Business Hilights
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NIMASA’s DG skipped comments on the state of $5bn debt controversy on his arrival

After a critical look at his address at the recent World Press Conference recently held by the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, it was discovered that he did not make explicit comment as to whether the matter had been rested or is still bugging the federal agency.

Earlier on his arrival in November 2015, he came with the aim of carrying out far reaching reforms with high speed but was frustrated the alleged $5 billion debt controversy and a scandalous contract awarded to recover the debts and platforms provision contracts.

It was gathered that the debt recovery contract awarded to SNECO Financial Services, had caused serious ripples in the agency and placed a question mark on the integrity of the current management at NIMASA.

Between his arrival and early part of 2016, several developmental projects which the agency had embarked upon were hindered by the ripples being generated by the contract award. Some of such projects include sea-going platforms for cabotage enforcement, which the director-general, promised to provide zonal operations, but failed.

A look at his acclaimed “Medium Term Strategic Growth Plan” for the maritime industry, covering a span of three years designed to be built around his core mission at NIMASA which is to reform, restructure and reposition the agency for sustainable growth and development of the maritime industry shows that not much had been achieved within the period under review.

The DG had said the strategy was built on five pillars which included Survey, Inspection and Certification Transformation programme; Environment, Security and Search and Rescue Transformation programme; as well as Capacity Building and Promotional Initiatives which entail growing indigenous tonnage, ship building and human capacity.

Others are Digital Transformation Strategy; and Structural and Cultural reforms including changes to work ethic and attitude of staff as well as processes and procedures.

Only recently, a source in the agency said nothing is happening about the promised reform. Business Hilights intelligence discovered that earlier this month, the agency rolled out an internal memo directing every staff to raise his or attitude to work and up official conducts so as to grow productivity. The memo was pasted at different notice boards in the head Office at Apapa.

A senior staff who spoke on the memo on grounds of anonymity said the notice became necessary considering the rising level of nonchalant attitude to work and rising truancy due to poor work supervision.

While rolling out his restructuring agenda, the loser of the contentious Rivers State guber elections in 2015 who was apparently pacified with the juicy appointment as designed by the Minister of transport said “The management right now is battling with contract controversies and does not appear to have time to pursue any restructuring. Nothing has changed with the structure of NIMASA. In fact, nothing has been reformed about NIMASA. The management is more concerned now about the debt recovery and contract around it. Everything here now is in low tone”.

Business Hilights further gathered that a greenhorn private firm, SNECO Financial Services, owned by Rivers State APC, Davies Akanya which was incorporated on April 4, 2016, was awarded the contract to recover NIMASA’s alleged $5 billion debt owed by oil companies, shipping lines and other operators in the maritime and shipping industry.

It was not clear if it was due to the origin of the owners of the company that the contract was immediately enmeshed in controversies as both staff of the agency and maritime stakeholders question the ability of the company, the ingenuity of the contract, as well as the integrity of the new management of the agency, which came with promises of change for a better system and transparency in the apex maritime regulatory agency.

Shortly before the award of the debt recovery contract, the Peterside-led management of NIMASA also had been accused of replicating a Global West contract model for the provision of sea patrol platforms.

Within the period of the crisis, Peterside was invited by the House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, in Abuja, where he refuted claims that debt owed NIMASA was not up to $5 billion, saying the agency is only owed $420.5 million.

Even before the invitation, the House committee chaired by Umar Bago, is in possession of several petitions, alleging the breach of due process and fraud in the award of the contract.

Peterside also claimed that due process was followed in selecting the consultant for debt recovery, “as the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) had also issued a Certificate of No Objection for the purpose,” even though no bidding notice was made to the public before the selection and engagement of SNECO.

Several industry observers who had listened to Peterside during his recent World Press Conference at Ikeja were disturbed as the DG failed to make any reference to the issues as to whether they had been resolved or they are still teething problems up till now.