The story of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for more than four years (2010 – 2015) now under the leadership of Mr. Patrick Ziakade Akpobolokemi as the Director-General is a twisted tweed of brazen corruption laced with pride, savagery glorified to civilization and nightmarish journey into the “interior” and darkest part of mankind where slavery and colonization in their brutish extremes are gleefully admired and cherished.
It is no fiction, yet shares the ominous title: Heart of Darkness, a novella by Joseph Conrad, published in 1899. Conrad in his anonymous style of narrative deals with the dark heart of mankind; he tells that man is inherently evil and his evil is only masked by civilization.
In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the natural world isn’t a place of comfort or pleasure or even mild neutrality. It’s dark, frightening, and eats faces off. Here, the natural forces have a will of their own: they’re hostile to the white “Pilgrims” but accept the black “Savages”.
The plot is woven around a character, Marlow, an agent of a Belgium Ivory trading firm who recounts his journey into Africa. Along the way, he witnesses brutality and hate between colonizers and native African people, becomes entangled in a power struggle within the company. In the end, Marlow’s case is that of forceful violation of moral and a bad career adventure. The novel closes with Marlow guilt-ridden, wishing he has the opportunity to live a different life all over again. Too bad, Akpobolokemi metaphorically is the Marlow of NIMASA. Marlow captures NIMASA vividly in his narrative thus: “And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth”.
No doubt, NIMASA is set as the “darkest” parastatal or government agency in Africa today, or so the ripples suggest.
In the Beginning…
The eloquent innocence and the image of a pious pastor projected on assumption of office bellied Akpobolokemi’s aura of arrogance bandied about of late. His inaugural media briefing in Rockview Hotel, Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria was an admixture of prayer session delivered in palpable humility punctuated with a chorus of Amen! Amen! Amen! from the Journalists present and of course, a riot act to operators. By that singular act, everybody had thought that a Daniel had come to judgment at last in NIMASA.
Again, he remains the most troubled Chief Executive Officer of NIMASA being that his qualification negates the provision of NIMASA Act for a CEO. He became the DG of NIMASA without any known profile or curriculum vitae submitted or published anywhere, an absurdity that made the maritime industry go berserk. But his perceived humility and pastoral disposition endeared him to some who jumped into the ring and fought for him. He was so frustrated at a point that he threw in the towel with a ten-page resignation letter to the Minister of Transport, who urged him to continue on the strength of a flurry of positive reports in his favour. No sooner than he stabilized than he initiated the removal of the Minister and abandoned all who fought for him. It was in NIMASA that Akpobolokemi made his first foreign trip ever with his initial rejection of VISA by the U.S. Embassy on account of a virgin passport.
Soon his flabby coats of a classroom lecturer from Wilberforce University in Bayelsa State, gave way to a brand identity of a French suit he wears always and surprisingly he bought a N500 million worth of a house in Banana Island, Lagos, just in less than one year in office.
Akpobolokemi’s management style is largely defined by High Chief Government Ekpemupolo popularly called Tompolo interferences, which made it devoid of any known form or management theory, but could be best described as gangsters’ management style. The decisions of the management and the board of directors are predetermined by the caprices of Tompolo and his kitchen cabinet.
In most cases, the approvals of the board, Minister for Transport are skipped for President Goodluck Jonathan’s. Who dare complain? Everybody dreads Akpobolokemi and the shadows of Tompolo. It was this fear of the footsteps of Tompolo that made NIMASA workers leave and sleep in fear like savages.
The Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar in his early days in office would go down the lift from his office on the seventh floor of the Ministry’s building to receive Tompolo on the ground floor as he visited.
At the NIMASA head office on Burma Road Lagos, is a Barrack of Nigerian Allied Forces from the Navy, Airforce, Police, Mobile Police, Army and private security personnel as security guarding Akpobolokemi; not to secure the office. Against the wishes of the management staff, an exit and entry security barricade and a scanning machine were deployed at the reception, with Close Circuit Television (CCTV) camera mounted at every point. The big irony here is that while the physical and their spiritual security mix are protecting them, NIMASA funds are not protected. They grow wings and fly away as they come.
Staff morale is in a deep tumble. Some have been on a position for fifteen years without promotion while new ones are employed and placed above the frustrated ones.
Workers phones are bugged. They are threatened with gun and death. And he had boasted a number of times that if Jonathan returns as president he would remain in NIMASA for another four years, to make him the longest serving CEO of the agency. This is not because of good performance but control of power.
Impunity and consequences
With over 2,600 workforce of NIMASA, President Goodluck Jonathan lost over 10,000 votes from members of staff and their extended family members as a result of Akpobolokemi’s impunity in the management of the agency. In NIMASA, almost everybody that had sympathy for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) opted for the All Progressives Congress (APC), to ensure that Akpobolokemi is removed and workers liberated from “slavery”.
Akpobolokemi and Tompolo concluded plans to weed off 600 workers in different grade levels in phases to create room for their choice of new employees, without the approval of the Minister and the board. They got direct approval of the President who advised that they wait until after the election. Testifying to this, one of the workers disclosed to MMS Plus Weekly, “Can you believe that he has a new condition of service which he has kept to himself and the Director of Administration and Personnel (DAP), Mr. Felix Nabena, waiting to begin its implementation when President Jonathan returns? Already, they had told the President that 80 percent of NIMASA workforce is old and useless to the agency. They had concluded their plans to sack us. The first plan was to lay off 132 workers who have stayed from 20 years and above. Another phase is to sack those who are 50 years of age and above”.
Before the Presidential election took place the former Minister of State for Niger-Delta, Elder Godswill Orubebe had sent eight candidates of Niger-Delta descent to NIMASA to be employed as Assistant Directors. They have been employed without any interviews. Meanwhile, promotion interviews have been conducted twice since Akpos assumed office without results or action in respect of the old staff most of whom have been denied their promotion privileges.
In a comment sent to MMS Plus Weekly. The commentator stated: “One named Felix is being ‘prepared’ to take over from the DG when he and all his Executive Directors would be sacked anytime after May 29, 2015. The 1972 born man has been ‘promoted’ to the post of a substantive Director of Admin and Personnel on GL 17 step 7 thereby making him the most “senior” Director in the agency. This is against all known public and civil service rules and provisions. In the agency, there are at least 5 long standing officers who had been GL 16 for 10 years or more who had been side-lined in preference for DG’s new employees! Injustice! This must not be allowed to stand”.
In a formal protest letter to the Minister of Transport, titled: Re: complaint about absurd personal management practice by the Executive Management of NIMASA written by a group of concerned workers, “from 2010 when the present Executive Management assumed office, Appointments, Promotions and Discipline took a new dimension that is not only dangerous but a path of total destruction of the system. The approach by the new team from 2010 turned logic upside down in personnel practice. It is on record that the Director General conducted personnel management as a personal and private business where all known procedures and relevant establishment committees in decision making process on personnel matters are set aside”.
Coming in Heart of Darkness
- Why Capt. Romeo Itima was killed
- Those behind NIMASA illegal London House
- How funds are looted, etc.