When President Muhammadu Buhari fired Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi as Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the first concern among industry watchers was how to get the appropriate the right man to captain the affairs of a critical agency to the country’s wellbeing.
But the emergence of Mr. Haruna Baba Jauro as the Acting Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the agency has given the same industry players to re-assess their initial reaction. Contrary to what one would expect under a CEO, who is in acting capacity, NIMASA is suddenly the new kid on the block as the interim leadership charted a course that has returned the agency to its core functions.
For those not conversant with its set mandates, NIMASA’s commitment should be solely to the enthronement of global best practices in the provision of maritime services in Nigeria, which it should do by focusing on ensuring effective Maritime Safety Administration, Maritime Labour Regulation, Marine Pollution Prevention and Control, Search and Rescue, Cabotage enforcement, Shipping Development and Ship Registration, Training and Certification of Seafarers, and Maritime Capacity Development.
Fulfilment of these roles would help build indigenous capacity as well as keep Nigeria’s aquatic business up to date with emerging global trends with implications for the economy.
Without intending to rubbish or belittle the legacy of previous leadership of the agency, NIMASA’s recent past was one in which a government agency became a politically exposed organisation with clannish tendencies. The worry of industry watchers was thus not unconnected with the apprehension over how to properly reboot the organisation and reset it to its default setting by realigning it with its mandates.
In the weeks since he became the acting CEO, Jauro has moved with speed and precision and surpassed expectations in that short span of time. Directors in the agency have been redeployed in a move likely to give each of the officials a fresh vista of the organisation while allowing an internal cross fertilization of ideas and spreading of experience acquired in previous postings to new areas. The organisation has become more realistic in its approach to issues like the shift in the date for entrance examination into its training schools. This speaks of an organisation that has aligned itself with the mood of the nation.
While this has also not been the stuff of mainstream media, it however remains a fact that NIMASA under the present acting leadership has given unprecedented cooperation to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to conduct its investigation in the agency. Besides allowing the EFCC to do a thorough job in the current spirit and mood of the country, the access granted the anti-graft agency has become a precedent that other government agencies must now live up to without leading to people screaming blue murder or alleging persecution. This is because NIMASA granted free access to its entire staff that could be useful in shedding light on the malfeasance that had pervaded the agency.
This performance within the shortest possible time must have been behind the hints from staff of the institution that the Federal Government should look inwards when selecting a substantive Chief Executive Officer. This could well be a suggestion the federal government will do well to heed since the staff of an organisation have a fair idea of things that should be done right for it to thrive.
Given the importance of the maritime sector to the economy, a repackaged and repositioned NIMASA is strategic to charting a new course for the economy as the nation moves away from the culture of a mono economy. Since Jauro is already charting such course for NIMASA and by extension the overall economy, one can only urge that he should remain focused on the job and not give in to distractions that would inevitably crop up in our Nigerian setting. He should be bold to take steps that will see the agency built round a system rather than individuals who trade on connection to higher powers.
Jauro must avoid the mistakes of his predecessor, particularly when the mood of the nation is in tune with the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari for a country run on transparency. It is now glaring that there is nothing to gain from bootlicking while there is a lot of traction to be heard from being competent.
Conclusively, the same industry watchers that were worried about the onerous task of rebuilding confidence in NIMASA have gotten some level of reassurance, especially when the organisation is no longer in the news for the wrong reasons. This is a path other agencies in the maritime sector must tread if only for the sake of restoring confidence in our public institutions. Such confidence will go a long way in reviving confidence in the way business is done in Nigeria with the attendant benefits to the economy. This is another avenue for Mr President to deliver on his campaign promises to creat countless jobs for the teeming youths of Nigeria. The change at NIMASA mirrors the desire of Nigerians and it should be sustained in our collective interest irrespective of ethnic or political affiliations.
Comrade Philip Agbese is Executive Secretary, Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency based in Abuja.