The Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) has called for immediate resignation or sack of Dr Dakuku Peterside, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) following the country’s lost in the election held in London last Friday by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Nigeria, last Friday contested for an IMO Category ‘C’ Seat and failed woefully, coming second from the rear, while Egypt, Liberia, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, and even Kenya coasted home to victory.
Nigeria’s loss in the IMO election confirmed industry watchers prediction, that Nigeria was going to lose, over shoddy preparation, fast depleting tonnage and woeful failure to combat the rising waves of piracy and crimes in the nation’s waters.
Speaking on Thursday in Lagos at the 2017 SOAN Workshop & Dinner, the Associan’s President, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun told the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi to replace the NIMASA management over what he described as gross incompetence.
But in a swift reaction, the Minister told Nigerians that the advice was misplaced, since he was convinced that it was given, because the Federal Government, working through NIMASA, had refused to administer or disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), despite the severe toll the non-disbursement was taking on the shipping industry.
According to Engr Greg, “The event at the recent International Maritime Organization (IMO) elections into Category C of the Council where Nigeria lost and actually came second to the last position underscores the importance and urgency of the theme of this end of the Workshop and Dinner: Giving a Critical Lifeline to the Nigerian Maritime Industry”, Engr. Ogbeifun indicated, stressing that while the country has sacked officials over fraud in the past, no one is presently on reord for being relieved of his post, on the account of non performance, or incompetence.
“That our flag administration is extremely weak such that the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) which owns a large trading worldwide is unable to register their ships in the Nigerian flag and boost our tonnage. Instead, they have all their ships registered in foreign Flags of Convenience. NLNG actually approached our flag administration to express their desire and preference to register all their ships in Nigeria if the flag administration can be enhanced and reorganized to meet international standards.
“They went further and paid for a Consultant to carry out a study of our Flag Administration and make recommendations to achieve this objective. The report and recommendation have been awaiting implementation by the Maritime Administration since then, over three years ago.
“That the Honorable Minister of Transportation on assumption of office and with promptings from stakeholders, set up a committee to study and make recommendations for the revamping and restructuring of our flag administration to make it more attractive for international patronage. A team of sound professionals worked assiduously to produce a comprehensive report and recommendations to achieve the objective but there has not been the political will to implement the recommendations of that report.
“That our own Maritime Administration, instead of engaging and collaborating with stakeholders, ship-owners, ship-repairers and Maritime Security providers to grow the Industry, they only specialize in collecting levies and revenues and meting out punitive measures on these stakeholders such as ship owners whose arrests, threats to arrest, and shutdown of ship repair yards with the accompanying consequences to the Industry which the International Maritime Communities and the IMO are observing.
“That our Maritime Administration is spending and squandering huge sums of money developing other nation’s maritime industries and institutions at the expense of ours by sending young Nigerian’s to various institutions round the world for incomplete training as seafarers such that their incomplete training overseas has not included the much needed sea time because there are no ships for them to sail on. This is in spite of the fact that we have our own Maritime academy of Nigeria, Oron largely funded by NIMASA by reason of the ACT establishing her but sadly, not one single Cadet has ever been sponsored by the maritime school by NIMASA.
The Nigeria Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) has had over 2500 Nigerians sent abroad to various countries. Over a thousand of them have completed their entire maritime program but only a few have fully completed their entire maritime program as there are still over a thousand of them who are yet to get their required sea time which is an integral part to complete the entire program.
“That the tonnage of our Cabotage fleet has diminished considerably due to the collapse of the price of oil worldwide in the last couple of years. The consequence on our Cabotage fleet is that the IOC’s who are the charters of these vessels, with directive from our own Government agencies NNPC and NAPIMS now reduced charter rates by up to 20-25% in some cases. The consequences of this is that most vessel owners were no longer able to meet their obligations to the financing banks and in most cases had to go under or have their vessels repossessed by the banks leading to loss of jobs, training opportunities and failed business, and of course, reduced tonnage on our register.
“This is despite the fact that the vessels owners contribute 2% of their contract values to the infamous CVFF, a fund meant to finance and grow the Cabotage fleet, a fund that has accumulated several hundreds of millions of dollars but has never financed one single vessel since its inception over 10 years ago. Most shipowners approached the Maritime Administration who warehouses the CVFF to intervene by refinancing the more expensive commercial bank loans for the Maritime Administration. If the CVFF had been used to intervene in the situation ship-owners found themselves in; our tonnage would have grown or at worst been sustained.
“The Chairman of the House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, Honorable Mohammed Umar Bago recently in October stated that Nigeria has over 100 billion Naira in the CVFF account and you can imagine that we have so much money which could have been used to support shipowners and grow their fleet”, the SOAN President further reasoned.
Dr Dakuku Peterside, DG NIMASA.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi however, swiftly reacted, saying he could gauge the rising opposition against the leadership at NIMASA, and from a vantage position, he understands that it was simply because the Ministry was yet to authorize the agency to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Funds (CVFF).
“Guess the question I asked Greg when he came back. I said: I hope you will have the stomach to take my reply and he said yes.
“The issue is that I will not release that fund even if I would be removed tomorrow as the Minister of Transportation.
“Why won’t I release the fund? We gave over N300 billion to owners and business men in Aviation industry; some took N32 billion, N35 billion, and they disappeared!
“Some took the money to go and build a bank, in Ghana and Sao Tome; and nothing has happened! Nothing!” the Minister indicated, adding “And then he says, (Engr. Ogbeifun) fire the man at NIMASA; he should probably add, fire also the Minister!”
Amaechi denied that the IMO election was lost because of NIMASA’s incompetence, but because of other factors, adding that the country would do better in two years time, when Nigeria would re-contest for the same IMO Seat.