As NIMASA Tackles Piracy, Manpower Shortfall

As NIMASA Tackles Piracy, Manpower Shortfall

The Nigeria Maritime Administration Agency has been battling to surmount its numerous problems, among them, inadequate manpower, piracy and other criminal activities in Nigerian waters.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was established through the enactment of the NIMASA Act 2007 by the National Assembly. The agency, which is one of the key parastatals of the Federal Ministry of Transport is Nigeria’s apex regulatory authority for the maritime sector. It is the eye of the global maritime watchdog, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in the country.

Nigeria as a member of the United Nations (UN) specialised agency is expected to comply with the international conventions and guidelines in her territorial waters. This is because shipping is a global business that needs to be run in line with international standards and practices.Hence, the establishment of NIMASA was seen as timely and appropriate.

Capacity Building

By the provisions of the NIMASA Act 2007, the agency has a clear mandate. However, it discovered that it lacked the requisite manpower to fulfil its mandate. Though the absence of the requisite manpower is virtually in every aspects of the maritime industry, this is very glaring in the areas of specialised knowledge and skills such as survey, nautical science, naval architecture and marine engineering. It was in a bid to address this challenge that the agency initiated the National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) during the tenure of Dr. Shamsudeen Ade Dosumu as its Director General. However, following  his removal from office, Dosumu’s successor, Mr. Raymond Temisan Omatseye continued with the implementation of the programme. The immediate past DG of NIMASA,  Mr. Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi up the ante in human capacity building in the maritime industry through aggressive strategic programmes and policies implementation.

The primary goal of NSDP is to address the country’s dearth of seafaring personnel in Nigeria. To achieve this, the programme made provisions for two windows of sponsorship. The first one is a collaboration between NIMASA and state governments on a sponsorship ratio of 40:60, while second window comprised private individuals and institutions, and ministries, including the Ministry of Niger Delta. When many states did not show interest in funding the programme, NIMASA decided to bear the entire cost itself. It is on record that when the management of NIMASA under Akpobolokemi’s watch noticed the reluctance of many states government to embrace the NSDP by sponsoring their youths to take advantage of it, it persuaded the federal government   to give it the permission to fully sponsor the scheme. This was why the beneficiaries of the programme increased astronomically in the last five years when he was the DG. Presently, NIMASA sponsor over 2,500 young Nigerians for training in Nautical Science, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at degree level in reputable institutions in Egypt, India, Philippines, Romania and the United Kingdom under NSDP.

Piracy

In the last five years the agency has stepped up efforts to tackle piracy and other criminalities in Nigerian waters. According to statistics from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), piracy has reduced in Nigerian waters in recent times. This is unlike in the past when pirates’ attacks in Nigeria’s territorial waters were the order of the day. The agency succeeded in doing this through public private partnership (PPP) and collaboration with other agencies of government. It signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Airforce. The agency took the step because, by law, its personnel are not allowed to carry arms and they cannot face the bandits in the waterways with bare hands.

IMS and Attraction of  Professionals

Under Akobolokemi’s administration, NIMASA established Institutes of Maritime Studies (IMS) across the six geo-political zones in the country. The IMS is domiciled in seven Nigerian universities across the country. They are the University of Nigeria (UNN), Nsukka; University of Lagos; Niger Delta University Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State; Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State; Anambra State University, Uli; and the Federal University Kashere, Gombe State.
The agency has also attracted professionals into its fold in the last five years. Not a few have averred that the erstwhile helmsman of the agency used various ways and means to attracted desired skills into the agency.

According to the President of the Ship owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Mr. Greg Ogbeifun, Akpobolokemi did his best in serving his fatherland.

His words:  “If am to comment on Akpobolokemi’s tenure, I think he did well considering his background because whether we like it or not, he was able to bring professionalism to NIMASA for the fact that he allowed mariners to be brought into the key position and those who came in are core professionals who are adding value.”

Nigeria Maritime University

One of the legacies of NIMASA in the last five years is the establishment of Nigeria’s first ever maritime university. Located at Okerenkoko, Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State, the Nigeria Maritime University (NMU) remains a significant milestone in human capacity development in the maritime industry and beyond.

To ensure that every stakeholder is carried along, the former NIMASA DG lobbied the National Assembly to endorse it. He also made sure it got maximum  support from the executive arm of government.

Giving an insight into the formation of NMU, Akpobolokemi said: “The dearth of adequate human capacity in the maritime sector informed NIMASA’s decision to champion the establishment of the university, which is also Nigeria’s first specialised university. The university was established to further NIMASA’s passion to build local capacity in the maritime sector as well as to export manpower. It was conceived as a capacity development project that would quicken the pace for the development of human capacity that would take over the Cabotage trade in the nearest future.

Not a few stakeholders in the maritime industry have opined that if Akpobolokemi’s stated vision for the tertiary institution is followed, NMU would indeed a long term solution to the scarcity of qualified seafarers that Nigeria currently faces.

Speaking on NMU, the Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa said the establishment of the tertiary institution was the panacea to the high unemployment and underemployment rate in Nigeria.

Continuing, Okowa who received the former NIMASA helmsman and the Governing Council of NMU in Government House, Asaba, Delta State said: “Nigeria should move beyond conventional universities and seek to establish specialized universities which will give the right tools and practical learning that will make graduates employers of labour, rather than job seekers. The unemployment in Nigeria today is largely due to our focus on conventional education.”

The governor urged other government agencies to toe the line of NIMASA and think outside the box in the business of finding solutions to the numerous problems plaguing Nigeria.

Revenue Collection

Also,  during Akpobolokemi’s tenure, revenue collection by the agency increased tremendously. THISDAY checks revealed that the agency raked into the federal government coffers $1.34 billion between 2009 and 2014.

Documents detailing the agency earnings from 2009 till date and obtained by THISDAY revealed that the agency’s collection rose from about $172.6 million in 2009 to $288.2 million in 2014.

Between 2010 and 2013, the NIMASA made $199.9 million, $214.8 million, $226.6 million and $242.3 million respectively.

The figures further reveal that from January to June this year, the agency has already collected $148 million, making the total of the agency’s collections from 2009 to June 2015 to be $1.49 billion. The NIMASA has the statutory mandate to collect 3 per cent levy on all international inbound and outbound cargo.

NIMASA broke a new revenue frontiers in 2013 when it made Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) to pay the  three per cent statutory levy after over 20 years of evading payment with claims that its vessels do not operate in Nigeria’s cabotage regions. It also successfully installed a satellite-based maritime domain awareness and surveillance system which makes it possible for mother vessels coming into Nigeria to be seen several nautical miles away. The system has helped the agency track vessels and eliminate levy evasion by vessels coming into the country.

Going forward

It is expected that President Muhammadu  Buhari would move  quickly and arrest the present uncertainty in the agency by appointing the substantive DG. This is vital due to the fact that the agency needs stability to deliver on its mandate as Nigeria’s apex maritime regulatory authority. Akpobolokemi’s successor should consolidate on the gains recorded in the last five years and take the agency to the desired height in the years ahead