Confusion In NIMASA Over Acting DG-ship
* Akpobolokemi plans escape
* Why Buhari acted now
The sack of the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi on Thursday last week has thrown the agency into confusion over who takes the mantle of leadership from Akpobolokemi.
The confusion arose from the terse press statement from the presidency relieving the Director-General of his position without a clear cut directive on who takes over.
According to the statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, Akpobolokemi was directed to hand over the management and all government property in his possession to the most senior officer in the agency who will remain in charge until a new Director-General is appointed, adding that the Acting DG should report to the presidency through the Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Transport. Consequently, there are three candidates laying claims to seniority especially when the sack order did not include the Executive Directors in clear terms.
MMS Plus weekly learnt that in order of seniority in civil service, Mrs. Juliana Gunwa, Director, Maritime Labour Services should take over having been confirmed a director in 2013.
But another group of contenders from the Ministry of Transport, said it would have to be Barr. Callistus Obi, Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services.
However, another opposing group stated that if an Executive Director, who is a political appointee is to take charge then it should be handled administratively in which case, Mr. Haruna Baba Jauro, Executive Director, Finance and Administration should act as the director-general.
It was further gathered that both Barr. Obi and Mr. Jauro resumed the same day in NIMASA for duties having been appointed as EDs. The difference however, is that Jauro resumed late afternoon while Obi resumed in the morning, so by civil service rule whoever reported first and fills the staff form is the senior. Another differentiating advantage is the number of identity card.
Mrs. Gunwa had started receiving calls from colleagues, even while she was out of the country, when Barr. Obi called her to say that the ministry had asked him to take over.
Following this, many NIMASA officials concluded that Obi’ wife who works in the same ministry and was the Secretary to the immediate past Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar must have influenced it.
Even at this, the argument that followed, was that Barr. Obi is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and a card bearer.
While Jauro is not liked by majority of the NIMASA workers for his unwillingness always to approve what they consider “small money” for official duties when billions are carted away by the executive management members of staff, Gunwa was alleged to have been accessory to the N2.4 billion spent on Cabotage sensitization campaign in NIMASA, undertaken in the month of June 2015. It was however later stated by sources in NIMASA that she was being maligned in anticipation of the sack of the executive management so as to prevent her from occupying her rightful position.
MMS Plus weekly further gathered that only N39 million was approved and spent for the sensitization campaign, even as it has been retired.
According to the source, this claim is verifiable at the account department.
“At the moment, the most senior Director is Mrs. Juliana Abiodun Gunwa, a thorough bred bureaucrat and an experienced maritime professional. The campaign of calumny against her person, integrity and character by Abdullahi Yelwa is misplaced and completely out of order. I am bold to say that Mrs.
Gunwa is one of the few Directors in NIMASA who know their onions and would not be part of any corrupt tendencies in any form”, a statement sent to MMS Plus weekly stated.
“The allegation is warped and came from an uninformed mind calculated to soil the personality of this innocent woman before government and the public”, it added.
Meanwhile, Akpobolokemi it was gathered, did not believe at first that he had been sacked as he demanded an official memo to that effect, as advised by his kinsmen who came on solidarity visit to him on hearing the news which came like rumours in the early mid-day of Thursday, last week.
Realizing it was true with a letter in the evening, he left office in company of his kinsmen at 11pm, with allegations from some NIMASA officials present that he was doctoring documents and strategizing on how to evade arrest from government. Then, the following day, Friday and Sallah day, the Ijaw nation in Lagos held a solidarity forum for him in a hotel in Victoria Island, Lagos, where they discussed how to ensure that Akpobolokemi is not probed or arrested by President Mohammed Buhari.
Expectedly, however, it was jubilation galore in NIMASA head office in Apapa, Lagos by workers that their Director-General was sacked, chanting songs of freedom from bondage.
The sack equally attracted reactions from stakeholders in maritime industry globally. A diplomat based in UK in his comment sent to MMS Plus weekly, said, “I knew that he would be sacked this week. That is the first step. The next is for him to be arrested, detained, tried and jailed. Next is, get rid of all the executive directors now that the boards have been dissolved as well. Abolish the posts of executive directors as they are useless. NIMASA structure and mandate does not need executive directors. They have no specific job schedules and their appointments were not in line with the NIMASA Act. The truth is that NIMASA does not need EDs. All NIMASA accounts should be frozen, close down the illegal London office through which funds were being siphoned. Rationalize staff and get rid of dead woods and the unqualified militants”.
However, it was further gathered that Akpobolokemi had to be sacked before the programmed date because he and his media professionals fell into the trap laid for them with the report that the presidency had stopped the payment of N1.5billion monthly contract fee for maritime security domain protection to High Chief Government Ekpomupolo known as Tompolo.
But the rebuttal by Mr. Isichei Osamgbi, the spokesman of NIMASA that it was not true infuriated the presidency.
“While it was true that it had not been stopped, the Federal Government sold the dummy to prove that the Buhari government was working and responsive to the feelings of the people but NIMASA could not read the writings on the wall, a source noted.