Three years after the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) spent taxpayers’ money to buy a multi-million dollar modular floating dock, is currently lying idle in Lagos, with the cost of maintenance estimated at about $30,000 daily.
The dock which is said to be purpose-built for its approved location in Okerenkoko, Gbaramatu kingdom, Delta State, was acquired in 2018 to serve as maintenance base for visiting vessels and those domiciled in the country, with aspirations to save about $100m yearly in capital flight; generate employment, and boost local capacity.
Unfortunately, these aspirations have become a mirage, owing to improper planning.
The facility, measuring 125 metres by 35metres, with three in-built cranes, transformers, and a number of ancillary facilities, was built by one of the world’s largest ship building firms, Damen Shipyards, and its partner, NIRDA, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, at a cost of N50b.
The Guardian investigations revealed that the floating dock, currently lying down in the marina area of Lagos, has not undertaken any project since it sailed into the country three years ago, but has continued to incur maintenance costs.
The suspended Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, had asked NIMASA to move the facility to the NPA Continental Shipyard, in the same Lagos water, as a way of avoiding the daily running cost of $30, 000, particularly that of the parking lot belonging to the Nigerian Navy, in Lagos.
The NPA was supposed to go into an agreement with NIMASA on the handover of the authority’s dockyard, jetty locations, and warehouses within the area to facilitate the installation of the modular floating dock, after which the Ministry of Transportation would ratify the deal and grant approval.
The deal has, however, failed to secure the expected ratification after several months, going by intrigues trailing the leadership of the NPA, coupled with issues of political-will in the Ministry of Transportation.
The Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, had last March, assured maritime stakeholders that the modular floating dock was in the process of being deployed.
Jamoh, who disclosed this during a meeting with Bala-Usman, said: “I am here to affirm that the modular floating dock has come to stay. We have concluded arrangements for its deployment and operation. The date for its commissioning would be announced soon.”
Jamoh while revisiting the issue a few weeks ago, told journalists: “On the modular floating dock, what we are doing now is to secure where we are going to put it to ensure its efficiency.”
The President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, Captain Tajudeen Alao, who said the floating dock issue has been thoroughly dealt with, noted that its location became a political issue under the leadership of the former NIMASA administration.
Shedding more light on the intrigues behind the location of the facility, Alao explained: “It should have been positioned where it was originally designed for from day one, but political considerations decided otherwise, and it berthed in Lagos. The floating dockyard was purposely designed for Okorenkoko, in Delta State, but when the government changed hand, the new helmsmen changed the location to Lagos,” he said.
The master mariner however, said “arrangement has been concluded to berth the facility at the Apapa Dockyard, in collaboration with the NPA and that is sealed.”
Alao who informed that remodeling of the NPA Dockyard to take the facility was in process, stressed that the “the dockyard will get better patronage in Lagos, than in Okerenkoko where only service boats and fishing boats operate.”
He added that operating the facility in Okerenkoko would be more expensive due to complex logistics support.
Meanwhile, Alao said no penny was paid to the Nigerian Navy for keeping the facility at the Naval Dockyard for years, adding that any information to the contrary was false as payments that were made at Marina, were not in dollars, and only N30, 000 daily.
Commenting on the issue, the President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, asked: “Why are we always involved in waste? It is a wasteful venture to purchase a floating dock that is not working, but is being maintained. There is need for this government to put things in order. We are selling the future of our generation off. If those things were properly invested, we would not have the problem that we are having now.
“NIMASA has a core function, its function is not to go about buying floating docks. If you look at Section 2 and 15 of the NIMASA Act, the core function of NIMASA is to empower indigenous operators. It’s not to jump from one workshop to another. What concerns NIMASA with floating dock? It is just a waste.
“The Federal Government really needs to look into these things, because money that should have been used for proper investment have been wasted and that is why there is high level of unemployment in the country today. Most of the projects in the maritime industry are fictitious. How can we just invest N50b in a project and it’s not operating? It’s very sad,” Amiwero said.
An industry chieftain, Eugine Nweke, also told The Guardian that the facility was grounded as a result of administrative failure.
“It is an administrative issue, somebody must take charge and administer and stop playing to the gallery.
“Why should the Federal Government through an agency purchase a floating platform, which has not done any job for about three years? The government should probe into the matter and not just treat it with levity. Or did we buy the facility to just lie fallow on our waters? The Federal Government should investigate the procedure of purchase, and what happened thereafter. If it was purchased on conditions, what are those conditions? Why has location become a problem for facility that the issue of its location had been settled before it was purchased? All these should be unraveled, while swift solution should be brought to bear in order to make it operational,” Nweke said.