- By Foster Obi
Among the maritime agencies, the three that stand out are the Nigerian Maritime Administration and safety agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC). In terms of revenue earnings, NIMASA and NPA are cash cows as they control humongous resources, which is why those that head these agencies are directly appointed by the president and must be politically malleable to the supervising authorities or be shown the exit.
But for certain scandals that followed the director general of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh and the managing director of NPA, Mohammed Bello Koko at the early days of their appointments, the agency heads since resumption have gone ahead to stamp reasonable presence in their various areas of assignments.
Among all of them, Bashir Jamoh, who by nature is a politician and was billed to contest the 2023 Kaduna state guber elections but for the amended electoral laws, is described by many as the poster boy of the sector in terms of performance.
Barely a year after he assumed office in 2020, Dr Jamoh was accused by a journalist, a certain Jackson Ude of fraudulent activities. The publications emanated from a series of tweets by Ude alleging that the sums of N1.5tn and another US$9,557,312.50 were traced to the DG’s personal account. Ude accused Jamoh of being used as a conduit pipe for those in authority to launder money.
Dr Jamoh challenged these allegations, calling for EFCC investigations to establish the truth. “In view of this weighty allegation and the insidious and perniciously damaging effect on the government and the country, I hereby request that a thorough and painstaking investigation be carried by your commission with a view to unraveling the truth or accuracy of the allegation. This is to put the record straight in the public domain, please,” Jamoh wrote.
In the case of the MD of NPA, reports last year surfaced online that some foreign investigators have written to the United Kingdom government, seeking an exclusion order to ban Bello-Koko and his family from entering the country over alleged money laundering and fraud.
But responding to the issue in a statement, the NPA boss claimed that some “faceless individuals” under the cloak of unknown civil society organisations (CSOs) were responsible for the “malicious concoctions”.
Also a Sahara Reporters story of April 10, 2021 said that Koko who was previously the director of finance and administration at NPA before President Buhari appointed him the managing director of the NPA was found guilty of N829 million fraud in kickbacks and money laundering activities.
“The EFCC probe report exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters on Sunday revealed that Koko after being investigated was found to have received the N829 million from NPA contractors and in cash sums from individuals and companies,” the report said. The NPA however refuted this report. There were other allegations of illegal acquisition sundry choice property in the UK which the MD has also responded to.
Industry experts believed that except for some twist of fate, some of the agency heads may lose their jobs after the elections because of the nature of Nigerian politics.
But beyond these scandals and permutations, the agency heads have also made some marks.
Dr Jamoh has made great efforts at stopping piracy attacks on Nigerian Maritime domain through the blue economy project. The project has been hugely successful. Also, recently, the Minister of Transportation, Eng Muazu Jaji Sambo inspected the new head office of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) located at Victoria Island in Lagos State. This is a leap from the highly congested Burma Road office at Apapa that has served as the agency’s head office since inception.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the sum of N17.47 billion for the acquisition of a property in Victoria Island, Lagos, to serve as the new headquarters of NIMASA.
The property, previously known as Kanti Towers, located at 35, Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Victoria Island, is now christened “NIMASA Towers.” The feat is to the credit of Dr Bashir Jamoh.
Towards end of last year, Jamoh facilitated the arrival of the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Mr Kitack Lim for the Nigeria International Maritime Summit (NIMS) 2022. IT WAS Lim’s first time.
At the conference, IMO pledged support for Nigeria in order to achieve cleaner oceans and greener shipping which is in line with the theme of the 2022 World Maritime Day, “New Technologies for Greener Shipping”
Presently there is a move to disburse the $350m Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) derived from the two per cent contribution by indigenous ship owners from every contract executed in the nation’s waters.
The NIMASA DG in a briefing explained that the disbursement of the CVFF is backed by the provisions of Section 42(1)-(2) of the Cabotage Act 2003, enacted to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity by providing financial assistance to Nigerian operators in domestic coastal shipping.
Jamoh said the disbursement of the funds will not only enhance the local shipping business but also assist in creating jobs for the over 2,041 Nigerian seafarers trained by the agency under the National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP).
The fund which has been highly politicized has been sitting idle in the vault over the years while indigenous ship owners are languishing in penury. The disbursement if successfully carried out now will again boost Jamoh’s CV.
Among a few other actions, stakeholders and NPA workers believe that the greatest thing the managing director, Mohammed Bello Koko has done since inception is the increase in workers’ salaries after 18 years. Members of staff of the Authority expressed excitement over the approval of a pay rise by the Federal Government for them.
The Deputy Secretary General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, Erazua Oniha, said that the union was happy that their salaries were reviewed after 18 years.
The Minister of Transportation, Sambo Mu’azu Sambo, revealed the decision of the government to review the salaries of NPA staff upward last year end at the long service award organised by the management of the authority.
