By Dakuku Peterside
Precisely on the 10th of March, 2016, Mr. President appointed me the DG/CEO of NIMASA, the country’s foremost maritime Regulator. I am eternally grateful to God Almighty for such a great honour and privilege amongst almost 200 million Nigerians.We got on the saddle at a time NIMASA and the industry were at its lowest ebb. There were challenges across all levels of the maritime industry from safety, security, maritime labour relations to structural and cultural issues. My colleagues and I knew we had a task; to restore the dignity of the Agency, get it to work for Nigerians, for the maritime industry and put her back on the path of international respect.We considered the bigger picture and long term need for the industry before committing to our course of actions. We set to work with a broad reform agenda in 2016 to reposition and restructure NIMASA under five pillars, namely: Survey, Inspection and Certification Transformation Programme; Environment, Security, Emergency Search and Rescue Transformation Initiative; Digital Strategy Reforms; Capacity Building and Promotional Initiatives; and Structural and Cultural Reforms.Listening to all of you speak and even industry stakeholders who are not here, I am satisfied that we have made a difference, we have delivered, we have made the country proud and we have laid the most important foundation for the foremost maritime regulatory Agency in Africa to thrive and deliver value.Consistently, we focused on staff training (both foreign and local), improved working condition and welfare of staff. What we boast of today is staff who have become more knowledgeable and can compete with their peers at any level both locally and internationally.I met a lot of stakeholders, some with great ideas and others ready to critique every single move we made. I assured all that I came across, that our task in NIMASA is to keep them in business, safeguard Nigerians, our oceans, ships, and promote the participation of Nigerians in coastal and international shipping. I reassured them that it is because of Nigerians and the industry that we were appointed to serve.We were not appointed to be praised or for our own self. It is these stakeholders that are the reason we have made the tremendous progress that today we are given credit. Collectively working as a Team, we have had commendations and wholehearted encouragement even if we may have had our individual differences, all we wanted was to build a better NIMASA, so we welcomed ideas from stakeholders whom we openly collaborated with.The vibrant maritime media kept us on our toes throughout. We at no time said we were infallible but their critical scrutiny is one of our greatest assets.As my colleagues and I settled in to work with the rest of the team in NIMASA, we reversed the negative reputational damage in no time, we championed the greatest reforms in maritime regulation in the history of the Agency.We changed the narrative, we totally re-invigorated the industry, and put NIMASA back in international reckoning, most importantly we restored the sense of common purpose for the Agency and the industry. Our staff could work around again with pride because they realised that the nation values their work and contribution.We received the support of the International Community, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Labour Organization (ILO), the Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA), Representatives of Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (INTERCARGO), Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), to mention but a few who were genuinely interested in NIMASA’s transformational initiatives particularly our efforts to ensure security in the Gulf of Guinea. The hosting of the Global Maritime Security Conference in Abuja in October 2019 brought with it floods of commendation from the international community. They all showed wholehearted commitment to helping us secure our waters.The combined effect of our reforms and the dedication of our resourceful staff has today, without denial, made us an enviable maritime administration in Africa by every measure ever thought of. To mention but a few of our significant achievements which are all included in my handover notes, it is pertinent to state that Nigeria was adjudged:– the most outstanding in Port and Flag State Control in West and Central African sub-region recording the highest Port State Inspections in Abuja MoU;– No. 2 in tonnage and fleet after Liberia which operates an open Ship Registry;– The first country in Africa to put 7,000 seafarers in cabotage vessels in one year;– First to publish maritime industry forecast, every year since 2018;– First to come up with a maritime action plan on marine litter and plastic management;– First to come up with Roadmap to achieve IMO 0.5% Sulphur Cap;– First country in West/Central Africa to have a distinct anti-piracy law, a feat achieved in 2019. Steps are already being taken to implement the law; etc.By the grace of God, in the next few weeks, we will be the first Maritime Administration in West and Central Africa to be ISO 2015:9001 certified.Our scorecards are there. I am happy today that though my four (4) years tenure as Director-General/CEO NIMASA has come to an end, Mr. President, Commander-in-Chief has appointed one of our own as the new Director-General/CEO NIMASA. What it means is that he and his team will bring in new ideas to sustain and build on our collective achievements while upholding the vision and mission of NIMASA.I most sincerely thank from the depth of my heart, the Executive Management Team that ran the race with me, without your support we would not be standing tall today. May God bless you in your future endeavours.To the greater Team NIMASA, I urge you not to relent in your efforts but to continue to extend the same support given to us to the incoming Executive Management. Remember that this is our country and fatherland. No organization can survive without a resourceful and committed workforce.To all Nigerians, I consider it a great privilege and honour to serve you. If I am asked to choose, I will serve you again and again. I will always give my all to this great country.