Bashir Jamoh – The Game changer at NIMASA

If a list of President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointees who are playing key roles in helping to implement the Next level agenda of his administration were to be drawn up for posterity sake, the name of Dr. Bashir Jamoh, Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), would be on that list. Indeed, regardless of whether or not there is a consensus on the reality or otherwise of the change the administration promised, what would be undebatable is the fact that there are some of Buhari’s appointees who have made significant impact in their offices. Jamoh is one of them.

Just a little over one year in office, Jamoh has proved his mettle at NIMASA, achieving, probably, what his predecessors could not achieve. And this is without prejudice to the various achievements the latter recorded in their own way, in different areas.

What stands Jamoh out, more than any other thing, is the significant milestone NIMASA has recorded under his stewardship, namely, giving the war on piracy and other forms of criminality in the Nigerian maritime environment a definite direction. It is a war that is capable of changing the narrative in the Gulf of Guinea, which the international maritime industry perceives to be the most unsafe and insecure in the world. It is a war that has received the nod and support of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Jamoh is not a NIMASA outsider. He rose through the ranks in a period of over two decades to get to the pinnacle at the nation’s maritime regulatory body. That is to say that he learned the ropes in virtually every relevant and strategic department of the organization, knowing all there was to know about each department, which gave him a good understanding of the role NIMASA is expected to play in the maritime industry and, above all, what is required to deliver on that mandate.

Jamoh has been reported in the media as saying that he had no inkling of where destiny as taking him all the years he was diligently and dutifully performing his duties in the different sections of NIMASA where he had to work under different bosses. That is natural. Successful people rarely see tomorrow, even if they have a dream and a vision of where they are going. Jamoh merely carried out the responsibilities that were entrusted on him, giving his all, in the passionate manner of a man who loves his job. And when the opportunity presented itself for him to take charge, he seized it with both hands.

The “Triple S” tripod

Jamoh announced his assumption of office with what he christened the “Triple S” – security, safety and shipping expansion. He has been pursuing the three-legged programme with the zeal and energy of someone who knows where he is going. He demonstrated deep knowledge and understanding of the security challenges in Nigeria’s waterways and a clear idea of how to tackle them by rolling out the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, otherwise known as the Deep Blue Project, in February, 2021. The project, a maritime security apparatus like no other which is proving to be a game changer in the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, is a collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Transportation, represented by NIMASA and the Federal Ministry of Defence, represented by the armed forces comprising the Army, Navy and the Air Force, as well as the Police and the Department of State services (DSS).

The Deep Blue Project involves deployment of the most modern technology in the fight against piracy and other maritime crimes in a manner never before seen in this part of the world. Its components include two interceptor vessels with capacity to remain at sea up to 35 days without berthing. The vessels perform functions that include monitoring of illegal activities in the country’s waters, such as illegal fishing, smuggling, oil bunkering, dumping of toxic waste, etc. They also carry out search and rescue operations.

There are three special mission helicopters that are equipped to perform various functions like search and rescue, special operations and round-the-clock surveillance of the country’s maritime environment for the purpose of guaranteeing security and safety. Ability to perform this crucial function has equipped NIMASA with the tool to meet one of IMO’s requirements for maritime administration.

The components of the Deep Blue Project also include 17 fast interceptor, high-speed boats that are deployed for search and rescue operations. Each boat weighs 6.5 tons, and each moves at 50 knots. There are also 16 armoured vehicles equipped to communicate messages to the C4i Centre, the command and control post of the project. Considered the brain and heart of the Deep Blue Project, this facility is equipped with the latest satellite system that enables it to see, record and monitor every single activity that takes place in any corner of the Nigerian maritime environment, for the purpose of transmitting such messages, real time, to all the assets used in the project. This allows for easy coordination of the activities of all the partners in the project.

The human component of the Deep Blue Project is the Maritime Special Unit. This unit comprises over 340 personnel drawn from the different security agencies that are involved. They have all undergone special training that has equipped them to be able to respond to any situation that may arise from time to time. Members of this unit play the dual role of fighting piracy and also protecting seafarers who are the main drivers of maritime trade.

The Maritime Special Unit is in place because the war against maritime insecurity is highly unpredictable, and could be quite deadly, considering the sophistication of piracy in the waterways. It is the reason members of this unit had to undergo special training for the assignment.

The administrative functions of the Deep Blue Project are handled by a steering committee that ensures full implementation of the activities of the project in accordance with the terms of the project. The committee comprises Jamoh, as head of NIMASA, and the heads of all the security agencies involved in the project, and is jointly chaired by the ministers of Transportation and Defence.

The success of the Deep Blue Project, which was officially flagged off by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 10, 2021, is attributable to the synergy that exists among all the participants in the project. This is something that was lacking in previous attempts to fight piracy in the Nigerian maritime environment, when agencies involved in the fight, like the Nigerian Ports Authority, NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy were working independently of one another, sometimes working at cross purposes. This had the consequence of failure to stem the tide of insecurity in the waterways.

The Deep Blue Project has Homeland Security International as its main contractor, with HLSI Systems and Technology Nigeria as its local partner.

Jamoh has the good fortune of having the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act of 2019 as the legal teeth he needs to fight piracy in the country’s waters. Previous attempts to fight piracy and other forms of criminality in the Nigerian maritime environment proved abortive because there was no law to back the effort. It was virtually impossible to prosecute a maritime offence in court because of the absence of guidelines for doing so. For instance, it was not possible to produce evidence in court for an offence that took place in the high seas.

That bottleneck has been removed by the SPOMO Act, which has made it possible for maritime offences to be prosecuted in court. This is evident in the fact that within one year, NIMASA has been able to obtain 20 convictions in cases bordering on piracy in the country’s waterways.

