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Akpobolokemi: The challenge of tenure elongation

There is no gain saying that the maritime community has continued to celebrate Mr. Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi’s re-appointment as the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for the second term of four years in office.
The news was more surprising for some reasons. The first being that he is the NIMASA helmsman to be so honoured in the history of the agency as those before him rarely complete their tenure in office before they were shown the way out. Secondly, his current tenure of four years still have two more months to its expiration as at the time of the renewal of term.
This development many had attributed to so many factors ranging from his closeness to the Presidency to the fact that the maritime industry had not been the same since he came onboard as the Director-General.
Whatever the reason advanced by the maritime watchers and stakeholders alike as being responsible for his re-appointment, the fact remains that NIMASA in particular and the Maritime industry in general had never had it so good. The innovation brought to bear in the industry as a whole and the agency in particular has left no one in doubt of his avowed effort to get things right for the first time in the industry that has been bedeviled by maladministration and lack of political will to do things right.
His achievements in the last four years towered above all else as the indices are there for any doubting Thomases to see for themselves.
It is on record that under Akpobolokemi’s administration, the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) which started about five years ago, now has over 2, 500 young Nigerians benefitted or are currently enjoying various levels of sponsorship in schools in the United Kingdom, Egypt, Romania, India and the Philippines.
Aware of the huge fund being expended on the NSDP as well as the medium term gain of the programme, NIMASA under Akpobolokemi has fashioned out a long term solution to the dearth of qualified professionals in the nation’s maritime sector, hence it conceived the idea of the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU).
Addressing a World Press Conference in Lagos earlier in the year, Akpobolokemi said,” the University will produce high level manpower for Nigeria’s maritime/shipping sector on sustainable basis. It will provide training for seafarers, master mariners, marine engineers, naval architects, nautical scientists and other specialized maritime/shipping trade skills. The NMU is envisaged to become a Centre of Excellence in innovative research for maritime sector in the West and Central Africa sub-region when fully operational”.
The ground breaking ceremony of the University was performed by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan at Okerenkoko and also flagged off activities at the University’s temporary site in Kurutie both in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta state. At the moment, efforts are on to source for technical collaboration with foreign maritime institutions as the partnership according to NIMASA DG,” will assist the NMU to develop a structural academic programme which is essential to strengthening the quality of the university’s training programmes”.
It will also be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan also performed the ground breaking ceremonies for the NIMASA Ship yard and Dockyard also in Okerenkoko all geared towards transforming the maritime sector into an industry that will generate local manpower which will contribute significantly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
In the area of Maritime Labour, 1, 497 dockworkers have benefitted directly from various training programmes in the first half of 2014 alone. A total of eight hundred and ten (810) seafarers have also enjoyed Standard of Training, Certification and Watch Keeping (STCW ’95) training in the first half of 2014 which according to him was to bring them up to date with the amended basic mandatory training, tanker familiarization and engine/deck watch keeping amongst other programmes.
Also, the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC 2006) of the International Labour Organization was adopted and subsequently ratified by the Country courtesy of NIMASA which had in turn brought national and international recognition to the Nigeria.
Under his watch, NIMASA has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Air Force to enhanced water patrol and aerial surveillance of the Nigeria’s maritime domain. The agency also approached and got approval of the relevant Federal government authority to put in place a robust maritime domain awareness leading to the birth of the NIMASA Satellite Surveillance Centre.
NIMASA in pursuant to safety both within and outside the nation’s sea shores has vigorously pursued compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code. The results of this action are that twenty-two port facilities in Nigeria are now compliant with the Code as confirmed by the United States Government thus a remarkable improvement from nine certified ports since the last visit of the United State Coast Guard.
Plans are underway to actualizing the establishment of a National Carrier Line which is envisaged to re-establish the presence of Nigerian flag in international waters, providing training and retraining of Nigerian seafarers while also serving as a catalyst for shipping development in the country with the resultant positive impact on the nation’s economy.
According to the Director-General,” the new National carrier line will be largely driven by the private sector that will be solely responsible for the operation and management of the company”.
Indeed, many are the achievements of the present Chief Executive Officer of NIMASA, Mr. Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi that many quickly welcomed his re-appointment and described it as a good omen for the industry believed to be the second  revenue earner for the country.
Speaking on his re-appointment, the Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Senior Staff of Water Transport described the development as a well deserved appointment.
The National President of the Association, Engr. Matthew Alalade who made this known in a chat with Daily Champion in Lagos recently said his scorecard in the last four years as the helmsman of the agency has earned him that recognition.
Alalade disclosed that during his first tenure in office which he was yet to serve out, Akpobolokemi initiated some laudable programme which he said would outlive his tenure and continue to speak volume long after he might have left the office.
According to him,” he deserves it because he carries along the maritime stakeholders. He has been doing some programmes like funding the cadets, the seafarers. I think that this is what the government saw and said he should continue”.
“During his first tenure, we had relative peace although initially, there was a storm with storm stakeholders but you can see that he weathered the storm and he listens to good advice on the way forward”.
Also commenting on the re-appointment, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) described the re-appointment two months before the expiration of his first tenure as an indication of the amount of trust and confidence the President and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces had in his ability to take NIMASA to a greater heights.
According to a congratulatory message signed by the National President of ANLCA,” under your watchful eyes as the Director-General of NIMASA, the Maritime safety and security on our territorial waters has actually improved and the capacity of our young Nigerian Seafarers enhanced through the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) just to mention a few”.
“We honestly share in the joy of your re-appointment and also wish you more impactful year in the services of the nation’s maritime industry especially the Nigerian Customs Brokers which we represent”.
The achievements notwithstanding, Akpobolokemi should at this juncture be reminded that to whom much is given, much is expected of him. He should see his re-appointment as another call for more commitment. This is more so as a lot more still needed to be done especially in the area of the full implementation of the Cabotage regime in Nigeria.
The long awaited disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) should be given attention this time around so as to enable the Nigerian Ship owners become major players in the global maritime market.
The rising incidences of sea robbery in the Niger-Delta region and other parts of the country should receive his attention this time around in order to give hope to the teeming passengers who make use of the waterways as well as fishermen who earn their daily living from the waters across the nation will go about their businesses without fear of being molested by these men of the underworld.
Also, he should work in consonce with the Management of the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to put the basic infrastructure on the nation’s waterways to safeguard the lives and properties of commuters who make use of water transport thus building a virile economy that every Nigerian will be proud of.

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