually fell on my shoulder as the then executive chairman of JOMALIC. I had to ensure that we get the best team of lawyers internationally to come up with the draft bill for NAMASA. It took me to South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Singapore and we were able to get the best men for the industry to put up the NAMASA. Although, I was saddened that I was going to loose the headship of an agency, but I was happy because I knew that the reform was more important to the industry and to the country at large. The problems we had then at JOMALIC was the problem of funding. We knew that we did not have the teeth to make the NPA and the terminal operators to implement the provisions of JOMALIC law in terms of funding, here was an opportunity that if the merger comes and JOMALIC and NMA come together, we will be having the authority to ensure that adequate money is available for the maritime labor administration and regulation and I thought it was a very good thing.

A lot of industry stakeholders believe that the
    interim board was destined to fail
Initially, we had problems with the interim management board because as far as I am concerned I was the chairman of the interim management board that was saddled with the responsibility of the reform. We had a lot to of disagreements with the then management of NIMASA on how the reform will go on because, some believed in their own views and I believed in mine too and I also believed in mine too. But, we were able to agree that look, there is need to put a lot of things in place and I think that was our greatest achievement and I am happy today that the merger is going on fine or that it has done fine.  Today, in NIMASA you won’t hear of former JOMALIC or former NMA; it is now a thing of the past and I believe that at the end of the day the government was right by putting the merger in place, because, today we have one maritime administration. If we are talking about Cabotage, it has many aspects in terms of the vessels and manning under the maritime administration, even the administration of dock workers is now under the regulation of NIMASA. So I am happy that things are going on fine and I do hope that it will continue to go on like that.
The believe was that both the interim management and the board were divided
No, no.  You see, people don’t appreciate simple government directives, it is not as if Alhaji Ramalan was too overbearing, but of course, I was an executive chairman of JOMALIC and also a important partner in the merger and that was why the government in its wisdom decided to make me the chairman of the interim management board of  NIMASA., there was no law in place, the powers of both the JOMALIC Act and that of NMA were supposed to be implemented by the interim board, so as far as I am concerned, the letter that was given to us also gave us the mandate to operate the administrative  merger. It was an interim management board which implies that all decisions will be taken by the interim management board and that is how I read, it because there was no law in place, so we were given that responsibility and  some people say that no, the interim  management board was just a part time assignment. It was a mandate given to us, so there was disagreement at that time, but of course we were able to agree and that is the beauty of democracy; no one person can ever have his way, I will not expect to have my way all the time and whoever is disagreeing with me should also know that he or she can not have his or her way all the time. That is the beauty of democracy, we agree on certain issues, we disagree on certain issues and we were able to forge ahead. And like I said, despite the crises in NIMASA, quite a lot have been in place, this is something that I think nobody can deny us despite the ups and downs.
What would you have wanted to do that the little time did not allow you to do as the interim chairman of NIMASA?
Well, if I had stayed longer and with the passage of the law, I would have used that law in bringing a lot of reforms which we envisaged as an interim board; like the reform of maritime labour, the reform of the registry because, I believe that the Nigerian registry should go international. I can’t just understand why many international shipping companies operating in Nigeria don’t find it necessary to register under the Nigerian maritime registry. For example, the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG); it has 21 percent of vessels operating here and they are all registered under a foreign flag. So, my regret is that if I had a say longer in NIMASA I would have created a conducive atmosphere that will make it friendly for foreign flagged vessels to register in Nigeria. I believe that that is being done by the present administration. We would have started that process and by now Nigerian ship owners will find it easier to register. That is one of the things I think I didn’t have time to do during the interim management period.
I know that you are very passionate about the Seafarers Identity Document project. Are you satisfied about its operations? 
Well I don’t know the state the SID is now, but I know that at JODLIC at that time we were able to put in place all the necessary equipment and machinery for implementation of the SID program in Nigeria. In fact, before we left we were about embarking on a scrutiny of all the documents of Nigerian sea farers with a view to issuing them the SID. I don’t know the condition it is now but, I believe it is a programme that Nigeria should have for our own national security.  I believe that NIMASA has transferred the SID department from Awolowo Road to Apapa which is closer to the people and I understand that a lot of action has been taken.

The port reform measures,what is your appraisal?

I think the intention of Government was to make our ports more efficient, but something was lacking; that is, the enabling law. Years after the bill has been presented before the National Assembly that is, the Port Authourity bill which have not been passed into law. I think that is a set back because you can not neglect putting this kind of law in place. My advice to the government and the national assembly is to make sure that the Act is passed into law as soon as possible to guide the activities of the concessionaires because we have been hearing of complaints about increase in the charges and things like that and it appears like is no law to regulate the activities of the concessionaires. The  NPA, BPE have been trying to put blames on each other as to who actually is supposed to regulate the  concessionaires and I think these are areas that the Nigerian government should take effective action
What about the reform that brought NIMASA?
I think a lot of achievements have been recorded unlike the port. We have an Act in place at NIMASA and I think the reform is going on fine. The only thing is in respect of the Cabotage Act. After going through four to five years of implementation, the law itself provides for a review of the law because if you look at the way its been implemented; the issue of waiver, unemployment, I think there should be an avenue to review these issues which has crept up in the last four years which I think is not helping in the achievements of results. But the area which I think they must review is the area of waivers, because, if we are indeed serious about the development of the local manpower these people who come to NIMASA or the government to apply for manning waivers, I think there should be an amendment where waivers are tied to training, because I can’t just understand why people are given wavers every year and there is no provision for training. I think there should be the need for waivers to be tied to training so that if a ship owner comes this year to say I need two manning waivers, we should be able to say okay, take two Nigerians so that you will not come back next year and say again that you do not have qualified Nigerians because we have trained the two Nigerians that we gave you. So, that is an area that I think needs to be accommodated in the review of the law, but again that can be done without the review of the law. We can even have it through ministerial regulations.
Thank you very much sir
Thank you very much too and I want to congratulate you on this effort that you have put in place with Shipping Position Weekly and I wish you God’s guidance and blessings.