Northern interest groups jostle for NIMASA top job as uncertainty surrounds Peterside’s future
By DOTUN OGUNADE
Uncertainty presently surrounds the fate of the award-winning Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMSA), Dr Dakuku Peterside, as his first four-year tenure comes to an end in a fortnight.
The expectation within the industry and beyond is that Peterside will be re-appointed for a second term, given his outstanding track record in office.
Peterside’s reign as DG is said to have led to improved accountability, operational efficiency and stakeholder relations that have continued to elicit positive reactions across board.
In the same vein, NIMASA, under him, has witnessed an increased trade relation in the sub-region and beyond with the agency leading the charge in reorganizing African Maritime Administration Agencies into a broad-based common ideology.
The agency under his watch has also seen a massive improvement of Nigeria’s Port State Control. Recently, Nigeria’s vessel inspection rating got a boost with 81.7 per cent with 636 ship inspections, a radical departure from her history of recurring lows, compared to South Africa which came second with 327 inspections for 2018, while Senegal came third with 270 inspections, during the period under review.
Given this level of achievement, maritime industry watchers are optimistic his re-appointment is a done deal. But feelers from reliable Aso Rock sources appear to say otherwise, as there is said to be intense lobby going on, both internally and externally, for Peterside’s replacement.
It was gathered that some external candidates are interested in the job, while some executive directors in the organization have also intensified lobby, activating their political contacts to try to get the nod of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The appointment of Peterside, from Rivers State, as NIMASA DG is believed to have been part of the compensation for Transportation Minister and former governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, a man who played a major role in the emergence of Buhari as president both in 2015 and 2019.
His possible reappointment would follow a broad government trend of re-appointing competent heads of agencies and parastatals upon the expiration of their first tenures.
A source who spoke with this correspondent pointed at the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Miss Hadiza Bala Usman who was retained in her position; the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who was equally re-appointed for second term and Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), Director-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, among others.
Analysts are speculating that if, for any reason, however, Peterside does not get a reappointment, it would mean that Amaechi, the supervising minister, has lost influence within the Buhari administration.
Speculations are rife in this regard that one of the executive directors of the agency, who happens to come from the North, may have been penciled down by some Aso Rock power brokers for the job.
“If this turns out to be the case, it is bound to cause political tremor because it would mean that the South-South would no longer head any parastatal of worth, even as Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita was only recently retired from her position as Head of Service of the Federation,” our source informed.
The source also made reference to the replacement of Bayelsa born Matthew Seiyefa as head of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the subsequent appointment of Yusuf Magaji Bichi as his replacement had caused agitations, even as the controversial removal of Cross River State-born Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen from office as Chief Justice of Nigeria, inflicted wounds in the heart of many in the region and entire Southern Nigeria.
It would also be recalled that only recently, the Buhari government replaced a South westerner, Babatunde Fowler, former Executive Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) with another northerner, Mohammed Nami.
Almost at the same time, Mr. Muiz Banire, another South westerner was removed from office as the chairman of the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) and replaced by a northerner, Edward Adamu.
The above had indeed followed the discreet appointment of Hajia Aisha Dahir-Umar to replace Mrs. Funsho Doherty as Director-General of Pension Commission (PenCom) after she was first used to replace Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu who was dismissed unceremoniously, even when it was constitutionally the turn of the South East to occupy the position.
Already, there is restiveness among southern political leaders, the North inclusive, over the increasing lop-sidedness of appointments by President Buhari. Indeed, the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, had while speaking at an event to mark the 60th birthday celebration of the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, in Kaduna recently, pointed out that under the current leadership, it appears that one must be a Muslim northerner to occupy certain positions in government, even as he warned that nepotism has expiry date.
His comments had come on the heels of similar remarks by the Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah who noted, while delivering a homily at the burial ceremony of Michael Nnadi, a Catholic seminarian killed by bandits in Kaduna, that President Buhari had taken nepotism to an unprecedented level and that at the moment, to occupy any position of note in the country, one must be a core northern Muslim.
Speaking in this regard, a prominent South-South leader who spoke on the condition of anonymity lamented that Buhari has continued to disobey the constitution and the principle of federal character in his appointments, a pattern replacing Peterside will only reinforce.
“As it is, the government of today has no respect for the constitution,” he said. “We have not forgotten how our sons who managed to climb to certain prominent positions on merit, were humiliated out of such positions and replaced.
“If they remove Peterside, it won’t come to us as a surprise. It is already a pattern by those who appear to be asking us, ‘what can you do?'”
Should Peterside be replaced by a northerner, it will mean that with the exception of the CBN, all other strategic agencies and parastatals of government will be headed by northerners.
The list includes NPA headed by Usman, a northerner; Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) head by Mele Kyari; PenCom headed by Dahir-Umar; FIRS headed by Nami; Customs headed by Ali, AMCON headed by Ahmed Kuru, among others.