The new Director General of NIMASA, Mr. Patrick .Z. Akpobolokeni, recently spoke with a group of maritime journalists were he spoke on several issues ranging from the Cabotage regime, Coast guard, CVFF and a lot more. Godfrey BIvbere reports.
There have been so much talk about the lack of will by the past administrations of NIMASA to fully implement the Cabotage law, how do you intend to implement it?
Basically we are going to collaborate with key stakeholders with regards to the implementation of the Cabotage regime. We expect them to co_operate and collaborate with us. NIMASA has standards and we expect the ship owners to conform to these standards and the law. We are also aware of their challenges; NIMASA is ready to assist them in surmounting these challenges.
The Cabotage regime cannot be operated by NIMASA alone, we will collaborate with ISAN and other stakeholders who do business relating to shipping and vessels on our territorial waters. We intend to dialogue with key stakeholders and come up with workable solutions so that the Cabotage regime can be fast tracked.
What is your position on the need for Coast Guard in the country?
The concept of Coast Guard is a good one if well conceived and there is a political will to see it through. The Coast Guard in the United States is working very well in securing the territorial waters, bringing about normalcy in shipping, reducing terrorism, pirates activities etc.
Whether we can operate it very well in Nigeria is the question we need to ask ourselves. It is a noble idea but is there a political will? If we must implement it, we need to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies. Don’t forget we have the problems of corruption, ethnicity, greed and so on, all these are factors that will militate against its implementation, if there is no political will.
The president, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is making frantic efforts and changes to ensure adequate security in the country, so those who must implement must key into the President’s agenda of providing security. The Coast Guard is a means of positively engaging the militants who have downed their tools because they have the knowledge of the creeks, rivers and water channels.
Now that the amnesty programme is still on, if the coast guard is well structured like that of the U.S, it will be another means of creating employment for thousands of our jobless youths. Consequently it will reduce piracy and vandalism. But my fear is that some people may not want it to work because of what they gain from vandalism, piracy and so on. So we must all be ready to make it work by shunning tribalism, ethnicity and corruption.
A lot of stakeholders will be looking up to you, what should they expect from your administration as you settle down?
The Maritime Industry is very vast. NIMASA alone cannot effect the necessary changes that are needed to move the industry forward.
Therefore, we hope to collaborate and dialogue with all the stakeholders, ordinary Nigerians and even the media are needed in this effort. We need the support of the media to effectively monitor the changes and pass down accurate information to the populace.
Talking about changes; what changes should stakeholders expect from your administration?
One of the major challenges we want to carry out in this regime is to ensure effective implementation of the Cabotage regime. I don’t see the reason why we must leave our territorial waters to foreigners leading to capital flight, unemployment etc. We are ready to give the necessary support and co_operation to our indigenous ship_owners to develop. We in turn expect that they will also co_operate with us by following the laid down procedures. Secondly, as big as this country is, we do not have a national carrier.
Why must we leave everything to the western nations? We intend to look into this. Thirdly, we intend as a matter of urgency to provide the needed security in our territorial waters. We must make our seas, oceans, territorial waters safe for people to do business.
Another important thing is the need to provide a proper record of ships coming in and going out of the country. Presently, there is no record of such that accounts for why ships bring ammunition, toxic waste and so on into the country. We need to properly police our territorial waters. What happens in our waters don’t happen elsewhere. These are some of the things we intend to do.
What about the CVFF fund, a lot of noise has been made about it with nothing to show for it, do you intend to carry on with the implementation?
My belief is that you don’t abandon all the projects of your predecessor. You must look at each project on their individual merit. The ones that are ok will be carried on and improved upon and the ones that we feel fall short of merit will be done away with. Mind you we are not serving our individual self; we are serving the people and we are accountable to them. It will be a disservice if constructive projects and programmes are not taken to a logical conclusion.
What are you going to do to change the negative perception about NIMASA?
In this administration we shall have a zero tolerance for corruption. We intend to be transparent; accountable and to follow due process.
By so doing we will not run into any problem. I have studied the NIMASA Acts; I am studying the procurement laws and other relevant issues that relate to NIMASA and the maritime industry. However, we expect some challenges from those who do not want changes in the industry. We intend to stand firm and ward off external forces from distracting us or misdirecting us. The president has a clear vision in appointing a new leadership.
He is completely aware of what is going on in the industry and has given us a clear mandate to correct the anomalies in the system. In doing this, we expect that there will be vehement restraint from people who have been milking the industry. They will threaten with all sorts including the EFCC and so on but by the Grace of God we will succeed. We will not bend the rule.
Our predecessors have tried. Mind you leadership is not easy since everyone wants to be there. The decay in the industry has been there for long, it didn’t just happen yesterday. Every sector has its own challenge. We intend to remain focused to take NIMASA to greater heights. We will not yield to unnecessary pressures or demands.
Lastly, Sir what are the first major steps you will take?
We have short, medium and long term goals. In the short_term the security of the water ways is paramount. We will provide adequate security to reduce to the barest minimum all forms of criminality. Two, we shall start taking practical steps to implement the Cabotage regime and we hope the media we help us to achieve our objectives.