For an Agency battling high level corruption, piracy and dearth of manpower, the Director General (DG) of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr. Dakuku Peterside has his work cut out for him. BABAJIDE OKEOWO in this report takes a look at the measure being put in place by the new DG to surmount the myriad of problems and restore confidence to a much maligned government parastatal.
When Dr. Dakuku Peterside was appointed as the Director General of The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), many eyebrows were raised, with many stakeholders in the maritime industry scoffing at the choice of the Rivers state gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the last general election.
Many labelled him the stooge of the Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, some said the appointment was just a way of compensating him for losing the election while some stakeholders doubted his technical know-how in turning the fortune of the agency around.
Their reasons and fears were not far-fetched, Dakuku was taking up the position at a time the agency was facing a myriad of problem ranging from high level corruption, piracy and man power shortfall amongst other problems.
One of the major problems facing NIMASA before the advent of Peterside was the issue of piracy and security of Nigerian waterways. The severity of the problem was highlighted at a conference organised by the Nigeria Shippers Council and Tell Magazine recently by the Chairman of the Port Consultative Council (PCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin who declared that Nigeria will continue to lose millions of dollars in revenue accruable from fishing until both NIMASA and Nigerian Navy comes out to tell us who is in charge of our waterways.
‘I think that will probably be well addressed when the struggle between NIMASA and The Nigerian Navy is settled, we will know who is in charge of our territorial water’
‘This is where we have problem, there is multiple attention of several agencies claiming mandate of a particular function.
Dakuku Peterside however has seized the initiative by reaching out to the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Army to form a coalition in providing security on Nigerian waterways.
During a courtesy visit to the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Vice Adm. Ibok Ete-Ibas and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, in Abuja shortly after assuming office, The Director-General said that the rising incidents of piracy had affected the economic fortunes of the nation and urged the military to initiate a joint patrol of the maritime domain to curb the trend.
According to him ‘maritime security is a national and international obligation of all stakeholders, I call on Nigerian Navy to continue with the good job of fighting piracy which they had been doing, I am also assuring the CNS of NIMASA’s resolve to strengthen the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Navy to eradicate piracy and other criminal activities on Nigerian waters.
In his response, Ete-Ibas congratulated Peterside on his appointment as the Director-General of NIMASA while pledging the support of the Nigerian Navy to continue to partner with NIMASA in maintaining safety and security on Nigerian waters.
‘As a strategy against piracy, the Nigerian Navy had deployed boat houses at the entry points of the creeks, we are also in the process of inaugurating a surveillance system being developed by the Office of the National Security Adviser to increase its domain awareness’ Ete Ibas said
Buratai on his part pledged the support of the Amphibious Brigade of the Nigerian Army to collaborate with NIMASA and other stakeholders to maintain security in Nigerian waters.
‘The Nigerian Army had the capacity to protect Nigeria’s maritime assets, we are also committed in reducing incidents of piracy, kidnapping and oil theft in the Niger Delta’ Buratai said
Never before now has the dearth of quality seafarer been on the front burner of maritime discussion.
The Managing Director of Starzs Investment Company Limited, a ship owning company, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun said this acute shortage is one of the numerous challenges and frustrations confronting the Nigerian ship owner.
Ogbeifun, at the Association of Marine Engineer and Surveyors (AMES) summit held at the Sheraton Hotel Lagos recently lamented that unlike the glorious past of now aged seafarers, Nigeria now parades an army of half-baked seafarers because there are no training vessels for their sea time training. As a result, there are many seafarers walking about with fake certificates.
“The demise of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) and the consequent loss of opportunity for sea time training for budding seafarers and cadets as well as the challenges faced by the Maritime Academy of Nigeria to turn out world class and employable seafarers have been jointly blamed for the dwindling fortunes of seafarers in Nigeria. These twin factors have jointly led to mass unemployment as well as the prevalence of fake and ill-trained seafarers.” He stressed that things have become so bad that the percentage of employable seafarers in the country is very low.
Speaking on the role of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), he said the agency has to do more than it is doing at the moment. He said the NSDP, though commendable does not fulfil the yearning of the industry. “We don’t need graduates but professionally trained people like the products of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron.
He said: “Certainly, the statutory role of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in this cannot be overemphasized. Being the agency that is saddled with the responsibility of maritime labour, it has to do more than it is doing at the moment. The National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) which has seen many young Nigerians beginning a career in seafaring is a commendable one but it fails to meet the yearning of the maritime sector for qualified seafarers due to defects in the programme.”
He observed that ideally, it takes five years to train seafarers from cadetship to officer but observed that since inception of the NSDP only a very insignificant number of cadets trained have become officers. “This shows that that there is a problem with the programme,” he said, adding that “it is not enough to send cadets to foreign maritime institutions, concerted efforts must be made to ensure they have opportunity for sea time training to enable them to be properly certified.”
On forming alliance with his counterparts around the world, Dakuku Peterside is showing an expertise that belies the toga of not having a background in the maritime industry.
To this end, he was in Singapore recently to meet with the Maritime and Ports Authority (MPA) of Singapore, Mr. Andrew Tan to seek collaboration for the benefit of both countries.
At the meeting, Dr. Peterside told Mr. Tan that Nigeria has huge maritime potentials that have remained untapped and called on Singapore investors to take advantage of the reforms in Nigeria’s maritime sector to invest in the country.
He also requested partnership with the Singaporean authorities in various areas including technology acquisition for monitoring of the waterways, capacity building of personnel, support to upgrade maritime infrastructure a well as acquisition of more ocean going vessels for indigenous operators.
Dr. Peterside assured Singapore investors and indeed the global community of NIMASA’s commitment to focus on effective enforcement of all IMO instruments for which Nigeria is a signatory as well as build the requisite capacity of personnel & infrastructure for the execution of its mandate saying clean and safe oceans and security of ships operating in Nigerian waters remain a top priority.
This came on the heels of a similar entreaties made by Dr. Dakuku Peterside to the Republic of Korea on the need to strengthen the strategic partnership between both countries to derive mutual benefits from such relationship.
He made the entreaties during a courtesy visit by the South Korean Consul General to Nigeria, Lee Younghoan to the Agency.
While recognising the strategic position of Korea as a great ship building nation, Peterside appealed to the Consul General on the need for qualified Nigerian seafarers to be placed on board Korean vessels operating in the Nigerian maritime domain; noting that Nigeria has a pool of qualified seafarers and other competent maritime personnel that can adequately serve the global maritime industry.
For an agency that is fighting to regain a battered image and overwhelmed with so much responsibilities that it could not perform optimally, the coming of Dr. Dakuku Peterside might just be the perfect antidote.
Maritime security is a national and international obligation of all stakeholders, I call on Nigerian Navy to continue with the good job of fighting piracy which they had been doing, I am also assuring the CNS of NIMASA’s resolve to strengthen the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Navy to eradicate piracy and other criminal activities on Nigerian waters.