One year in office: Stakeholders X-ray Bashir Jamoh’s achievement, scorecard

The incumbent Director-General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh, recently marked a year in office. In this report, TOLA ADENUBI samples the opinions of critical maritime stakeholders on how the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s foremost maritime security agency has fared.

THE Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh took over as head of Nigeria’s foremost maritime security agency when the Gulf of Guinea waters was becoming notorious for incessant pirate attacks and abductions. Settling down in office, he quickly got to terms with the realities of the task ahead of him and within a short period, drew applauses from critical maritime stakeholders, including the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on his early feats in office, which include the unprecedented arrest of suspected maritime pirates and their onward prosecution under the new anti-piracy law, the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act signed into law in June 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari.

While the NIMASA DG’s first year in office has been marked by the prevalence of the Covid-19 pandemic, stakeholders in the industry have expressed diverse views on his performance and scorecard one year after his appointment.

 

Indigenous shipowners

For many of the indigenous ship operators, the past one year has been ravaged by Covid-19 and it is very difficult to evaluate the NIMASA DG’s performance in office. According to the President of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr.  MkGeorge Onyung, “The past one year has been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, and most of the sectors were affected. I cannot really evaluate the NIMASA DG one year performance in office because he came in just about the time the pandemic arrived in Nigeria.

“I think the NIMASA DG should tell us what he has achieved in office in this past year. Remember when the NIMASA DG’s assumed office in March of last year, within one week, everybody was dancing and applauding him. Also, Covid-19 came and the man has just barely struggled through the pandemic.

“I don’t think it’s fair to put the man under pressure. Yes, we are all expecting value addition from the maritime industry, but he is the one that wears the shoes and knows where it pinches him. So he should be the one to tell us what he has achieved in the last year in office.

“As indigenous ship-owners, we have a yardstick that we use to judge our own performance in the maritime sector. For example, the global maritime industry is worth $6 trillion, which translates to $16 billion a day, $980 million an hour, and $11 million a minute. The question that should be asked is that, how much did NIMASA make for the country from this industry? How much did the indigenous ship-owners make for themselves from the industry?

“With Covid-19, the year has been terrible. So, let us see what the man is going to do in another year. Having been doing the job, the NIMASA DG should come out and tell us what he has done. I won’t join in praise-singing when nothing much has been achieved due to many reasons, including Covid-19 restrictions.”

Also speaking on the NIMASA DG’s one year in office, Chairman of the Nigeria Shipowners Forum, Barrister Margaret Orakwusi lauded Bashir Jamoh for confronting the challenges of Covid-19 headlong despite the odds.

In her words, “Bashir Jamoh, being an industry person who rose through the ranks in NIMASA, has been able to face the challenges of the office. He didn’t waste time learning the ropes. The major problem of the maritime sector has been security and safety issues, and the NIMASA DG has tried. I am aware that they will soon launch some of the equipment that have been purchased under the Deep Blue project. Some of the helicopters purchased for surveillance will soon be deployed, and some of the fast moving crafts too will soon be deployed. I think the man has tried in his one year in office. The man has hit the ground running since he was appointed DG NIMASA, and we are just praying that this pandemic should go away so that the industry can fully achieve its potential.”

CVFF

For the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), the NIMASA DG has tried his best even though there are concerns over the stringent conditions attached to the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) disbursement process.

Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune exclusively, NAMM President, Captain Tajudeen Alao explained that “In the area of insecurity, Bashir Jamoh has tried his best, if you look at the scenario that predated his emergence as NIMASA DG. Some pirates were arrested under him and are being tried under the new anti piracy law. I think that’s a watershed in the history of maritime crime in this country.

“In the area of the CVFF, they are currently calling for primary lending institutions which will champion the disbursement. The issue with the CVFF is the equity attached to the disbursement. If they give me $10 million and ask me to bring 15 per cent as equity, where do I get such money from? One of the conditions attached to the CVFF is that beneficiaries must bring equity, where are they going to get such money from?,” the NAMM President lamented.

 

Ship registration

In the area of vessel registration, the Chairman of the committee tasked with reviewing the activities and operations of the Nigerian Ship Registration Office, Emmanuel Ilori told the Nigerian Tribune that not much has changed since Bashir Jamoh took over the reins of office as NIMASA DG.

“To the best of my knowledge, Dakuku Peterside initiated the Ship Registry reform and set up an implementation monitoring committee which I headed. Since Bashir Jamoh took over and is already a year in office, the implementation monitoring committee has not met despite many efforts to meet with him. Obviously, maybe the incumbent DG has his own agenda for the industry, with respect to the Ship Registry.

“As you are aware, the Ship Registry is very critical to the nation’s economy. You will recall that the international community threw their weight behind the improvement of the Nigerian Ship Registry under the former NIMASA DG, Dakuku Peterside. With nothing happening in the last one year, if the international community does not see any positive response on the ship registry, these efforts tend to get cold, and we have to start all over again.

“The improvement of the ship registry is based on three pillars: it must be business friendly; it must have technical integrity and must be financially sound. Unfortunately, these are the issues that we are still grappling with and it is very critical for us to get it right. The ship registry is the backbone of any shipping nation,” Ilori told the Nigerian Tribune.

When asked if the inability to meet at the implementation committee level has been down to Covid-19 restrictions, Ilori who also doubles as the Vice President of the Association of Marine Engineers and Surveyors (AMES) explained that “there is Covid-19 restrictions but ships are moving and ports are functioning. Shipping is a critical part of Nigeria’s economy. We cannot say Covid-19 has stopped shipping because all through the pandemic, ships were carrying goods all over the world. Global trade did not ground to a halt, thank God for shipping. We cannot continue to attribute everything to Covid-19.

 

Maritime labour

Aside from ensuring safety and security on the nation’s waterways, NIMASA is also saddled with the responsibility of regulating the employment of labour in the nation’s ports. Section 64 of the NIMASA Act defines employers of dock labour and employers of maritime labour. The section also encompasses dockworkers under the term “maritime labour”.

Speaking to the Nigerian Tribune on how the NIMASA DG has fared in the last one year in office as regards policies guiding labour processes in the Nigerian port environment, President of the National Association of Stevedoring Companies (NASC), Mr Bolaji Sunmola lauded the NIMASA DG for the reforms that have shaped labour practices in the port environments.

In the words of the NASC President, “In our perspectives as stevedoring employers, the NIMASA DG has done well so far. He has ensured that he improved on what he met on the ground. For the records, he has ensured that the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) is properly constituted. He has also ensured that the issue of the true sum of assets by the International Oil Companies (IOC) for stevedoring advancement is co-opted. By the way, he was the one that issued a marine notice to that effect.

“That marine notice which the NIMASA DG issued at the early stages of his tenure in office opened the door for negotiation with the IOC’s. The IOC’s have been coming forth for negotiation. It’s just that these issues have too many national complexities, but NIMASA under Jamoh has tried its best.”

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