Editorial: Our stand on the meeting of maritime agency heads

Bashir Jamoh, Director General of NIMASA

The recent pursuit by the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh in bringing all managing directors of various government agencies in the maritime industry together is commendable and timely.

The essence of the meeting, according to Dr. Bashi Jamoh, is to the pursuit of cooperation of the managing directors to identify and speedily tackle challenges being faced by operators in the sector.

For the first time in many years, the heads of these agencies – NIMASA, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Shippers Council, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), and Maritime Academy of Nigeria met, excluding Nigeria Customs Service. Dr. Bashir Jamoh said he had extended the invitation to the Service. The heads of these agencies only meet at ministerial functions mandated for them.

It is unfortunate that for many years these agencies have been working in isolation and even at variance with the mandates given to them by the Federal Government of Nigeria to develop, regulate, and generate revenue. Rather than utilizing their energy for the development of the sector, they are dissipating such energy in fights over jurisdiction.  

At a time in the industry, NIMASA and NPA were at war over the removal of shipwrecks in the creeks and water channels in the country as both laying claim to it citing various sections in their separate Acts which empower them to do so.  Ditto, the issue of safety as both organizations simultaneously overlapping each other in a bid to provide safety and security on the nation’s seas and creeks at the detriment of the industry and stakeholders who pay for the service.

A typical example is the issue of the safety and security service provision at the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) contracted by the Nigerian Navy to a private firm which the NPA pronounced terminated. Justifying the termination, the NPA management said it is the only NPA that is constitutionally empowered to provide safety and security in the SAA, not the Nigerian Navy that contracted the contract out to the provider. This is a constitutional defect that has caused function lapping. Whose function is to provide safety and security on the nation’s seas and creeks? The answer is for the parliament.

 A similar thing often happens between NIMASA, NIWA, and Lagos State Waterway Agency (LASWA) over who controls and regulates the waterway. These agencies particularly NIWA and LASWA have engaged in a fierce battle over the control of waterways in Lagos State.

The Nigeria Customs Service, NPA, and the Nigerian Shippers Council are also in a battle over who should control the operations of bonded terminals. Whenever the Nigerian Shippers Council threatens to seal up a bonded terminals that fail to adhere to trade facilitation of timely cargo delivery or engaging in malpractices, the defiant terminal management who say that the Council does not have the power to sanction them as they are licensed by the Nigeria Customs Service meaning their allegiance is only to the Customs alone. And so they can do what they like.    

This meeting is commendable and timely because it would give the heads opportunities to share ideas and review and resolve some operational challenges highlighted above and the ones that are not mentioned but known to the executives.

We commend Bashir Jamoh’s timely intervention. It is heart-warming. These agencies need to come together and harmonize their operations for the good of the industry. In the next meeting, the Nigerian Navy should be invited because of its strategic role in safety and security on the nation’s seas and creeks through which ships come to the nation’s seaports.

We also suggest that the grey areas in the various parliamentary acts that set up these organizations should be looked into. The managing directors in unison should forward them to the National Assembly for an amendment to extricate the industry from function lapping which has slowed down the growth and often resulted in double taxation.

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