Dr. Dakuku Peterside is a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). In this exclusive interview with MMS Plus, he speaks on several pertinent issues in the nation’s maritime sector. Enjoy it!
Several factors have been identified as limitations in Nigeria’s quest to get into the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Governing Council. As someone who led the last outing, what is your take on the issue?
This issue is more about the perception of Nigeria in the international shipping community. If we talk about turnaround time, Nigeria has a better turnaround time than most of the countries that were elected in 2019. On the issue of tonnage, Liberia has tonnage and ranks on number 3 or 4 in the world, yet they were voted out. Liberia has no shipping line of its own but it runs an open ship registry.
Kenya owns a shipping line, but their tonnage isn’t even near half of Nigeria’s. Kenya also has no ship building activity as the country possesses only one ship repair facility. Meanwhile, the best ship turnaround time in Africa is attained in Egypt. These are issues many people aren’t aware of when they speak in public outings and they make some postulations that are based on ignorance.
It is unfortunate that some of the people who call themselves stakeholders in Nigeria’s shipping industry don’t know these things. So, when they speak it’s from a position of ignorance and it is either they don’t know this is what they are doing or they are just driven by the excitement to make public statements. Most stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime sector just want to make a public show with their comments.
There have been postulations that NIMASA lacks the legal powers to go into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to manage the floating dock, what’s your take on this?
Firstly, I want to know the government agencies that have legal backing to do PPP. There is no agency that has such legal provisions for PPP. Nigeria has a PPP law and the law says that if an agency can enter into a contract with a private entity, the framework is provided by the distinct law. This law applies to every Nigerian agency that has powers to enter into a contract.
PPP is a type of contract or partnership that allows agencies to dispose of assets or attain specific tasks. Since the NIMASA Act shows that the agency has powers to enter into partnership, the agency can go into a PPP. It is also important to note that there are different types of partnerships. I don’t know why former directors and former Director Generals will be making arguments that NIMASA lacks powers to do PPP. Why would NIMASA want to do something that is outside its legal purview?
Meanwhile, I was also perplexed to read the position attributed to the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), where the President said it seems the government procured the floating dock without going through proper public procurement procedure. I think there is a mix-up between public procurement and a partnership. Public procurement means I want to buy something on behalf of the government or an agency and I follow all the due processes; however, it isn’t the same thing as doing an investigation to know whether there was a need for that item in the first place.
An evaluation of whether Nigeria needed a floating dock is different from the procurement process. If I wake up one morning and decide to buy an airplane without really finding out why that plane is important, I’ve made a mistake with my hasty decision but the process with which I acquire the airplane can be right. Those who initiated the floating dock idea may not have considered if NIMASA really needed to acquire the floating dock. They may not have thoroughly thought about the benefits, advantages and constraints, but the process of acquiring the floating dock was the correct one. This, however, doesn’t take away the fact that NIMASA had no need for that asset.
MMS Plus was privileged to be the last media organization you granted an interview before you left NIMASA. In that interview, you said you had finalized the process with NPA to have the floating dock operational. Almost 18 months later, nothing has happened with new management, what transpired afterwards?
We had almost concluded an arrangement with NPA and Continental Shipyard on this issue. However, Jamoh told me that after I left, it took a while before he eventually got her to agree on the arrangement. After she agreed, the next thing was to finalize how to operate the floating dock and they were to set-up a special purpose vehicle. This special purpose vehicle should be made up of three groups, NIMASA which owns the asset, NPA who owns the Continental Shipyard and a private operator which they are yet to hire.
They were working on this when some issues came up and the management of Continental Shipyard who leased the facility from NPA challenged NPA on several issues. Apparently, these operators have put some investment in the area and they wanted NPA to give them their money or something to address that. So, NPA was having these challenges while the framework for the floating dock was still being developed.
All these were taking place when the NPA boss, Hadiza started having her challenges and the war of survival literally stopped everything they had agreed on as she had to fight for her office. That was what happened, but everybody is pained about the floating dock because it accounts for millions wasted every day.
I know that everybody is pained by the circumstances surrounding the floating dock and the last time I spoke with Jamoh I knew he was also perplexed by the development.
What advice do you have for the nation amid plans for IMO Council elections later this year?
If IMO was about tonnage, Nigeria has more tonnage than some nations in Category C of IMO Council. Nigeria’s biggest challenge has been the issue of piracy and maritime crimes. Most nations didn’t want to see Nigeria in that IMO Council because of their perception of the country. However, Nigeria is beginning to make efforts to change that narrative.
The impact of Deep Blue Project is something that the world is looking at and nations are attesting to the peace in the area. The truth is that it may not really be the Project that has caused the tranquility but the criminals’ perception is that they need to slow down because they don’t know what it is. If they watch and observe that the Deep Blue Project isn’t doing any magic, they would come back. So, the Project has to be strategic and really geared towards policing the area.
Nigeria has also put laws in place to prosecute pirates. The international community can see that Nigeria is addressing this problem of insecurity in the maritime sector.
Another concern is the manner with which vessels are treated in Nigeria; from the agencies that inspect to those who collect duties, the turnaround time and delays. Every vessel returns to the mother nation with information that formulates the perception of Nigeria. There is no way these issues wouldn’t affect the perception of Nigeria’s maritime domain. When a vessel comes into Nigeria and over 10 agencies have to go onboard for inspection, there is a problem because no ship experiences such inconveniences in other nations. Things are also done manually in Nigeria and the total experience of those who are into shipping in Nigeria isn’t something to write home about. Consequently, they give feedback to their home nations and these countries become worried that Nigerians are hostile and problematic.
These are issues that the international community has been very concerned about. As it affects maritime security, Nigeria is being treated as the Afghanistan of shipping. The nation was seen as a place where pirates are bred. The menace of world piracy moved from Somalia to Nigeria.
In the last few years, I must confess that Nigeria didn’t have quality representatives at the IMO. When Nigerian representatives speak at IMO, people wonder what they are talking about because the foreigners are getting different feedback from their operators and the Nigerian representatives ought to bring feedback. When they speak at IMO, they say the wrong things and I was aware of this, but I couldn’t just abruptly remove them. This was a serious challenge for Nigeria at the IMO, but the new representative is by far a better representative than his predecessors. I think that Nigeria is beginning to get things right at the IMO but it is too short to get the best at this election. If we don’t get into the Council this year, we should be able to get in by 2023 barring any unforeseen political circumstances.
Today, Nigeria has quality representatives at the IMO and we are handling the issues of maritime security. Ease of doing business in shipping hasn’t been attained but we are making efforts to address this area also. These are the core fundamentals and we are beginning to get them right.