Task before Dakuku Peterside as new NIMASA boss

By Uche Usim
FOLLOWING last week’s appointment of Dr. Dakuku Peterside as the substantive Director General/Chief Executive of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), stakeholders say the new helmsman has no time to clink glasses or celebrate as he already has his daunting “cleansing” job cut out for him.
Peterside, the fifth NIMASA boss, is coming into the regulatory agency at a time it is begging for an urgent reform following perennial maladministration by previous leadership.
Industry analysts insist the parastatal today is plagued by challenges ranging from gross misappropriation of funds, manpower-equipment mismatch, misplaced priorities, undue political interference, and ethnicity, among other challenges.
According to a maritime expert and a member of various presidential committees, Lucky Amiwero, “Peterside is expected to hit the ground running without delays. He’s coming from a different environment and he must quickly assemble a team of experts to work with. This is not time for politics. He should quickly study the NIMASA Act of 2007 from where he’ll know his powers and boundaries. He must enforce such powers to the letter,” he said.
Amiwero insisted that the implementation three Acts are paramount to the success of NIMASA and the nation as a whole.
“We’ve the 2003 Cabotage Act, which has not been implemented. If it was, it ought to have even been amended by now. He has to look into it. That Act primarily is to build capacity for local ship operators to partake in the Cabotage trade because today, 90 per cent of that business is done by foreigners. Do you know the capital flight that comes from this? Billions of naira annually. If local shippers are buoyant, they’ll create employment for thousands of local seafarers languishing in the country. Another Act the new NIMASA boss should look into is the Local Content Law and see how NIMASA can harness it. We can comfortably generate two million jobs through it. It ensures what ought to come to Nigerians come to them.
Another is the NIMASA Act itself. All these three, if well implemented or harnessed by the NIMASA DG, will change the nation’s economy for good. It’s a daunting task and so he should roll up his sleeves because there are many contending interests. But he has to work with experts and be bold to achieve. If not, we’ll be back to square one. That’s what has been happening. Moving in circles. He can change that and write his name in gold,” Amiwero explained.
Another area of focus, according to experts, is maritime labour and standards of certification as Nigerian seafarers are not the primary choice of foreign shippers who dominate maritime business. Stakeholders say foreign shipowners prefer the certificates issued by other African countries than those issued by NIMASA.
Stakeholders also called on the new NIMASA boss to work with the government to establish a new national carrier that will generate employment, check capital flight by conserving foreign exchange and help boost export, especially with the dwindling oil prices.
Industry players also urge Peterside to look into maritime security as there has been an upsurge in pirates’ attack, especially in the South-South region within the last 12 months.
Another area of importance is safety as industry watchers recall the ship collision accident of October 19, 2015 that clearly exposed the technical deficiencies of the agency to manage marine accidents. Most worrisome was the non-availability of underwater search and rescue apparatus for deep water operations. Till date, there was no search for the nine seafarers that have since been presumed dead.

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