• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

‘Our goal is to build local capacity, create employment in maritime sector’

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Target objectives for NIMASA

Our goals are precisely drawn from our mandate anchored on the four-point agenda: capacity building in terms of empowering the local people in their businesses, creation of employment opportunity for Nigerians within the maritime sector, training of young men and women in regulated maritime fields to close the human capacity gap within the industry in few years. That is why we are establishing maritime university and also pumping more resources into the existing maritime academy.

We are mandated by law to give 5 percent of our statutory 3 percent levies to the Maritime Academy, Oron. When I came in, the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron was owed money from 2009, 2010 and thereabouts, but now all those backlogs have been cleared. In addition to that, we went ahead last year to give an intervention fund to the academy outside our statutory obligation. This year, we have an approved budget of N2 billion intervention fund for the academy all geared towards building capacity. We are developing two new academies but the one in Badagry has some issues that we are trying to resolve while we commence bush clearing activities on the other academy. The idea is to help close the human capacity gap in the industry.

In the area of maritime security, our vision is to make our waters safe, and without mincing words, we have largely been able to achieve that, particularly in the Lagos area. Now we are seriously moving to the Niger-Delta area where some activities that are not too good for the development of the maritime sector are happening from time to time.

In the area of oil theft which we are also involved in stopping, we are making progress in collaboration with other security agencies in the marine environment management. We have been able to gazette 12 laws which have given us the legal authorisation in enforcing marine environment laws and as we speak, some vessels which we will deploy to manage marine environment have started coming in. Equipment is being purchased so that we can manage our marine environment. All of these things are going on at the same time. We have not got where we want to, but good steps are being taken to guarantee success in all areas of our mandate.

Biggest achievement in two years

Our biggest achievement is in the area of human capacity development. Last year we sent over 500 Nigerian youths for full-fledged B.Sc. programmes in maritime fields such as Naval Architecture, Marine Engineering and Nautical Sciences. This year we have sent another 100 plus and we are about sending another 800 plus to intensify on this drive. At the rate we are going, in the next 10 years Nigeria should be the greatest factor to be reckoned with in terms of human capacity building in maritime, especially in Africa.

When you take that side by side with the resources that we are pumping into the existing maritime academy in Oron, you will know that in few years to come, the problem of manpower that we have due to the liquidation of Nigeria National Shipping Line (NNSL) will be overcome. This is our major achievement because if we have the ships and every other thing without human capacity to even handle the domestic trade, we will not make headway.

While that is also going on, we are establishing a culture of transparency in the agency by bringing in law and order, which means that it cannot be business as usual for those who may want to do things to satisfy their personal interest. We want to build deep coherence in running government business and today as we speak, we have the requisite manpower to get the nod of International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in the core things that we are doing. We have employed master mariners, marine engineers, surveyors that we lacked previously, so the issue of manpower within the agency is a thing of the past and we are sufficient enough to make a difference locally and internationally.

Also, we have got approval for a shipyard to be developed by NIMASA. The shipyard is going to close all the gaps in ship building in Nigeria. Once it has been fully completed, we will call the private sector to come and join in the management. Inasmuch as we hope to build ships and capacity with the shipyard, we also hope to create jobs for the youths. NIMASA does not intend to run the shipyard and the university; rather we expect that experts should be saddled with responsibility of managing these institutions because they are peculiar institutions.

Challenges

Our procurement laws are very obsolete and not in alignment with current realities. This is enough to make budget performance very poor, particularly in maritime administration, and the IMO, which is the global regulatory body, does not want to see us complain about our local circumstance that hinders effective performance.

We are supposed to police territorial waters with the intent of securing peace and stability, but because of procurement bureaucratic bottlenecks in civil service, it becomes difficult for us to meet up. Maritime administration is more or less a security organisation and once we accord it that status, a lot of things can be expedited for the good of the agency and Nigeria. The budget is time-bound, almost everything we are doing has time implications. Therefore, time is of essence.

Tackling challenges

What we have been able to do that has earned us some respect is that we redouble our efforts. If we are supposed to sleep eight hours we have to reduce that to four hours in order to show results for the government and the people of Nigeria as well as our international friends. So it’s not easy because we have to put in extra efforts to get basic results achieved with respect to service delivery.

Sea time/training ship for cadets

What we are doing now is this: before the students get to the level of sea time, they will automatically get into the process. We do not intend to produce graduates that do not meet the international standard. Even the ones in our first training window that is state and NIMASA collaboration, we are arranging for their sea time training.

For the first time, NIMASA has been able to provide substantially for sea time training. We have approached the National Assembly and it has been approved to get training ship for our cadets. We may not buy a vessel but we may lease because I do not want us to go into buying these things and in the long run encounter maintenance and bureaucratic issues that will stall them. We want to get people who can run these things very well, so in a matter of days we are going to advertise for prospective contractors to come and bid for such jobs. This is the first time we have achieved that in a budget.

NIMASA and Global West

The NIMASA-Global West collaboration is one of the most successful things we have been able to establish. Many government agencies do not have the capacity to drive so many processes because of the problem of bureaucracy. There are certain things that the private sector can come to consult and then tell us the best approach to follow. We think that the best way in going through with our mandate is to partner with the private sector which NIMASA Act allows. The private sector assists us in performing some of the functions that we need to deliver for Nigerians and for the government.

We have been able to intercept those involved in oil theft and piracy, and we have handed them over to other law enforcement agencies. We could not have done all these without this partnership with Global West that provides us with the needed platform. Right now, more and more vessels are being procured to enable us go into different parts of waters to implement our mandate on security, safety, marine environment as well as search and rescue.

CVFF Fund

Because of past mistakes, we took our time. Though it may appear too elongated for the expected beneficiaries, but in a matter of weeks, the first batch of beneficiaries will emerge. We have been to and fro the ministry, so we are at the final stage for beneficiaries to get the fund to develop their shipping capacity. I know that once we are able to get the first set through, the coming sets will not be challenging. We are craving the indulgence of Nigerians to be a little patient with us because we are almost crossing the Rubicon. We are now at the due diligence stage, though the due diligence has taken some time because we are working with the bank, ministry, applicants and the people in the agency.