By Omoh Gabriel
When Dr. Bashir Jamoh took over as Director General NIMASA many stakeholders saw it as a healthy development as he has grown through the system. Little did maritime pundits realised that he was strategic game and team player. He through his expertise has grown the revenue of the agency has has prudently managed its expenses that more than any other years before him the agency has contributed to the federation account through surplus remittances. In 2029, the agency remitted N24.78 billion into the federation account. In 2020 however the remittance moved up to N31.842 billion, in 2021 the remittance jumped to N37.76 billion and between January and June 2022 the remittance inched up to N30.33 billion. It is no surprise that both local and international community are commending the Jamoh for froglifting the agency.
Several international organisation including the United States of America Coast Guard have written to commend the Agency and Nigeria for the bold step and measures put in place in the last three years. One of such was the letter written by Secretary General International Maritime Organisation Mr. Kitack Lim which reads “It was a pleasure to meet you again virtually on 21 May 2020 in your new capacity at the helm of NIMASA. Thank you once again for the update provided on the efforts taken by Nigeria to address maritime security threats in the region. I commend your leadership and proactive response. I would also like to reiterate my congratulations to the Nigerian Navy on the successful capture and arrest of pirates from the fishing trawler Hailurfeng11, and more recently on the rescue of the crew members of the containership Tommi Ritscher. Those actions, together with all the other initiatives you highlighted in our meeting, including progress with the Deep Blue Project, send a strong an valuable message to the international community with respect to the considerable efforts your government is making to curb piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Gulf of Guinea. I look forward to continuing to work with you and NIMASA on this important priority, and remain available to discuss any further progress and development in the region”
It was no surprise to observers that Nigeria was removed from the list of countries designated as risk maritime nations by the International Bargaining Forum, IBF. This is a confirmation of the improved global ratings of Security in Nigerian maritime domain as a result of sustained collaborative efforts of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy. The International Bargaining Forum, IBF, which is a body that brings together the International Transport Federation, ITF, and the international maritime employers that make up the Joint Negotiating Group, JNG, listed 5 designated risk areas and applicable benefits in the event of attacks leading to deaths and disability, mentioning the Gulf of Guinea as second extended war risk zone covering Liberia/Ivory Coast border to 00°N 005°E, to the Angola/ Namibia border. This development had made shipping to Nigeria very expensive. But with the removal indications are that freight charges will be lowered for Nigeria shippers.
The Director General of NIMASA Dr Bashir Jamoh OFR, while reacting to the IBF report described it as a landmark achievement under the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR. “This achievement is a product of a well-structured multimodal policy which has been implemented over the years to fight piracy and other criminalities in Nigerian Waters. The Legal instrument called SPOMO Act signed into Law by President Buhari in 2019, the full implementation of the Deep Blue Project by NIMASA, expanded assets and capacity of the Nigerian Navy, enhanced cooperation between NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy, and the regional collaborative efforts under the umbrella of SHADE Gulf of Guinea midwifed by NIMASA, are all policies of the current administration and the benefits are gradually coming to fruition. We are focused on ultimately improving and reducing the cost of commercial shipping in Nigeria”. He had said.
Notable maritime institutions like the International Maritime Bureau, IMB, and the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, have lauded the reduction in piracy in Nigeria following enhanced patrol and relevant Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered by NIMASA with other security agencies. The 2023 IBF list called for double compensation for seafarers who die or suffer disability on the date of attack on vessels in the Gulf of Guinea. The Federal Executive Council, at the end of the last quarter of 2021, had approved the wreck removals from Badagry axis up to the Tincan Island, the project has gone very far. In the first quarter of 2022, the Federal Executive Council approved the removal of the entire wrecks also in the other zones of Nigeria, comprising Western zone with headquarters in Lagos, Eastern zone headquarters in Port Harcourt and then central Zone headquarters in Warri. All these projects have achieved major milestones.
NIMASA under Jamoh engaged the Nigerian Navy Naval Dockyard in Lagos to repair its operational vessels, Millennia 1 and Millennium 2. Today both vessels and five others are almost ready for deployment for enforcement purposes. This will also enhance its search and rescue operation, port and flag state administration amongst others. In other to attend to the emergencies that may occur after a Search and Rescue Operations, the Agency has built two brand new Search and Base clinic of international standard at Azare Crescent, Apapa and Kirikiri. It is hopeful to commission it soon. The hospital is not for NIMASA or Nigeria, but original Regional States as NIMASA is in charge of nine countries in terms of Search and Rescue. The hospital is of high international standard, that hope to treat all calibers of patients locally, and internationally, with the state of the arts equipment, the facility will possess, when completed. In the area our Flag and Port State Administration, at the inception of the administration, there was no single vessel for enforcement. Today, NIMASA has built seven brand new bullet proofs boats and we expect them to have completed the building.
They are being built in Spain, and we are hoping that before the end of March, we will receive and commission the vessel. As soon as the vessels are commissioned, there will be enhanced enforcement performance; and we plan to divide the use of the vessels; not only in Lagos, but also to other zones of the Agency. All these will cater for the issue of safety.
Before 2019, Nigeria did not have separate law that tried this offenders and criminals that were involved in piracy and kidnapping. Therefore, NIMASA tried to get this formal act Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Related Offences (SPOMO) Act signed by Mr. President in June 2019. As of today it has secured convictions under this Act. This has also served as a deterrent to would be criminals. To further deter these criminalities on the waterways and make Nigerian youths gainfully employed, the Agency engaged the Marine Litter Marshals Usually; in the area of education, the Agency introduced the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP). The Nigerian NSDP development program is a capacity development programme.
