Capt Thomas Kemewerigha (President, Merchant Navy)
The past management of NIMASA tried in the implementation of Cabotage, but towards the end of the regime, it was clear that Cabotage has failed. Based on that, a ministerial committee was set up to review the implementation of the law; the committee recorded a lot of findings which they submitted to the minister of transport. I also know that the report was submitted to the committees on marine transport at the National Assembly. It was because of the imperfect implementation that the committee was set up. So, NIMASA was not perfect, but they did their best. And like everything Nigeria, up till now, the findings of the committee are yet to be made public. The report clearly looked at implementation and says what NIMASA is doing well and what it is not doing well, but they have refused to make it public. The report actually talked about what is wrong, who is wrong and how to ensure proper implementation, but they have refused to release it. That is why the situation remains the same and we don’t know where we are going.
NIMASA had a representative in the ministerial committee; they should go back to the recommendations and see the ones that they can immediately enforce rather than wait endlessly for the white paper. They should do this in the interest of seafarers, ship owners and Cabotage itself. The waiver clause is more or less 70 per cent of the problems of Cabotage implementation, when waivers were being granted as if someone is selling pepper. When a company applies for waiver, the application goes to the minister, NIMASA collects the money. From the point when NIMASA collects the money even while waiting for ministerial approval, it is assumed that the company has been granted waiver since you have collected money from them. Everything about waiver should be centred at NIMASA in Lagos; there should be no payment until approval is granted. NIMASA should seek authority from the minister to implement the committee’s recommendation especially as it affects waiver the clause.
Eugene Nweke (deputy president, NAGAFF)
I have not seen any implementation of the Cabotage Act; our waters are still as they were prior to the time that the Act was enacted. International vessel owners still give excuses that Nigerian vessels are substandard, meanwhile what is expected from that Act is to enhance indigenous participation. There are no information desks to give an update on what NIMASA is doing; whenever you go to NIMASA, what they give you is their action plans and before they even start it they will change the DG, within 3years they have changed DG thrice, the house is just full of confusion and its not helping the maritime industry. What I will say is that Government should take away politics from organizations like NIMASA, NPA, Customs and Shippers’ Council because these are agencies that generate revenue. Politicising the system will never help and I see NIMASA as a hoard of politics.
We want to see NIMASA to be effectively carrying out the functions contained in the Cabotage act, if they can implement the act by 30 per cent, we will see changes in the maritime industry.
Oliver Omajuwa (Head, PR &Marketing, Sifax group)
The Cabotage Act is supposed to be about empowering indigenous shipping companies but we need to ask that how viable are our local liners today, we don’t have a national line and for the indigenous shipping companies, what support are we getting from the government. These are the issues that make it seem as if the Cabotage is not working.
But the questions that still calls for attention is how well are we supporting indigenous operators, the government should make adequate incentives available for the indigenous companies and also for capacity building, these are the issues that need to be considered if we need to see the Cabotage Act working properly. On the whole, one will not say that NIMASA has not been trying altogether, but the implementation of the Act is very slow.
Hon. Tony Nwabunike (Chairman, CRFFN)
The Cabotage Act is supposed to allow for indigenous participation but we see foreign vessels getting ministerial waivers and taking over the job of indigenous shipping companies thereby dominating our water ways. Any vessel coming into Nigeria without having Nigerian flag and crewed by Nigerian indigenes or having waiver, it means the captain and the crew of the vessel are foreigners and therefore must not be allowed to trade on our waters. But, very soon when the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding shall get its foot properly on ground, we shall sit NIMASA up and make them work.
Today, Israel is prone to terrorist attacks but their port is one of the safest ports in the world. This is because their navy is working and every agency and departments that have anything to do with international waters are doing very well. For NIMASA, it should not only be about collection of levies and charges, we need action because up till now, we have not seen anything, if they had allowed the DG’s who were parts and parcel of the efforts to enact Cabotage Act to work a little further, they would have gone far by now.
Emmanuel Odilli (Certified Institute of Shipping)
Up till now we have not seen the Cabotage Act being implemented by NIMASA but the advice to the new director general is that whatever should be made to keep the shipping industry at the level that it should be, must be done and there is no gainsaying about that. They need to track the abnormalities in the organization and rectify them; NIMASA has to wake up to the expectations of the people, so also the people must allow the law to take its course.
Babatunde Samuel (Registrar, POTMAN)
The Cabotage law is supposed to protect the interest of indigenous shipping practitioners, but unfortunately sine its enactment in 2003 and up till now, we have not seen the effect and it’s been in existence for over five years now. This is partially so because, the law has been somehow influenced in its formation. First of all, it says the vessel must be built in Nigeria, but how many institutions do we have that are building ships in Nigeria? Secondly, our cadets, captains, merchant navy officers and so on are not adequately exposed to the international shipping community and that has equally affected our Cabotage and until we have such exposures for our master mariners and so on, the law can not meet up to standard.
The third issue is that NIMASA which is supposed to implement this Act does not have enough professionals to do it, they may have the political will, but they lack the professional intelligence and it is really affecting the implementation of the Cabotage law.
Comrade Owolabi Omotayo (water transportant)
As far as I am concerned, the law is not being implemented in Nigeria at all by NIMASA that is supposed to be the supervisory agency in implementing the core elements of the law which has to do with manning of vessels. NIMASA has done nothing, if you go to the foreign vessels operating on our territorial waters, 80 per cent of the crew are still foreigners doing the work that is meant for our indigenous seafarers. But unfortunately, the people who made the law in Nigeria are still the ones who are violating it. So, because of the Nigerian factor and for selfish reasons, it is going to be very difficult for that law to work in this country.
Recently we saw NIMASA coming up to train seafarers, this is very commendable, but they have not done much in other key areas like crewing, manning of vessels, protection of seafarers, dock workers and the maritime labour as a whole compared to other countries that are making money from their own Cabotage law.