Sambo, who commended the management of the agency for its commitment to staff welfare, singled out the NPA boss, Mohammad Bello-Koko for accolades, for his unprecedented performance in revenue generation and remittance
“In my maiden visit to NPA upon resumption of office as minister of transportation, I was commending the NPA MD for his unprecedented performance in revenue generation and remittance. He has solicited my backing and support to fast track the processes and procedures for the implementation of salary increase, which I immediately acceded to and today, I am delighted that it has been achieved.”
Earlier, Bello-Koko thanked the Federal Government for the increment in staff salaries.
“We will like to use this opportunity to appreciate everyone here for their support towards the delivery of salary increase for our dedicated staff,” he stated.
He added that equipping the human capital resource to be the best has been one of the overriding objectives of the management of NPA, adding that the agency would make a good move in this cause.
“Our drive towards ensuring 100 per cent occupational health and safety for our staff which has resulted in ISO certification of Calabar and Onne ports is relentless and we are not relenting on it,” He asserted.
Also the NPA MD said that it has received the necessary approval from the federal government to commence employment of more staff in order to beef up the strength of the Authority.
According to him, the NPA currently has an inverted pyramid structure with more senior officers occupying larger number, than the junior workforce.
He assured that the employment which is going to take place now would focus more on strengthening the lower cadre.
In the area of revenue, the NPA generated total revenue of N172.286 billion from its operations in the first half of 2022.
The Authority in the same period remitted N78.497 billion to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the federation.
These disclosures were contained in a half-year 2022 operational reports released by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Authority, Mr. Mohammed Bello Koko. The feat was well acknowledged by the Transport Minister.
The Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Shippers Council, Emmanuel Layambee Jime has not been doing badly since he took over from Barrister Hassan Bello, the star boy of the Nigeria Martine industry. Jime who is a critical thinker is of the opinion that Nigerian port is a critical infrastructure that needs to be made competitive and guarded against monopoly.
He believes that there is the need to develop the nation’s industrial base, to balance trade and boost the nation’s economy.
His administration unveiled an operational manual, a working document for the nation’s Inland Dry Ports (IDPs) to promote efficient maritime operation in the hinterlands.
Besides, he pledged to eliminate the traditional congestion and bottleneck across the hinterland ports while enhancing efficiency and engendering trade facilitation at the new land ports.
He said the working document which would also be unveiled in Port-Harcourt and Lagos, is intended to bring stakeholders in other regions in the country on board the reform, adding that immediately after the process is concluded, the operators and regulators would be compelled to abide with the operational processes as contained in the manual.
Jime in his outings expressed disappointment over infringement and interference in goods delivery processes at the country’s seaports.
He said such infringement and interference have impacted negatively in terms of cargo dwell time, increased charges on imports and extortion.
Jime, who spoke at two-day training for maritime police in Lagos, said the issues were responsible for high prices of goods in the market and services in the country.
He frowned on a situation in which Nigerian ports were known for having the reputation of being among the ports with the longest cargo dwell time in the world.
“While it takes only six hours to clear cargo in Singapore and about seven days in Lome, it takes an average of 21 days to do so in Nigeria.
“Long dwell time of cargo renders the ports inefficient, create congestions, increase the cost of doing shipping business and ultimately leads to the high price of goods and services in the economy,” he said.
He disclosed that the target of the Council was to check corruption and ensure that cost of doing business was brought down.
He revealed that the intervention by the Council led to the receipt of several reports from the users of port services, among them consignees, freight forwarders, haulers, about the incessant interference in the cargo clearance processes.
The recent hosting of the 9th edition of the Union of African Shippers’ Councils (UASC), with the theme: ‘African Continental Free Trade Agreement: A Veritable Platform for African Shippers to Mainstream into Global Trade, flagged off by President mohammed Buhari is to the credit of Jime and his team.
The 3-day event was organized by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Union of African Shippers’ Councils.
The President who was represented by the Minister of State for Transportation, Prince Ademola Adewole Adegoroye, stated that for AfCFTA to have a positive influence on long-term investment in productive capacities, African nations must develop appropriate supporting policies, build requisite infrastructure and ensure an educated work force.
“Specifically, Nigeria’s exports to the rest of Africa will increase by more than 15% in fishery, textile, wearing apparels, leather, wood and papers, metals, electronics, vehicles and transport equipment and machinery (for industrial sectors) and in meat and poultry, milk and dairy products.
Other areas he mentioned include rice, other cereals, plant-based fibers and other crops, fruits and vegetables.
Welcoming the delegates, Nigerian Shippers’ Council Executive Secretary, Barr Emmanuel Jime, called on African leaders to embrace trade liberalization to enable intra-African trade become a reality.
Tariff and non-tariff barriers that hamper trading among African countries, he stated, must be reduced.
There is also the need to seamlessly harmonize transportation infrastructures and trade policies in the sub-region for meaningful trade to thrive, Jime emphasized.