By  Ifeanyi Omokwe

Men make institutions; not the other way round. The case of NIMASA is no different. Most stakeholders in the maritime sector would hardly argue the suggestion that since Dr Dakuku Peterside took office as Director General of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, the organisation has not been the same.
Since its formation in 2007, NIMASA has rarely being at the centre of national discuss as it has been in the last one year. Dakuku Peterside has been able to do what his predecessors either had no capacity to do or were hamstrung by the powers that be.
Peterside came to NIMASA with a mission to rebuild, reform and reposition for effective service delivery that will put the maritime sector in the top of economic growth drivers in the country and the continent. Having being appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari who came to power on the mantra of Change, he had his mission cut for him. Nothing short of a turn around of the agency would be acceptable.
Peterside needed little or no prodding to appreciate the urgency of the task. Nigeria is a country blessed with unquantifiable marine wealth which has been waiting to be tapped for years. Rather than reap the potentials of the sector for the growth of the Nigeria economy, successive administrations in the country have instead reaped personal gains, profiting from a poor, unaccountable regulatory regime.
Thus, the very first task of reforming NIMASA was to put the agency on the path of professionalism and regulatory efficiency. Dr Peterside hit the ground running from day one. He approved promotion of hundreds of staff whose elevation had been overdue. Over 300 staff including directors, who had been stagnated for years, got their rightful promotion. He has ensured staff got relevant training and redeployed staff to areas of strength instead of having square pegs in round holes.
Improved staff welfare and training have translated into better professionalism. The new administration has ensured that staff capacity to deliver service is enhanced. A digital transformation process to hasten service delivery has been put in place and now stakeholders can register their vessels and transact businesses at the touch of a button.
It has led to a tremendous change in the fortune of the agency. That is part of the reasons why NIMASA has been the focus of national and international attention in recent times.
Professional associations such as that of Marine Engineers and Surveyors, a critical stakeholder in the sector, are having a new lease of life as NIMASA collaborates with them and engages their expertise. He is also developing local capacity in the sector for global competitiveness.
Peterside’s on-going transformation of NIMASA and Nigeria’s maritime sector have not gone unnoticed nationally and internationally. It is one of the reasons why the 3rd Conference of the Association of Heads of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA) was help in Abuja from April 19-21. It represented an international endorsement of the NIMASA transformation and a recognition of the leadership potentials of Dr Peterside.
At the end of the AAMA conference, Peterside was unanimously elected to lead the continental body in recognition of his effort since becoming DG of NIMASA. An elated President Buhari could not hide his joy at the election of Peterside as chairman of AAMA. In a press statement signed by Femi Adesina, the president said he had no doubt Peterside was elected because of what he has been doing at NIMASA. The president pledged further support of his administration to NIMASA and AAMA in order to reposition the marine economy of the continent.
The conference had in attendance, representatives from Mauritania, South Sudan, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Comoros, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Benin, DR Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Kenya, Guinea, Libya and Nigeria as well as other non-African countries and International Associations such as Jamaica, Netherlands, Malaysia, IMO, Abuja MOU, PMAWCA, SOAN, NPA, NSC, NITT, NIWA, ASA, WIMA and  FAO.
Peterside took over from Mr. Sobantu Tilayi, the acting chief executive officer of South African Maritime and Safety Agency (SAMSA), who has been the acting chair of the association since 2013. Aside piloting the affairs of NIMASA, Peterside now has the additional responsibilities of chatting a course for African maritime administration. Tilayi has no doubt Peterside was up to the task. He described Peterside as a committed and dedicated technocrat that will, no doubt, take maritime administration to a higher level.
Just as it was in NIMASA before Peterside took over, lack of professionalism has been a major challenge in the African Maritime sector. It is now on Peterside to help replicate the reform of NIMASA in fellow African countries. He has to lead the challenge of addressing the enormous challenges of building human capacities in the maritime sector especially regarding training and employment of cadets by urging maritime Administrations to develop an integrated human resources strategy for the maritime sector. This must necessarily cut across the entire maritime value chain which includes shipping and logistics, offshore activities, fishing, tourism and recreation, and safety and security.
His election as chairman of AAMA must be seen as a personal challenge to do better and as an institutional challenge for NIMASA which must now on be seen as role model for maritime administrations in the continent. Peterside and NIMASA must up their game and raise awareness amongst stakeholders of the strategic importance of maritime governance for sustainable development; highlight the important role Africa needs to play at international maritime forum; raise awareness on Africa’s “Blue Economy” and enhance the focus on maritime safety, security, maritime environment protection and human element.
Nigerian waters, and indeed the waters of Africa must now on be protected from the scourge of overexploitation, piracy and toxic refuse. AAMA must embark on protection of the population, assets and critical infrastructure of the continent from maritime pollution. Efforts must be devoted to the enhancement of wealth creation and regional and international trade performance through maritime-centred capacity building. At the same time we must ensure minimal damage to the marine environment. There is no doubt that Dr Peterside and NIMASA are ready. So let’s go.

– Omokwe wrote in from Abuja