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Leadership Review: Unveiling NIMASA’s 7000 Seafarers’ Scam

Leadership Review: Unveiling NIMASA’s 7000 Seafarers’ Scam

·   Foreign partners are ready, NIMASA can’t provide seafarers

·   End-User Certificates, how the NSA is involved – Freight Agents

By Kenneth Jukpor

There are indications that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has been fooling the nation with claims that over 10,000 Nigerian seafarers were placed onboard vessels in the last six years.

Few months after the exit of Dr. Dakuku Peterside as Director General of NIMASA, MMS Plus findings show that his regime was one of the most covert and misleading administrations with regards to seafarers’ development.

Recall that Dr. Dakuku Peterside scored his administration as the most successful in seafarers’ development asserting that over 7,000 Nigerian seafarers were placed onboard vessels in 2019 alone.

Dakuku’s words: “We placed over 7,000 seafarers onboard vessels in 2019. That is the highest record by any country in Africa in a single year. Let those who want to contradict me do so with statistics. We can publish the names of these seafarers and the vessels month by month. The Executive Director, Maritime Labour, Mr. Gambo Ahmed can confirm this.”

“There is no controversy about this because human beings are easy to count. Anybody can access the record of the Maritime Services department at NIMASA and they can give month by month placement and vessel by vessel placement. These details are verifiable. It would cost a lot to put an advert on the names of individuals, vessels and months on the national dailies, otherwise we would have published it. People can get these details from NIMASA.”

Meanwhile, companies which won the contracts to place seafarers onboard vessels lament that nothing was done to reflect the numbers churned out by NIMASA in 2019 as well as the previous years.

Our correspondent also received documents indicating that a current Executive Director at NIMASA, had won bids but never executed the contracts to train Nigerian seafarers.

A source who confirmed this to MMS Plus admonished industry stakeholders to investigate if any placement was done after the company won the bid.

Industry experts have urged the current Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh to prioritize nation building by placing Nigerian seafarers onboard vessels instead of repeating the gimmicks of the previous administration, which he was part of as Executive Director, Finance and Administration.

Narrating her ordeal in a bid to get seafarers onboard vessels for Employment Clinic, Ms. Ronke Kosoko said, “I tried to dismantle the conspiracies over the lives of 2,500 Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) youths. I kept pushing across board to have a session with the Director General of NIMASA, Dakuku buy into the initiative.”

“Europe was already test running autonomous vessels with no human involvement. So, I was working to navigate the teeming young Nigerian seafarers out of the unending and highly complicated conspiracies militating against their compulsory Sea-time Training and employment but it didn’t work”

Employment Clinic was one of the companies which won a bid for the placement of seafarers onboard vessels for mandatory sea-time training in 2016 but the contract was never awarded.

According to her, there are many foreign partners willing to assist Nigeria via international maritime engagements including Seatime Training, but the bureaucracies and politicking in NIMASA drive away such partners.

“A German partner brought a Holland ship management company with 1,100 vessels to the table and another $20Million, but NIMASA couldn’t facilitate it. There is also another Briton who brought a German company with 200 vessels to the table and they are all looking at Nigeria like a foolish set of people who can’t get anything done no matter how much they try to help the country, there is also another German who brought another German company doing €850Million annual turnover to the table”, she lamented.

Recall that the Chief Executive Officer, Oceanic Energy Limited, Capt. Taiwo Akinpelumi during an appraisal of the Dakuku-led administration, debunked the agency’s claim that over 7,000 cadets were engaged in 2019.

According to Capt. Akinpelumi, who is also a Steering Committee member of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Dakuku had lied to the industry about the training and placement of seafarers.

“Dakuku took the industry stakeholders as fools. He would look at us at event and be lying with these insane figures. Where are these seafarers that were trained or given jobs? Dakuku did not make any clear or concerted effort towards the development of local capacity; it was all motion and no moment. His incompetence didn’t allow him to have full appreciation of what is required to build capacity for the indigenous shipping,” he told our correspondent.

