Patrick Ziakade Akpobolokemi

After 55 months as the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Patrick Ziakade Akpobolokemi has formally handed over the running of affairs of the agency to one of the Executive Directors.

Akpobolokemi was booted out of office on Thursday, July 16 by President Muhammadu Buhari with a directive to hand over the apex maritime regulatory agency to the most senior officer.

Following his exit from office, some stakeholders in the maritime industry have been appraising his tenure. The President of the Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engr. Greg Ogbeifun said that he did well considering his background because he was able to bring professionalism to NIMASA.  “He allowed mariners to be brought into key positions and those who came in were core professionals who added value.”

But the Secretary of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Tunji Brown expressed a different opinion on the erstwhile DG’s tenure. “The sack is a very welcome development and we (shipowners) are quiet happy for the sack. The sack was expected because of the change in government and though we know he had some good programmes but all the same it was a welcome development that he was asked to leave,” he said.

The Director-General, Nigerian Chambers of Shipping, Ify Anazonwu-Akerele asked the Federal Government to appoint a technocrat to succeed Akpobolokemi.

She said sacking a DG that didn’t understand the industry was a welcome development but advised the government of President Buhari to avoid the mistake of appointing a non-technocrat to head the regulatory agency. “Government should not appoint a politician but a technocrat that will put things in place. When Government appoints a technocrat that is knowledgeable about the industry we will all see a difference. If they (government) remove someone that is not knowledgeable about the industry then it is a welcome development and we think the same government will bring someone that is more of a maritime person. What I know is that it will be a good development when government appoints someone that is knowledgeable in the office,” she said.

The President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Capt. Ade Olopoenia also advised the President to appoint an expert to head the agency. “We have said several times that government should put a square peg in a square hole and not someone that knows nothing about the maritime industry. The government should appoint a professional as the head on the agency,” he said.

The selection of Akpobolokemi to head NIMASA in 2010 was considered one of the most controversial appointments made by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Critics argued that the appointment was tinged with nepotism as Akpobolokemi did not possess the necessary qualifications to occupy the office of DG of NIMASA as stated in Sections 6 & 7 of the Act establishing the agency.

The Act had stipulated that the DG of NIMASA should possess “relevant experience and capacity applicable to maritime administration, recognized expert knowledge, qualification and experience in one or more of the following fields.”

As spelt out by the Act, the fields are maritime safety, maritime security, maritime pollution, nautical sciences and hydrographic and maritime engineering, finance, marine law, transport logistics, administration and marine labour. But Akpbolokemi became the Director General of NIMASA from the academia without the requisite cognate experience.

By Pita Ochai

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