By Kenneth Jukpor
The recent announcement that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) remitted a mammoth N20billion to the Federal Government covers in 2017 has attracted wide criticisms with industry experts lambasting the development as bad omen for the nation’s maritime sector.
NIMASA made this disclosure on Thursday last week, in a press release signed by the Head of Corporate Communications Mr. Isichei Osamgbi, stressing that the agency has become one of the leading parastatals of the government on account of its huge contribution to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).
However, industry stakeholders have dismissed claims that the financial re-engineering at the agency should be commended, lamenting that several segments of the nation’s maritime sector was been starved of requisite funding.
Reacting to this development, the President of Marine Club of Nigeria (MCN), Dr. Chinedu Jideofo said, “We are compelled to once more ask what is the primary purpose of maritime agencies, including NIMASA?”
Noting that the N20 billion to the Federation Account in 2017 alone was an increase by 567% from N3billion in 2016, Dr. Jideofo stated; “We do not see any rationale in NIMASA remitting anything to the Federation Account when the maritime industries are starved of funding. Take the case of waterway, road, air approaches to sea/air/land ports and the ports themselves, and how has ‘Federation Account’ helped to rebuild Apapa/Tin Can Island roads, Port Harcourt and Enugu airports, MAN-Oron, for example.”
He maintained that the primary purpose of NIMASA wasn’t to indulge in some competition on remittances to the Federation Account, but to develop and expand the maritime economy, which the Government (Federation Account) would benefit from indirectly through employments, infrastructural facilities, taxes, among others.
The maritime expert, in an article titled; ‘Remittances Of Maritime Agencies To The Federation Account; Position Of Marine Club Of Nigeria (MCN)’ stated that “Granted, the agencies need approval by the Federal Executive Council to spend on such huge capital projects (even though we don’t think that FEC is an appropriate body for approval of any maritime expenditure), but we are not satisfied that the agencies have been as interested in making those critical maritime project-proposals as in impressing the Federal Government with humongous remittances to the Federation Account”
“These humongous remittances are also a reflection of the fact that essential maritime projects and programmes that fell within approval limits of agency CEOs, agency boards and supervising ministers of the maritime agencies had suffered some neglect or starvation”
He argued that as soon as those public-sector earning enter into Federation Account, the benefit is lost to other sectors that become envious of the needs of the maritime economy.
Highlighting some of aspects of the sector which needs massive injection of capital, he mentioned the revamping of Nigeria’s moribund refining sector, maritime production facilities such as shipbuilding and fabrication yards, functional free trade zones across Nigeria, functional and more refineries, at least 10 big training vessels attached to seafaring schools, better and more maritime universities and academies, among others.
“Nigerian Maritime Economy (NIME) also needs regularly dredged and maintained waterways, standard and functional river ports, enhanced fishery and mineral resources, acquisition of Nigerian-owned and Nigerian-registered vessels” he added.
Similarly, a former Executive Director of NIMASA, Engr. Oliver Ogbuagu told our correspondent that NIMASA’s action to remit N20billion to the Federal Government covers was a mere show-off by the Managing Director of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
Ogbuagu who is the Director General of the Nigerian Indigenous Ship-owners Association (NISA) said; “It hurts those of us in NISA that NIMASA holes up the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) that is meant to acquire Cabotage vessels not Foreign Going Vessels in their vault, yet it engages in this show of “I’m performing CEO” when in reality the sector is fast slipping into extinction. Maritime sector is not a political gaming machine; it requires huge capital to keep it moving”
“In the face of the dwindling fortunes of shipping, maritime sector and the nation’s blue economy; of what use is the remittances that do not address the many financial related challenges in the industry” he queried.
Last week, NIMASA’s Director-General posited that the increased revenue generated in 2017 was a product of the elimination of financial leakages, “We subscribed to a full bouquet of the Lloyds and Clarkson intelligence; this made it almost impossible for any vessel calling at our ports to escape or under declare; the TSA and our collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service among other agencies also played an important role.”