Dr. Bashir Jamoh is the Executive Director, Finance and Administration at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). After his investiture ceremony as President of the Chartered Institute of Transport Administrators (CIoTA) Nigeria, he granted an exclusive interview to MMS Plus where he revealed his blueprint for CIoTA under his leadership even as he analyzed other pertinent maritime issues.
You talked about collaborating with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to address Apapa Traffic. Can you throw more light on this?
We are going to collaborate with them. We intend to schedule a timetable and we would liaise with the NYSC so that they could release some of the Corp members while we would also partner with the FRSC to train the Corp members. We believe this could be a short term measure to restoring order to the Apapa port access roads.
Prof. Pat Utomi blamed transport experts and professionals for the myriad of challenges in the nation’s transport sector, admonishing professionals to engage the government and stakeholders more. As a body of professionals, can CIoTA live up to this challenge?
Nowadays, it isn’t appropriate for us to be too theoretical because we must analyze issues to address the peculiar problems or challenges in the nation’s transport sector. It is the onus of the professional bodies to develop ideas and strategies to solving the numerous transport problems in the country. I’m impressed that various professional bodies are developing a robust team of professionals that can channel their heart and skills to develop the transport industry via regulation, professionalism and policies.
At CIoTA, we have developed a short term, medium and long term plan to resolve the Apapa traffic situation. We have discussed the short term plan which would involve the NYSC and FRSC to reduce the congestion with the human factor. This is what we envisage as immediate solution to the task of solving the Apapa gridlock which Prof. Utomi also gave us.
In the medium term, the option is the railway which the Federal Government has given requisite attention under this administration. We are talking about intermodal transportation and the rail plays a very crucial part in this. Recall that last year the President gave a direction that all port states should be linked with a rail line. We can efficiently utilize the rail lines to lift cargoes from the ports and this will reduce the volume of trucks on the roads. Piping would also be adopted to move petroleum products to other states rather than tankers.
Ferry service is also another option in the nation’s transport sector which hasn’t been maximized. If the opportunities inherent in the waterways are harnessed in Lagos alone for passengers and cargoes, we would discover that the sub-sector alone has the capacity to increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. It would generate significant employment and revenue for a number of people and this would defect on the GDP. This is an eye-opener and CIoTA intends to develop a paper on this to guide the Federal Government on this.
The long term solution would be the expansion of our ports. Most of the ports we have in the country were built decades ago and the population of the country as well as the volume of the activities at the ports has increased significantly. The size of the economy has also increased, yet, the port infrastructure has not been developed to meet the standards or volume of activities at the ports.
When you look at Badagry in Lagos, up to Calabar, there is 852km shoreline, so we can expand our ports. This can be done through the use of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). The government doesn’t have to spend so much money. What is has to do is to provide the necessary infrastructure and the security to encourage investors. This would bring a lot of economic enhancement and provide jobs of the teeming youths in the country. Unemployment is the big challenge that has pushed many Nigerian youths into lots of criminal activities but this would be addressed to a large extent with bigger ports that would provide employment opportunities. It would also help in reducing the cost of things that we produce locally in Nigeria.
How would you rate the problem of security on Nigerian waters and what is NIMASA doing about it?
On the aspect of maritime security, NIMASA has been doing a lot and it just recently graduated some students in terms of expertise trained by Israelis to see how they could address the issue of piracy on Nigerian waters.
The problem of piracy has led the country to pay huge amount as insurance premiums and extra war risk charges as mist countries don’t want to come to Nigeria. If they gave to come, we have to pay huge freight for the purpose of security and these costs are transferred to the end users of the goods and services.
By the time we put all these in place and continue to engage the stakeholders on the headway for the industry; most of these challenges would be addressed.
You talked about funding at CIoTA. How do you intend to get the requisite funds needed for the smooth running of the association?
We have to look for alternative sources of income for the association. We have lots of Professors and other veterans that could do research and produce intellectual materials that could be sold to generate funds for the association. These are people that could do relevant research work internationally and locally.
When I talked about funding, I also mentioned the membership which includes students, individual members as well as corporate bodies. We can be able to finance our activities solely rather than rely on the government. If we choose to rely on the government then nothing may be done.
Recently, you pointed out the lack of synergy or unity as a major problem in the maritime sector which has stalled the disbursement of CVFF. You also promised to engage all ship owners to work together, have you been able to achieve this?
When I made my remarks about the absence of collaboration it was independent of the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF). CVFF isn’t the responsibility of NIMASA; the agency only collects the money. It is the responsibility of the Minister of Transportation to give directives on the mode of disbursing the fund.
The issue of non-synergy is an independent issue from non-disbursement. The non-disbursement has its peculiar problems which predates this current administration. The Transport Minister continues to stress that in the past people were given monies that they never returned so he is very skeptical about disbursing CVFF.
However, he admonished the ship-owners to come together to prove to him that they wouldn’t misuse and mismanage the fund as they did with the Ship Building and Ship Acquisition fund. That is on the area of CVFF.
On the aspect of synergy, I did state that they must come together. One for all and all for one; so that they could pressurize those of us in government to ensure that what they want as a group is what they are given. This would be more result-oriented than coming in silos. When they come united with one purpose and to address one issue at a time, they can prioritize what they want and the government has to listen. For instance, we have ship building industry but nothing is happening there; if you take the entire fund in CVFF and put it in the ship building industry it would go nowhere. The ship building industry would swallow the fund without any meaningful impact. If you take the fund and decide to use it to but vessels, what kind of vessels would you buy? How much is the money and how many vessels could it buy? It is the duty of ship-owners to be united and agree on the area where the fund has to address now. This is what I meant and not that the fund wasn’t disbursed because of the non-cooperation or non-synergy.
When I read the misrepresentation on some of the papers as well as the reactions from some stakeholders, I was almost forced to react but I later decided to leave the issue.
Certainly, if ship-owners come together and pressurize the government it would also help technically to disburse the fund but that isn’t the issue. Again, it is not the job of NIMASA to disburse the fund so I’m not the right person to say why it hasn’t been disbursed. This is under the purview of the Minister so I can’t dabble into that area.