Funso Olojo  |

haruna-babaThe ascension of Haruna Jauro to the enviable position of the acting Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was indeed dramatic.

When President Mohammed Buhari sacked the erstwhile highly influential Chief Executive of the agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi in July 16th, 2015, he instructed him to hand over to the most senior Executive Director among the three at the agency.

Consequently, Apbobolokemi handed over to Mr Callistus Nwabueke Obi, the Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services whom he thought was the most senior.

However, while Callistus was still basking in the euphoria of the new position, Jauro, the then Executive Director, Finance and Administration, quietly waited in the wings.

He petitioned the Ministry of Transport that he was the most senior of the three NIMASA chiefs.

In arguing his case, he told the ministry’s top hierarchy that though, the trio of himself, Callistus and Captain Bala Agaba, the Executive Director, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development, were all appointed on the same day, 24th July, 2012 by former President Goodluck Jonathan, he claimed that he had subsequently resumed ahead of the others by 24hours.

His argument held and he was asked to take over from Callistus, who will go down in the history of the agency as having had the shortest tenure as the chief executive officer.

Clearly, one thing had counted in favour of Jauro in his surprise emergence as NIMASA helmsman. It is his commitment to duty which he exemplified by his promptly reporting to work immediately he was appointed in 2012.

While the other two were still engaged in back-slapping with their appreciative friends and well- wishers, Jauro promptly headed to the Burma road office of the agency to report for duty.

This singular positive attitude to work was what nicked the top job for him.

However, there is much more that is needed to run a top-notch agency as NIMASA beyond luck and a positive attitude. Two months into his tenure, the new helmsman is confronted with multi- faceted challenges.

His first challenge is his ability to unite the fragmented workforce.

His ascension has not eclipsed the seeming state of rancour and acrimony among the staff who had been divided along ethnic, religious and professional leanings. In the recent contest for the CEO slot, these fragmented groups somewhat cast their lots with the three principal actors in the succession war, depending on where their interests lay.

For example, there are reportedly loyalists of Akpobolokemi, the erstwhile NIMASA DG, who felt that their champion was unjustly dismissed, claiming it was more of politically-induced victimization than in the normal run of civil service norms and practice.

There are loyalists to Barrister Callistus Obi, the 24-hour NIMASA DG, who felt their benefactor was a victim of ethnic cleansing and who felt Jauro came in through the back door, after pulling ethnic strings.

They argue that if the situation was any different, the status quo would have remained.

‘’They would not have  listened to the claims of coming first to register as enough reason to reverse the decision of the erstwhile DG to hand over to Barrister Obi.

‘’After all, they were appointed on the same day but the former DG used his discretion to hand over to whom he thought was most capable and had the best managerial acumen to drive an agency as NIMASA,’’ one of the notable supporters of Obi declared.

Then there are the loyalists of Jauro, who not only feel that their principal merited his appointment but have gone on to consider all those that had historically opposed his emergence among the staff as dissidents who must be dealt with.

This was the kind of acrimonious situation within which Jauro ascended the NIMASA high stool.

So the situation was charged with each group watching each other with mutual suspicion and distrust, a development that was not conducive to optimum utilization of the human resources at the agency.

As if lending credence to the mutual suspicion and distrust in the agency, the first task of Jauro was to embark on a staff reshuffling exercise where sources claimed that staff suspected to have allegiance to Akpobolokemi, were moved from their strategic positions to positions that were considered obscure and thus incapacitate them from posing any real threat.

This move further polarized the staff.

Just as Jauro seemed to be contending with internal forces, the external forces were as formidable as they equally buffeted the acting DG from all fronts.

The convergence of these forces is so overwhelming that they have seemed to be distractive agents to the NIMASA boss.

 

Akpobolokemi’s ghost still looms large in the agency

The supporters of the dismissed erstwhile NIMASA high chief have consistently accused Jauro of trying to destroy the legacies of his predecessor.

They make references to the alleged refusal of the agency to release funds for the take –off of the multi-billion naira Maritime University at Okorenkoko which was to have commenced academic session last month, September.

They also flayed the suspension of the entrance examination into the technical colleges created by the past administration of the agency.

Another outlandish claim was that the acting NIMASA DG wanted to kill the brilliant National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), a flagship capacity building initiative of the agency, created during the tenure of Dr. Ade Dosunmu, but pursued with vigour by Akpobolokkemi.

However, the present management of NIMASA has consistently denied these claims, saying those programmes were yet on course.

The avowed antagonists of the acting DG have also raised a moral question on his claims to innocence over the alleged crimes for which Apkobolokemi was removed and is presently been investigated by the EFCC.

His critics contend that there was no financial transaction that could happen in the agency under the sacked Apkobolokemi without the knowledge and active collaboration of Jauro who was the Executive Director, Finance and Administration in the immediate past dispensation.

‘’Why then persecute Akpobolokemi and spare his chief accounting officer with whom he must have committed any financial impropriety, if there was any,’’ the critics query?

However, Jauro has explained that, unknown to his critics, he was the first person to be grilled by EFCC after Akpobolokemi was removed.

‘I told them all that I knew and they left my office,’’ he explained.

He further clarified that it got to a period during the tenure of Akpobolokemi that he was not aware of any financial transaction as, according to him, during his absence, other directors were made signatories to the agency’s accounts while he was left in the cold whenever money was being released.

While nobody has been known to publicly fault him ever since he made these claims, however, the acting DG is said to be under fresh attacks from some of the disgruntled staff who were said to be unsettled by his style of administration which they consider to be discriminatory.

They were said to have fired another petition to the Presidency and the Ministry of Transport on what they considered as the atrocities of the NIMASA high chief.

It is in the midst of this sea of antagonism which is located in hostile environment that Jauro has to discharge his duties of leading NIMASA to carry out its core functions of shipping development and ensuring a safer, cleaner and saner maritime environment in Nigeria.

Analysts say that the current combination of the internal and external forces which appear bent on compromising his capacity to effectively lead the maritime regulatory body are too much of a distraction to Jauro and continue to constrain his ability to deliver on his mandate.

Luckily for him however, the embattled NIMASA helmsman can continue to bank on his positive attitude to work which landed him this plum job in the first place and is expected to further assist him in weathering the tempestuous storms in NIMASA.