The Indigenous Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) has lambasted the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration for its perceived lacklustre attitude towards development of the indigenous shipping industry, describing year 2012 as "a disastrous one for local shipping operators."
Speaking with some maritime correspondents in Lagos, the association's general secretary, Capt Niyi Labinjo said ISAN members were not expecting anything good regarding development of the indigenous shipping industry from government this new year and blamed the President Jonathan's regime for the collapse of over 80 per cent of local shippers' stake in the country.
"From this government, we expect nothing in 2013. It will be disaster as usual. Our investments continue to diminish, more and more shipping companies continue to fold up."
While pointing out that the current government had continued to deliberately delay proper enforcement of the Indigenous Shipping Act, known as Cabotage law, the ISAN scribe accused the federal government of "deliberately taking actions that continue to stifle the growth of maritime, resulting in diminished investments and collapse of over eighty percent of indigenous shipping companies."
Labinjo, who owns and manages the Al-Dawood Shipping Line said that the appointment in December 2012 of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Chief Tony Anenih and a retired Colonel of the Nigerian Army, Agbu Kefas, as chairmen of the board of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), respectively, was a clear indication that the current government had been taking a dangerous political gamble with the shipping sector.
He said, "Why we do not expect anything from this government is because the morning shows the day. A government that can bring Tony Anenih as Chairman of the Board of NPA, despite his poor outing the first time. A government that can bring a Lieutenant-Colonel to head NIMASA, despite copious provisions in the law that you cannot be a member of the board of maritime agencies if you do not have maritime discipline or training, cannot be said to be serious about developing the sector.
"We are yet to see any benefit from the Cabotage law in almost 10 years. We cannot see anything to show for the shipping aspect of the local content law all due to poor implementation because the wrong people are there. Stakeholders are not happy.
No civil servant can claim to know better than the stakeholders. Stakeholders are the practitioners. If you now bring political appointees who cannot add value, what do you get? Nothing," Labinjo stated.
He came hard on President Jonathan for using the various government agencies in the maritime industry to "create jobs for the boys and political jobbers."
Labinjo declared: "What value is retired Lieutenant-Colonel Kefas bringing to NIMASA? Our expectation for 2013 is nil, and that is the position of ISAN."
He said despite the presidential maritime retreat hosted by President Goodluck Jonathan last year where ISAN led other stakeholders to educate the President on the importance of shipping and on measures to adopt to advance the cause of the maritime industry, "the President still condescended to taking retrogressive actions as can be seen in his appointments into the boards of sensitive agencies like NIMASA and NPA."
Labinjo said: "We thought with the exposition during the maritime retreat, government will be awakened to the reality that we are losing over N2 trillion annually in the maritime sector and that we can create five million jobs in the sector. We thought the government had been sensitised enough and would take positive action. Is the action they are taking in the direction of growth?"