AS lobby for who becomes the substantive Director General/Chief Executive of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, hots up, maritime stakeholders are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to look inwards in picking a candidate rather than going for an outsider, who would spend months and years learning the rope.
The call was amplified recently when it was rumoured that the Federal Government is planing to use the office of NIMASA DG as compensation for top politicians who worked assiduously for the installment of the incumbent administration. The worry is that the politician that is being touted may be a greenhorn who could spend a long time to get acclimatised to the operations in a very sensitive regulatory agency saddled with weighty responsibilities.
According to a seasoned maritime analyst and member of the Presidential Committee on Port Reforms, Lucky Aimiwero, “it is imperative that any NIMASA boss must have the requisite maritime qualifications, as spelt out in the NIMASA Act. In addition, he/she must also have cognate industry experience because the task of repositioning the agency is daunting.”
Interestingly, there are three executive directors in NIMASA, who by ranking, are the most senior officials of the agency. They are: Capt Ezekiel Bala Agaba, a Master Mariner from Benue State, who was appointed executive director, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development; Barr. Callistus Nwabueze Obi, a lawyer from Anambra State, who is NIMASA’s executive director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services and Baba Haruna Jauro, an accountant from Yobe State as executive director, Finance and Administration. They were appointed at the same time in 2012 by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
After the sack of the former director general, Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi in July, Obi was announced as the acting CEO. His stay on the “hot seat” was for only 72 hours, as the Federal Government replaced him with Jauro in what stakeholders described as a hot political intrigue.
A clinical analysis of the appointment of heads of agencies under the transport ministry shows it is often tilted in favour of the North, a frightening abuse of the federal character rules. Out of eight parastatals, five are currently occupied by the North. They are, the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology, NITT, Zaria, Kaduna State, The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Lagos, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, Lagos and the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, Lokoja, Kogi State.
The three remaining agencies headed by the South but with the exclusion of the South East are, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, Lagos, the Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarders, CRFFN, Abuja and the Maritime Academy of Nigerian, MAN, Oron Akwa Ibom State. All the geo-political zones are accommodated, except the South East that constitutes the bulk of importers and freight forwarders in the shipping business.
With this lopsidedness, industry watchers felt the appointment of Callistus Obi as the acting director general of NIMASA was in order, when viewed from the prism of equity because it seemed like an attempt to obey the federal character rules.
Perpetual stagnation Civil servants in various government ministries, departments and agencies have repeatedly clamoured for abolishment of politically motivated appointments, especially when the appointees are less qualified than those inside. The reason is that employment of outsiders leaves most career civil servants stagnated in a position for a very long time, a development that demoralises those affected by it.
According to a senior director, “when you bring in outsiders, those of us inside are perpetually stagnated. Among us civil servants, you have those of us with three master’s degrees and some Ph.Ds, who are still on level 13 or even 12. Some of us have close to 22 years experience. Then, someone comes from nowhere, claims he schooled overseas and becomes your boss, even with no cognate industry experience at all. That is manpower mismatch, to say the least.
How will people function under such a circumstance? Can you ever be happy if you are a victim of that abuse?”
According to the President, League of Maritime Editors, Ovie Edomi, bringing in people from outside leaves the core civil servants stranded in a position for years without promotion. “We call for the appointment of a NIMASA-groomed DG, who is a maritime trained professional that understands the policy direction of the agency”, he said.
Those who could be DG
•Haruna Baba Jauro: The current acting director general of The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency was, until his appointment, the executive director Finance and Administration in the Agency. Born on May 6, 1956, he is an accountant by profession with a HND Accounting from Kaduna Polytechnic, PGD in Finance and Material Management and an MBA both from the University of Maiduguri.
Calistus Obi Nwabueze: Born on May 1, 1964, Callistus Nwabueze Obi is a graduate of law from the University of Nsukka. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1991. He holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.
Ezekiel Bala Agaba: An indigene of Benue State, Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba is a Master mariner with Class 1 Certificate of Competency (Foreign Going Unlimited) from John Moore University, Liverpool in 1986. He also holds an M.Sc in Transport Planning.