The former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Ade Dosunmu has kicked against the propose merger of NIMASA with the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
The erstwhile NIMASA helmsman flayed the idea of merging the three government agencies in the name of revenue generation.
In a statement issued in Lagos and made available to Maritime Bits Dosunmu said: “My attention has been drawn to speculation purported to have emanated from the Presidential Policy Advisory group erroneously classifying the NIMASA as a revenue generating agency, thereby proposing a merger of NIMASA, Customs and FIRS. It is a very serious misconception and dangerous for the future of shipping/ Maritime industry in Nigeria”.
Giving an insight into his position, he said: “NIMASA was created in 2007 following the merger of National Maritime Authority (NMA) and Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council (JOMALIC) deriving its powers from Merchant Shipping Act, 2007, NIMASA Act, 2007 and Coastal and Inland shipping (cabotage) Act, 2003. The agency is a maritime safety administration responsible for regulating shipping activities in Nigeria with a view to achieving safer shipping and cleaner oceans as mandated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) through its various Conventions and Protocols”.
According to him, the enabling acts give NIMASA statutory powers as specified by international conventions and protocols for the enthronement of global best practices in ensuring safety of navigation and prevention/control of marine pollution in the shipping industry as regulated by the IIMO in which Nigeria is a member state. The agency also has responsibility for development of indigenous shipping capacity.
Dosunmu who was prior to his appointment was the Executive Director, Finance and Administration in NIMASA explained that IMO is an organ of the United Nations (UN) charged with the responsibility of regulating global shipping trade with special focus on safety of navigation and prevention of marine pollution as contained in the UN convention on the law of the Sea, (UNCLOS). He noted that Article 194, 211, 212, of UNCLOS specifically mandates states to adopt laws and regulations for the prevention, reduction and control of pollution of the marine environment from vessels flying their flags or of their registry.
His words: “The IMO has 167 maritime nations as members including Nigeria due to our vast maritime coastline. It issues conventions and protocols which all members’ state assent to, regulating global shipping trade. Such conventions as Marine Pollution Prevention (MARPOL), and its various annexures, that is discharging of oily waste, noxious substances and dangerous goods, discharging of sewage, garbage including plastics, air emission, and so on. Other conventions like London Protocol on Prohibition of Dumping of Waste in the Marine Environment, International Convention on Wreck Removal (Nairobi Convention), Training and Certification of Seafarer (STCW ’95), Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS), Convention on Ship Recycling to Ensure Environmental Sound Practices (Hong Kong) Convention, to mention just a few”.
According to him, all these convention have been domesticated in Nigeria and NIMASA is the focal agency for implementation of the conventions through the discharge of its technical mandate which cannot be performed by any other agency in Nigeria. NIMASA being the safety administration of Nigeria has counterparts in 167 maritime nations responsible for ensuring safer shipping and cleaner oceans through the instrumentality of the technical mandate it performs such as port states inspection, flag states inspection, search and rescue, maritime capacity building, maritime security by ensuring our waters are safe from piracy and sea robbers, prevention/control of marine pollution, administers the training and certification of seafarers(STCW ’95), shipping development, coastal and inland shipping (Cabotage) and maritime labour administration.
He averred that all these functions by NIMASA require technical expertise and can only be performed by a safety administration. He maintained that the same technical functions are performed by maritime safety administration and all other member countries of the IMO.
The former NIMASA Director General enjoined the Federal Government to come up with modalities on how to strengthen NIMASA to deliver more on its technical mandates and not merging it with agencies that are not compatible with its philosophy and objectives.
He expressed delight that the former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman has been appointed by President Bola Tinubu as the Special Adviser Policy Coordination.
According to Dosunmu, Hadiza whom I know is very abreast of the Nigerian maritime sector would be able to advise the President accordingly due to her expertise and experience in the industry. I can say the proposal in my view is like suggesting a merger of Nigerian Navy with Nigeria Civil Defense because the later has responsibility for protecting critical national assets. For instance, technically speaking, all ships that call on Nigeria waters carry minimum of five certificates which include certificate on safety equipment, certificate on radio equipment, and certificate on crewing and so on.
He explained that these certificates are carried by all ship calling on ports globally.
“NIMASA surveyors under its port states responsibility must board these ships to ensure compliance with global requirements. NIMASA also carries out flag state inspection on all ships before they are registered to determine their fitness for purpose. In this regard, the ships are subjected to preregistration survey and condition survey. All these are in line with the Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) Convention and STCW ‘95 Convention.
“Again the activities of over f40) Floating production storage offloading (FPSO) and Floating Storage Offloading (FSO) like, Agbami, Bonga, Egina, Akpo engaging in crude oil exploration and production offshore Nigerian waters are potential polluters. It is the responsibility of NIMASA to monitor and ensure that there is no pollution of the marine environment to protect aquatic life and our ecosystem. To do this, NIMASA must invest heavily on the procurement of offshore reception facilities to collect and process the wastes from these platforms. All these are in line with MARPOL Convention, and the mandate requires technical know-how which NIMASA over the years has developed capacity to handle”, he added.
Continuing, he said: “Let me quickly point out that there is no doubt that in the course of discharging her technical mandate, NIMASA generates revenue and uses part of it to prosecute its technical regulatory functions. The surplus at the end of the year is paid into the federation account in line with the target set by Ministry of Finance. However, the critical and urgent nature of some of these technical activities and the fact that they require instant response is part of the reason NIMASA is allowed to retain its funds and sometime not allowed to go through the bureaucracy of tendering. For example, a vessel that is sinking or an unexpected oil spill and pollution of the waters, or wreck that needs to be removed to ensure safety of channels for navigation, flag state inspection, survey, regular patrol of our coastal waters and enforcement of necessary regulations.
“It is my strong view therefore that the proposed merger will be counterproductive with huge negative implications for Nigeria in the global shipping community. Our waters may be considered no longer safe for international shipping and that can affect the volume of maritime trade and eventually lead to drop in revenue. Another implication is that our waters can become a destination for rickety ships and thereby becoming a dumping ground for ship wrecks and derelicts. As at today, Nigeria is the leading maritime nation in West and Central Africa in terms of ship traffic and cargo. This feat was not achieved in a day. It is the cumulative effect of the reforms successive administrations introduced to strengthen the capacity of NIMASA as a maritime safety administration for the country”.
Dosunmu who was prior to his foray into NIMASA was the Assistant General Manager (NPA) urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to consult major maritime stakeholders on issues affecting the maritime industry for proper guidance.
He maintained that the maritime industry is the gate way to the economy of Nigeria and also very critical to the logistics aspect of the oil and gas industry since most of the crude oil production and exploration activities take place offshore Nigerian waters.
“Trial and error will not work. Rather, NIMASA being the regulator should be strengthened technically. The whole idea of merger should be set aside until wider consultation with the industry stakeholders is held”, he said.