Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
The Federal Government said on Tuesday that it may be forced to approach the National Assembly, through an executive bill, to repeal the Act that sets up the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), if its management fails to justify the judicious utilisation of the huge resources at its disposal.
Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who claimed before the Senate Committee on Marine Transport that NIMASA is in the habit of outsourcing its core responsibility, added that NIMASA has nothing to show for the N63 billion revenue it generated last year.
Amaechi, who pointed out that NIMASA was basically set up to provide safety, also cited an instance where he discovered that there was no equipment at the Agency’s search and rescue unit meant to monitor movement of vessels and provide treatment for injured personnel.
“Currently, the way NIMASA is, if you look at it very well, it was worse in the last administration. It was as if it was established just for the purpose of collecting money and nothing more. What we need to do is to ensure that NIMASA discharges its core responsibilities.
“If NIMASA failed to outsource its core responsibility then it has no business existing. If it is just to collect money from individuals, anybody can do that. We can hire a tax collector to collect money from maritime operators on behalf of Federal Ministry of transport.
“So, it is either NIMASA sit up and carry out its own responsibility or we come to the National Assembly to repeal the Act setting it up and allow the Department of marine security in the ministry of transportation, discharge the responsibility currently being discharged by NIMASA.
“We are not going ahead with the university project proposed by NIMASA because we have an institution in Oron, we have Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology, Zaria, and we have the Nigerian College of Aviation in Zaria which we could upgrade to a University status and NIMASA is proposing to build a new one.
“Who will attend the University? How many parent will allow their children to go to such place where it propose to site the University? What is the aim of the University that we cannot achieve in Oron where they have all the necessary infrastructure.
“I don’t think we are proceeding with the university being proposed by NIMASA because it is a waste of resources, and unfortunately a lot of money had already been released for the University project hence there is no structure on ground but just the feasibility study.
“Whoever that is holding on to the money should better return it. The Chinese company contracted confirmed that only the feasibility study was in place,” he said.
Speaking on the need by the Federal Government to encourage individuals to buy vessels, Amaechi, who appeared before the Senator Ahmed Sani-led Committee over the activities of agencies under his supervision, said that the experience in the aviation industry is such that the idea was brought up, and about N300 billion was released to encourage investors in the sector by the last administration.
He particularly claimed that some people collected the money and ran out of the country.
“In fact, there is a particular man, who collected N32 billion, and left the country. I don’t think that the Federal Government needed to release N52 billion to investors in the maritime industry what we are considering is to facilitate a partnership arrangement between the operators and foreign investors in which case we can support Nigerians who had shown serious interest in the business with about 40 percent of the investment while their foreign partners bring 60 percent. That will assure us that we would recoup our investment.
“One of those, who collected the aviation bailout, who has done nothing with the money, is working freely on the streets of Nigeria. His airline is dead, and he did not even deem it fit to inform the Ministry.
“I am protecting the maritime funds; and we could only disburse it, after we have seen the President, the foreign investors, who will partner with the Nigerian investors that meet our guidelines. We have the N52 billion in the TSA account of NIMASA,” he insisted.
He also explained that an arrangement had now been put in place to ensure that the dollar revenue acruable to NIMASA are paid directly to the federation account in order to boost forex for the country.