Even though it took President Umar Musa Yar ‘Adua a little close to two years to appoint members of board of government agencies,
when the list eventually came up, it did not deviate from known rules. The first and perhaps most important rule is that they must be loyal party members. Secondly, they must come from states, zones and local government 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 who makes it to the chair or member of board depends 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.
Our concern is not with the yard stick that was used by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to appoint board members into the agencies. We are however worried about the relevance of the various boards which were inaugurated by the minister of transport, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio about three weeks ago.
We think that whereas, all the agencies under the transport ministry have varying challenges, some have more pressing challenges than others. A look at each of them and their peculiar challenges will suffice.
We are of the opinion that at the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, the quest to transform into the National Transport Commission (NTC) is more pressing than any other thing. Once it is able to metamorphose to NTC, issues like funding will be taken care of, while its power to regulate activities of suppliers of shipping services and others that are involved in the chain of shipping including the port system will be a given.
As for Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), it is confronted with the damaging perception by stakeholders as a non-performing agency. This perception is probably founded on the following parameters: the high rate of non-qualification and consequent unemployment among seafarers, lack of adequate protection and encouragement for indigenous ship owners, failure in the implementation of Cabotage law, among others.
Perhaps the most challenging issues as far as the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) is concerned range from how to have a firmer control of port concessionaires, to how secure more patronage for ports outside Lagos; especially, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Delta ports. NPA will also need to ensure that decaying port infra and superstructures are rejuvenated. It urgently wants the passage of the NTC bill so that issues of commercial and technical regulation of the operators of the nation’s port system can be addressed.
For the Oron, Akwa Ibom state – based Maritime Academy of Nigeria, there are two (but related) battles – one has to do with lack of funds, while the second has to do with the campaign in some quarters to strip the academy of it’s over 25 year old monopoly of being the only government-owned maritime training institution through the creation of more maritime academies on other parts of the country.
We are certainly interested in how the Chief Tony Anenih-led board of NPA will stop the seemingly powerful concessionaires from having their ways. How does he hope to swing favours for ports in Warri, Calabar and Port Harcourt. How can a board with limited or non-existing knowledge canvass the creation of a transport commission in the manner that NPA want?
The same goes for NIMASA, Shippers Council and even the academy
in Oron. 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 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 is to inject new and informed ideas into the administration of 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.
We have had the privilege of listening to at least three of the board chairmen respond to question posed to them. Sadly, their response is either a terribly untrue statement or an uninformed comment or an outright plea for time to understudy the assignment that that has been given to them.
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 or a thank you, ‘come and chop’ gesture to loyal party men and women.
Wouldn’t it have been a greatly 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 transport ministry, we lack the first two, and we are left with CEOs who will have to cope with the minister (as he is), cope with board chairmen (as they are) and also, all alone face the National Assembly.
To the CEOs, the only consolation is probably that the boards have higher approval limits than them and rather than rush to the minister all the time, they can get things done to a certain extent without the excruciating recourse to Abuja.
Sesan Onileimo (FNIS)