25th February, 2011
The new Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA), Mr Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, has disclosed that he was under intense pressure by some powerful forces who are bent on forcing him to do their bidding. Akpobolokemi, who came into office barely two months ago amid controversy and jeers from cynical industry operators, revealed that attempts were being made to stampede him to endorse contract papers he met for payment but which he said he was subjecting to due process.
The new NIMASA helmsman, who addressed his maiden press conference last week, said his decision to be thorough, prudent and refuse to be stampeded has brought him a lot of grief and antagonism.
“The contract situation in NIMASA is untidy. There are lots of pressure on me to sign papers(payment vouchers), even papers brought by formers DGs and I have insisted that due process must be followed. That is why I have come under attacks” the visibly harassed university teacher confessed.
Sounding philosophical and spiritual, Akpobolokemi stated that no amount of pressure and blackmail would make him do what is against his conscience as he has decided to be frugal with government resources.
“The good thing is that I have developed high capacity to absorb pressure, even if you put a gun to my head, I will not do what I think is against my conscence,” he declared.
The university teacher revealed that he even subjects his spendings in the agency to rigorous process of accountability and probity in a bid to underscore his passion for frugality and austere life.
“When they presented to me the impress which the office of the DG is entitled to, I was alarmed by the amount and I ordered that it be cut.
“I also ordered that the impress of the offices of executive directors and other directors be slashed and naturally, this drew an uproar. I even subjected my personal needs such as the renovation of my office and the procurement of my official car to due process,” the NIMASA helmsman said.
He vowed that nothing would make him compromise his stand as he has told his staff that NIMASA is a public institution whose money should not be wasted.
He declared that NIMASA is not a contract-awarding agency but one charged with facilitating maritime trade and providing safe shipping activities. “Nigeria should be ashamed that it does not have a single national ocean-going carrier,” he said.
“It is also worrisome that our cabotage trade has been taken over by foreigners. I cry everyday since I assumed office when I discovered that the industry is characterised by acrimony. I have, however, entered into a convenant with God that I will ensure that Nigerians take over the cabotage trade from the foreigners,” Akpobolokemi stated.Â Curiously, all the three executive directors in the agency were absent from the media parley, neither did any director or other senior official attend.
Akpobolokemi, however, explained their absense at the interractive session which he alone attended. The absence of all the three executive directors at the event, even though was made to look unimportant, has furtherÂ strengthened speculations that there is a rift between Â Akpobolokemi and his executive directors.
Penultimate week, the rumour mill was agog with the purported threat of the DG to resign if his three lieutanants were not redeployed as, according to the uncomfirmed source, he could not work with them due to theirÂ incompatibility.
He was said to have complained to the Minister of Transport, Alhaji Yusuf Sulaiman, who was said to have flown intoÂ Lagos with the new Chairman of the agency, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, to douse the tension and placate frayed nerves.
However, Akpobolokemi denied ever having an issue with his directors and also dismissed the insinuation that he threatened to resign. “I never resigned, neither did I write a 10-page petition against any of my directors,” he declared.