Dr Bashir Jamoh, the director general of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is a shipping practitioner of 29 years standing. He rose through the ranks from 1994 when he joined NIMASA as a Principal Officer to the position of Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the Agency, a position he held till March 2019 when he was appointed the DG/ CEO of NIMASA. In this interview with PAUL OGBUOKIRI, he said that his vision is to see Nigeria become blue before he leaves office
What is your vision for NIMASA?
My vision is to ensure that NIMASA assumes the role of a global maritime authority to be reckoned with. When I came in, I tried to subsume that vision into three S. We called it the tripod S; Maritime security, Maritime Safety and Shipping development. So, my first priority when I came was to maintain security of the vessels and crew and safety of navigation in the Nigerian waters because without security and safety, nobody will bring his ship to our waters.
We thank God that the IMB report for the first nine months shows the positive result of our efforts which started with the commencement of the enforcement of the Deep Blue Project in February this year. With that, we have moved to maritime safety with the recent flag off of the first phase of the National Wreck Removal Exercise that begins the process of ridding Nigerian waters of over 3,000 identified wrecks and derelicts. The occasion was chaired by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who led other dignitaries to grace the official flag-off ceremony in Lagos. The exercise will open up the maritime Industry to huge Investment opportunities.
It is pertinent to state that the benefits that would be derived upon completion of the exercise extend to other areas of maritime core functions, such as search and rescue services, Cabotage monitoring, as well as prevention and mitigation of marine pollution. On the issue of shipping development, the thrust is to ensure that we develop our capacity in terms of ship ownership, in terms of ship repairs and then the human element, which is seafarers’ development which we have been doing under the seafarers development programme.
What is the story of the sudden fall in piracy in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea?
Nigeria realizes the importance of security on its seas and oceans to the international trade, economic progress, and well-being of the country and has taken a pragmatic approach to security within its sphere of The Atlantic Ocean. In 2018, Nigeria executed a contract with a firm for an integrated national maritime surveillance and security infrastructure That is the Deep Blue project as a robust tool to combat piracy, armed robbery, and other maritime crimes within Nigeria’s territorial waters and by extension the Gulf of Guinea (GoG). The Deep Blue Project consists of sea, air, and land assets including a Command, Control, Computer, Communication, and Information Centre (C4i). The deployment of these assets was flagged off by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, on the 10th of June, 2021, with a goodwill message from the IMO Secretary-General, Mr. Kitack Lim. To further bolster Nigeria’s effort in fighting crimes at sea, the government signed into law the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act, (SPOMO) 2019. This piece of legislation gave effect in Nigeria to the provisions of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 on piracy and the International Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Navigation (SUA), 1998 and its protocol. Since the law came into effect, convictions of at least 20 pirates have been secured under the Act with offenders currently serving various jail terms. At the regional level, following the United Nations Security Council resolutions of 2011 and 2012 calling on the countries in the ECOWAS, ECCAS, and the GoG to work together on a strategy to fight piracy, armed robbery, and other illegal activities at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria joined other Heads of States and governments to sign the Yaoundé Declaration on the 25th of June 2013 to collaborate in the fight against piracy and other crimes in their Atlantic ocean. This declaration known as the ‘Yaoundé declaration’ led to the establishment of the Inter-regional Coordination Centre (ICC Yaoundé). Further to this, Nigeria, together with the ICC Yaoundé is engaged with the major international shipping industry and commodities groups (INTERTANKO, INTERCARGO, ICS, OCIMF, BIMCO) to develop a framework known as the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum on Shared Awareness and Deconfliction i.e. GoGMCF/ SHADE. The framework is a multilateral initiative involving industry stakeholders and member countries in West and Central Africa and the Gulf of Guinea on Information sharing and incident reporting, Cooperation at Sea, and Air Deconfliction. The G7++ FOGG is another multinational collaboration with regional countries on Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea. Whilst multilateral and multinational collaboration and cooperation are desirable for maintaining safety and security of not only the Atlantic but the entire oceans and seas of the planet Earth, such must be done within the complex web of international relations and diplomacy, so as not to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any country, big or small. Therefore, while appreciating the principle of ‘Mare Liberum’, a unilateral declaration by private entities to deploy warships to the waters contiguous to the Atlantic seas of West Africa is not amenable to good international relations. Likewise, the idea of Coordinated Maritime Presence (CMP) scheme, used by some countries to deploy frigates to the Atlantic Ocean of West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea should be with the consent and agreement of the countries within the sub-continent in line with international laws and as a mark of respect for the dignity of their people and the sovereignty of their nations.
What is your vision for Nigeria?
I want to see Nigeria blue. What is blue? You see, when the late President Shehu Shagari came, he did Operation Feed the Nation, and then President Olusegun Obasanjo followed up with the Green Revolution. Now we want to go for the Blue Economy. Without water, there is no green. When you don’t have blue, you can’t have green; you can’t get food without blue. So, I want to see Nigeria blue. We are struggling and fighting to extract and export oil, and today, the international community buying the oil, which is the mainstay of our economy, is saying no. We need to look for an alternative source. Some countries are going for gas; some renewable energy, solar; while it is electric cars for some. What this means is that in the next 10 years, we will wake up one day and people will not patronise our oil anymore. Before oil, we relied on agriculture. We had cotton, cocoa, rubber, etc, that we sold in the international market and lived comfortably. It was that money we used in extracting oil. With money gotten from green, we funded the cost and research for oil; we did not go and borrow. Now, since the international community is moving away from oil, we have two alternative sources; green and blue. So, I want to see Nigeria blue with a blue economy. I want to see the development and sustainability of the blue economy before I leave office. I want to see the blue economy sustaining Nigeria; even if we have oil, let it be the mainstay of our economy. So, that is what we are working towards, an alternative source of revenue and development of our economy. Instead of relying heavily on oil, we now have a blue economy. This blue economy, where are they? What are the facts and figures, and how do we harness them? We are now developing a policy and strategy for us to make use of this blue economy. I want to see Nigeria blue.
You met with some of the world maritime leaders at the recent 3rd seminar of the Atlantic Centre (AC) held at the Ministry of National Defence, Lisbon, Portugal. What was your shopping list for that conference?
Yes, I went with my shopping list, just two of them. First, I asked the international maritime business community to recognise the improvement in security in Nigerian waters and reciprocate by removing the war risk insurance premium charged on cargoes bound for Nigeria. This is in view of the three quarters of consistent decline of piracy and armed robbery in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea as reported by no less an institution than the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). It cannot be considered a fluke. My second appeal was to our nation’s friends to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), that it is also time to return Nigeria to the membership of the Category C in the forthcoming IMO Council Elections in the next few weeks. We asked for their votes and count on their continued confidence in the efforts of Nigeria to work in partnership with other nation states in the Gulf of Guinea to continue keeping our corridor of the Atlantic Ocean a safe passage for seafarers, their vessels and the vital supplies they transport for our common sustenance.