Now in order to ensure that NIMASA did not forget its own training institution in Nigeria, it has improved its interface with the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron. The Agency’s statutory funding of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron has been on point since 2020. NIMASA has Simulators, among other state of the art facilities, and the funding by NIMASA has been unhindered. This is in addition to other private maritime institutions, the private like Charkins, they are now also coming up with a lot of accreditation of diplomas and other short-term certificates that we are doing it locally, saving foreign exchange that we are having. In addition to this initiative, the Agency created skill acquisition centres across six geopolitical zones. For the South-West we have Lagos, in the South-East we have Anambra, for South-South we have Bayelsa, for North-East, we have Maiduguri, Borno state; for North-West we have Kaduna State for North Central we have Kwara.
So all this skill acquisition centres have the capacity of training younger Nigerians on different aspects of professionalism under that. This is to help trim the number of this criminality in our own territorial waters. Records therefore shows that from third quarter of 2021 until date, we have never recorded one single attack in our own territorial water. From the very start of his assuming office, as a maritime practitioner, Jamoh knew where the shoe pitches. There has been unhealthy rivalry among the various federal agencies charged with the responsibility of managing the Nigerian maritime domain. This rivalry resulted in non cooperation of the agencies and non performance giving rise to insecurity in the water ways and maritime space.
As soon as Jamoh took office, he sought the cooperation of all agencies in the maritime sector as well as those in security sector of the nation economy. In his view, it was necessary for the agencies to cooperate in order to reduce the level of piracy that was giving the nation a very bad image. “What ever happened in the Gulf of Guinea was attributed to Nigeria” he said. Jamoh took it upon himself to bring NIMASA, Shippers’s Council, Navy, Police, Customs and the armed forces to work together and collaborate to ensure that the Nigeria maritime space is safe. His unique approach has started to yield dividend as the level of piracy has dropped lower and the International Maritime Organisation has commended Nigeria for the success in reducing the level of piracy in its high seas. Giving a brief on the success achieved by NIMASA in 2021, Dr. Bashir Jamoh said that there was an increase of 43.6% in condition survey for Flag Registration by the Agency in year 2021 as against the performance in year 2020.
NIMASA he said also recorded an improved Port State Control (PSC) implementation with 24.2% higher than the PSC inspections of year 2020. Dr. Jamoh said that despite the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Agency ensured improved Port and Flag State Administration in accordance with the safety requirements of the Merchant Shipping Act 2007. A breakdown of the figures shows that in 2020, the Agency carried out condition survey of vessels under Flag Registration for 276 vessels, while in 2021, the figure increased to 489, representing a 43.6% improvement. Port State Control implementation by NIMASA in year 2021 was assessed onboard 673 vessels which was a marked improvement on the 510 Vessels Boarded for Port State inspection in year 2020 representing a 24.2% increment. Jamoh said that the Agency reactivated the online portal for stakeholders to verify Nigerian Certificate(s) of Competency CoC from any part of the world. “The online certificate verification platform was reactivated last year to reduce falsification of Nigerian Seafarers Certificate and enhance the employment of Nigerian Seafarers. “we experienced rejection of Nigerian Seafarers both locally and internationally and the Agency decided to introduce the online certificate verification platform which allows shipowners to easily authenticate CoC’s from the comfort of their electronic devices.”
Last year while raising concern over the percentage of failures recorded for Nigerian seafarers who sat for the Certificate of Competency examination last year, Dr Jamoh announced that the Agency has commenced investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the trend with a view to addressing it holistically. In year 2021, NIMASA signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU with the Maritime Transport Coordination Center (MTCC), for capacity development to address the need for reduction of Green House Gas emission in the maritime industry with emphasis on achieving 0.5% Sulphur Oxide in Bunker fuel. “our laboratory is already completed and we hope to enter a public private partnership arrangement this year to manage the laboratory for optimal utilisation. The Agency also carried out 20 marine accident investigations in 2021, as against 18 in the year 2020, while also enforcing safety regulations on barges and tugboats under the code name; Operation Sting Ray.
The NIMASA helmsman said further that the Agency took delivery of more Deep Blue Project Assets, which was flagged-off by President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that some of these assets have been deployed to the Nigerian Navy for its operational use. Accordingly, he said “the Agency is collaborating with major international stakeholders in the maritime sector in other to entrench coordinated response to piracy and other criminalities on the Nigerian waters and prompt reportage and escalation of marine incidences to where action is most expected and to provide navigational advisory to mariners”, Jamoh added. Speaking further, He noted the Agency’s commitment to improved strategic collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Airforce, the Nigerian Police, Nigerian Army and the office of the National Security Adviser. This move, Jamoh noted has helped to reduce piracy attacks off the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, as there were no single attack on Nigerian waters in the 3rd quarter of 2021, as reported by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
Dr Jamoh also disclosed that the Deep Blue Project is enjoying international support as the Korean Government has donated a vessel to support the project. He also disclosed that the Regional Maritime Awareness Center (RMAC), is being upgraded to SEA VISION to allow for monitoring of vessels along West and Central Central Africa Region. In a related development, the NIMASA DG also hinted that the Agency’s contribution to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the Federal Government, increased from figures hovering around 31 billion in 2020 to about 37 billion in year 2021. Dr. Jamoh used the opportunity to appreciate the media for their objective reportage and constructive criticism which he said is good for the industry and Nigeria as a whole. He further assured that in 2022, the Agency would consolidate on the gains of the past years, with improved collaboration with all stakeholders in the industry, aimed at utilising ocean-based resources for the good of the Nigerian economy.