Jamoh’s Deep Blue Project initiative has received the commendation of the international shipping industry. This is attested to by the fact that the secretary general of IMO, Kitack Lim, recently conveyed the commendations of the United Nations to Jamoh for his bold efforts at stemming the tide of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea.

The volatility of the Gulf of Guinea and the high rate of insecurity in the region, coupled with the designation of the region as the most unsafe and insecure in the world, has been the reason given by offshore underwriters for placing a higher premium on cargoes coming into Nigeria from any part of the world than on those going to other countries.

However, according to a recent IMB report dated July 14, 2021, there has been a gradual de-confliction in the Gulf of Guinea, which has manifested in the reduction of piracy and other forms of criminality in the region, to an all-time lowest level in 27 years. Jamoh believes the premium placed on Nigeria-bound cargoes should reflect this reality. That is to say that underwriters should effect downward review of the premium in the light of the fact that the rate of piracy and other forms of criminality in Nigeria’s waterways is showing a downward trend.

He has started a campaign to this effect, and is soliciting the support and involvement of the various organizations in the private sector, especially those whose businesses are adversely affected by the practice of the underwriters, in the campaign. They are the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria; National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture; Nigerian Shippers Council; Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents; National Insurance Commission; Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders; Federal Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment, among many others. He also wants the media to be involved in the campaign.

For the second ‘S’, NIMASA, under Jamoh, is working to clear relics and wrecks from the waterways to make them safe for navigation. This is borne out of the understanding that for the country’s maritime environment to be conducive for economic activities to thrive, it must not only be secure, it must also be safe. The agency is also collaborating with other agencies like the National Inland Waterways Authority to ensure the human element of safety is adhered to by all stakeholders. This involves sensitizing commercial passenger boat operators and owners of fishing trawlers, as well as their crew, on the need to use life jackets while in the waters. There is also need for boat operators to conform to passenger limits, in terms of numbers.

Jamoh is working on the third ‘S’ to ensure ship building expansion for Nigerian vessel owners. He decries a situation in which the nation’s maritime industry is dominated by foreign vessels. The inability of Nigerian vessel owners to access the Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund (CVFF) for the purpose of acquiring ships is going to be a thing of the past, as the loose ends in the enabling legislation are being tied to remove the bottlenecks. This process is made easier by the fact that Jamoh is the chairman of the CVFF Disbursement Committee, a position that enhances the smooth implementation of the third ‘S’ of his tripod.

Beyond the ‘S’ tripod, NIMASA will, any moment form now,  deploy its floating dock to the Continental Shipyard owned by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP). International oil companies operating in the country have shown interest in dry-docking their ships at the facility, an arrangement that would generate over N1 billion annually for NIMASA, while creating employment for over 350 people. The floating dock will save a lot of foreign exchange for the country, and also provide facilities for sea-time training of cadets in mechanical and electrical engineering.

Whom the cap fits

Jamoh has proved to be the right man for the job of overseeing the regulatory agency for a key sector of the Nigerian economy, namely, maritime.

He holds a PhD, with specialty in Logistics and Transport management, from the University of Port Harcourt. He also holds a Master’s degree in Management from the Korea Maritime and Ocean University, a Post Graduate Diploma in Management Sciences form Bayero University, Kano and a Diploma in Accounting from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

R-L: Representative of the Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Training and Operations, Air Vice Marshal JMD Gwani; Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Honorable Lucky Aiyedatiwa; Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh; and Country Director, HLSI Nigeria, Tal Spekto inspecting one of the Aerial Assets during the graduation ceremony of air assets trainees recently
Executive Director, Finance and Administration, NIMASA, Chudi Offodile (right) presenting a certificate to one of the graduates of the Deep Blue Project’s Special Mission Vessel (SMV) training.
Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services NIMASA, Engr. Victor Ochei (right) presenting a certificate to one of the graduates of the Deep Blue Project’s Special Mission Vessel (SMV) training.

Jamoh has attended several courses in leadership and management at renowned institutions around the world, including Harvard University, the United States; Oxford and Cambridge universities, both in the United Kingdom; International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization, Turin, Italy and Institute of Public Private Partnership, Washington DC, USA. Others are the International Law Institute and the Institute for Leadership and Development for the Public Good, both in the USA; Royal Institute of Public Administration, UK and World maritime University, Sweden.

Jamoh has held virtually every position at the managerial level in NIMASA, the reason he has a broad and insider knowledge of the agency that he now heads. He was Principal Commercial Officer (Operations); Port Services Controller (Onne); Port Services Controller (Tin-Can Island Port); Assistant Chief Commercial Officer (HQ) and Chief Administrative Officer (Training). Others are Assistant Director, Wet and Dry Cargo (Operations); Assistant Director (Research); Head, Protocol and Logistics and Assistant Director (Training).

A recipient of several awards and honours, Jamoh is the current president of the Chartered Institute of Transport Administrators, and is a fellow or member of several national and international professional bodies. These include Fellow, Chartered Institute of Administration of Nigeria; Fellow, Institute of Business Development; Fellow, Academy of Entrepreneurial Studies; Fellow, Institute of Public Diplomacy and Management, as well as Fellow, Institute of Information Management. He is a Member, Chartered Institute of Personnel Management; Member, Institute of Maritime Economist (Canada); Member, Institute of Logistics, London; Member, Intstitute of International Affairs; Member, National Speakers Association and Member, Global Speakers Federation (USA).

Jamoh is an administrator of no mean standing, and has organized and facilitated leadership training programmes in the UK, USA, UAE, South Africa, Brazil, Malaysia and Sweden. He is considered an expert in maritime human capacity building, PPP development, as well as shipping management and international trade.