Instability: NIWA to get fourth MD in seven years

Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed the Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, as a minister of the Federal Republic barely one year after being appointed MD, thus maintaining the tradition of leadership instability that has rocked the agency in the last seven years, writes TOLA ADENUBI.


When in September 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed former senator representing Lagos East Senatorial District, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, as the Managing Director of the National Inland Waterway Authority (NIWA), many of the agency’s workers heaved a sigh of relief, and felt stability had finally arrived at the agency.

However, like others before him, Mamora exited the office of the Managing Director of NIWA barely a year after he resumed office following his ministerial appointment. Thereby continuing the tradition of leadership instability that has plagued Nigeria’s inland waterways administration over the years while Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of sister maritime agencies like the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) are either in their second term as helmsmen or about concluding their first term of four years in charge.

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History of instability

In May of 2013 when the Federal Government appointed Hajiya Inna Maryam Ciroma as Managing Director of NIWA, she was brought in amid the upheavals that trailed various boat mishaps rocking the country inland waterways sector, which had claimed so many lives with many avoiding the inland waterways like a plague.

Just two years at the helms of affairs of NIWA, Ciroma resigned her appointment as Managing Director in May, 2015 and handed over office to the agency’s General Manager, Legal Services, Mr Danladi Ibrahim.

Between May 2015 and June 2016, Mr Ibrahim steered the affairs of NIWA in acting capacity as Managing Director.

The longevity of his acting period made many stakeholders to clamour for his confirmation while his loyalists also lobbied the presidency for his confirmation. However, the presidency had other ideas as on June 23, 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Mr Boss Mustapha as the new Managing Director of NIWA, ending the almost one year service of Mr Ibrahim as Acting Managing Director.

At this period, the inland water ways was terribly bleeding from incessant boat mishaps that had claimed so many lives and Boss Mustapha was brought in to salvage the situation. However, just a year and four months in the saddle of NIWA, Boss Mustapha was relieved of his appointment and appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation in October of 2017.

Mustapha’s appointment was more of an unexpected announcement as the NIWA Boss was busy attending a World Maritime Day seminar in Lagos when he got wind of new developments in Abuja, and had to hurriedly leave the venue of the seminar to take over higher roles in the presidency.

Again, the Acting Managing Director specialist, Mr Ibrahim was asked to fill in the gap. The Legal Services General Manager would again serve as Acting MD of NIWA for a full year. Between October of 2017 and September of 2018, Danladi attended forums and seminars as Acting Managing Director of NIWA, hoping and praying that the agency would finally get a sense of stability and shape.

Alas, on September 26 of 2018, the Presidency appointed the Lagos State Senator, Olorunnimbe Mamora, as the Managing Director of NIWA.

Again, the agency organised a handing over ceremony which featured a now very familiar face in the person of Mr Danladi Ibrahim handing over the reins of leadership to the newly appointed MD, Senator Mamora.

For many of the workers, the handing over ceremony was beginning to look more of a ritual and the General Manager; Legal Services quickly earned the nickname ‘Acting MD Specialist’.

As MD of NIWA, the Lagos senator used his connections and influences to bring to a reasonable conclusion the long standing rift between NIWA and its Lagos State counterpart, the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) over the control of waterways within the state.

In a way to leave behind a standing legacy, the Memorandum of Understanding signed between NIWA and the Lagos State government would be the last major outing of Senator Mamora as NIWA MD because by August 2019, barely a year after taking over as MD, the Lagos State senator was appointed as a Minister of the Federal Republic. For the umpteenth time, General Manager, Legal Services of the agency, Mr Ibrahim was asked to again fill in the gap by the Federal Ministry of Transportation.


Workers’ lamentation

While Mr Danladi Ibrahim, now accustomed to stepping aside as MD, almost every one and a half year, awaits the announcement of a substantive MD for NIWA, the agency’s workers have blamed the political class for the leadership instability that has rocked the agency over the years.

Mr Danladi Ibrahim

Speaking to the Nigerian Tribune exclusively, a cross section of workers who begged not to have their names in print, urged the Federal Government to stop using the agency as a dumping ground for political compensation.

According to the workers, “If you look at the leadership history at NIWA, you will conclude that politicians who have failed to nail juicy posts are usually the ones brought to the agency for some period before they finally get their desired political posts.

“In the case of Hajia Maryam Ciroma, It took her almost one year to find her feet as MD of NIWA. As she was about finding her feet, she was forced to resign because a new political party won the presidential elections in 2015. Ciroma left with all the experience gathered as MD, meaning whoever was appointed again would have to start learning the ropes of inland waterways.

“Again, Boss Mustapha was appointed MD in 2016, and was doing great as regards the various river ports of the agency, only for him to be relieved of his appointment the following year to become SGF. In September of 2018, Senator Mamora was appointed MD of NIWA. Within a year, he had pulled the strings to reduce double taxation on Nigeria’s inland waterways, only for him to be relieved of his appointment the following year.

“How does NIWA maintain sustainable leadership when all the MD’s keep coming to learn the ropes, and leave when they are beginning to master it? This leadership cycle is affecting the growth of NIWA, and that is why our inland water ways is where it is today. Incessant boat mishaps keep claiming the lives of innocent Nigerians while the river ports in Onitsha, Baro and Lokoja are still far from being what we want them to be.

“Senator Mamora didn’t spend a year with us. How long will Mr Danladi continue to act as MD? Many of us now call him a professional acting MD,” the workers lamented.

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