Industry observers have lampooned NIMASA for its inability to provide proof of the seafarers trained, amount used in training them, vessels and shipping companies engaged for the services.

Meanwhile, Nigerian seafarers under the aegis of Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria (MESAN) have urged the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Jamoh to correct the unemployment challenge facing seafarers.

The Secretary of MESAN, Capt Alfred Oniye made this appeal recently, even as he described Jamoh as an in house personality with rich understanding of the maritime industry.

“Dr. Jamoh is an in house person and he knows the industry very well. If he wants to perform in office, he knows what to do. He is not an operational person but he is an in-house person that knows the agency very well and the problems on ground”

“He knows that over 70 percent of Nigerian seafarers are not employed. He knows that the Cabotage law must be enforced. He knows all these issues and can work towards addressing them, except he does not want to work”

In another development, the office of National Security Adviser (NSA) has been accused of perpetuating illegality and extorting port users with End-User Certificates (EUC) demanded by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) during clearance of goods.

Freight agents have called on the Nigerian National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (Rtd), to jettison the EUC requirements as it was not recognized by law.

Cargo evacuation has been stalled across the nation’s ports in recent times following Customs demand for EUC on products, leading to delays and high storage charges on importers and freight agents.

Although the NSA website for EUC states that the process is free, MMS Plus investigations reveal that several freight agents and importers spend a minimum of N1million as unreceipted payments to process EUC and evade colossal charges for storage at the terminals.

Speaking MMS Plus newspaper on this, the Cordinator of Save Nigeria Importers, Exporters and Freight Forwarders Coalition (SNIEFFC) Dr. Osita Chukwu said, “There is no portion of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) that instructs Customs to request End-User Certificates.”

“Customs claim that the National Security Adviser (NSA) asks them to demand it. I started hearing about this development for a while but I only waited to have firsthand experience on this. The situation has worsened and I recently had my container intercepted for EUC but these are private items that don’t require any authority.”

“If I want to buy a bullet-proof car, do I really need EUC? The essence of the car is to secure me, so what’s the need of EUC? The government never had any engagement with port users on this EUC. It is illegal because it is neither contained in CEMA or any law,” Chukwu said.

According to him, most importers don’t even know what EUC is, yet freight agents are being coaxed into dispensing monies to process the documents.

“The NSA cannot use that office and its personal interest to the detriment of national economic building. If NSA feels that EUC is necessary for cargo clearance, they should go about this the proper way through the National Assembly and do the needful to get it passed as a law. There should be a public hearing on EUC before the Senate proceeds to pass it into law. Immediately it is signed as a law, I would have no problem with it. Until that time, EUC is fraud and illegal,” he added.

When contacted, a former President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Chief Eugene Nweke described the corruption in processing EUC as a reflection of the corrupt system at Nigerian ports.

“If any charge should be collected to process EUC, it should be administrative charges and the charge should be minimal. However, the millions being paid to NSA are unreceipted and would always be waved as an allegation. Freight agents always move about with huge money to engage Customs, terminals and shipping companies; but they all claim to be saints. They don’t collect bribes. So, who collects the monies carried about by agents,” Nweke queried.

According to him, EUC was necessary to regulate the use of imported security materials, guns, bullet-proof cars and other sensitive materials for the safety of the nation.

The President, Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics in Nigeria (APFFLON) Mr. Frank Ogunojemite posited that some freight agents spend over N2million processing EUC and still fail to get it done.

He stressed that NSA and Customs should create awareness campaigns to enlighten freight forwarders on the procedures to apply for EUC before the consignments arrive, noting that the items which need EUC for clearance should also be stipulated.

“This is a huge challenge at the ports that could be addressed with sufficient stakeholders’ engagement on the issue. A lot of people don’t know about this EUC and it is causing additional charges as storage at the ports,” he told MMS Plus.

Shipping experts have queried the rationale behind issuance of EUC by the NSA, arguing that the EUC should come from the importers and shippers who are really the end-users of the products.

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