Niger Delta

Dakuku Peterside And The Overshadowed Implications Of His Sack


“They have taken away majority of the prominent positions occupied by our sons and daughter in the Federal Government.” – Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike

What would it most fittingly be called in bureaucratic register and Aso Rock’s idiolect a situation where a federal appointee is relieved of his duties just about six days to the expiration of the statutory tenure of that office? What may have been the secret and target in the hurry to cut short the service days of the immediate-past Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, the way it happened?

Although this avantgarde pattern is not a novelty and cannot therefore be altogether surprising in this dispensation, there are apparently many meanings to read from the swift haste with which President Buhari handled the matter. Amidst the intrigues, it was only slightly better that the usual cracking presidential alibi of “I am not aware” was not part of the farcical window-dressing.

Nonetheless, under the wind of the moment, the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, had come close to playing the old tape when he denied that he was not in the know that the President had kicked out his candidate: “As Minister of Transport, I should know. Government does not take unilateral decisions. If he were to be sacked, I should have been intimated of his sack; but I am not aware”, he was quoted to have said during an AIT television programme in Abuja.

The sack of Dakuku brought to three high profile appointees from the Niger Delta region sacked from juicy positions by President Muhammadu Buhari in less than two weeks. Dr. Joi Yemebe Nunieh of NDDC was sacked on Wednesday, 19th February, 2020. About a week later, Friday, 28th February, 2020, the Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Professor Charles Quaker Dokubo, was booted out. Just four days after, the sledge hammer again fell on Dr. Dakuku Peterside, March 4, 2020.

While the circumstance may make it time-wasting but possible to query the rationale and timing of the sweeping disengagements of the eggheads by the President in just a matter of days, worse is the shared destiny that has the threesome all come from Rivers State: Dr. Nunieh from Nyokhana, Khana Local Government Area; Prof. Dokubo of the Kalabari tribe in Abonnema, Akuku Toru Local Government Area; while Dr. Ama Opusenibo Dakuku Adolphus Peterside hails from Biriye Kingdom of Opobo, Opobo-Nkoro Local Government Area respectively.

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Whereas Nunieh’s sack had come as a devastating flash of thunder at dawn, Prof. Dokubo’s could be said to have been foreseen, he having been in the balance for long. To the contrary, although there had been suppressed smokes from his office in recent times, it would have been highly presumptuous to see Dakubu’s disengagement coming that very day it came.

Again, whereas Dr. Joi Nuneih was replaced with a fellow Niger Deltan from Rivers State precisely, a university don, Professor of Strategic Studies, Prof. Kemebrandikumo Daniel Pondei, against the run of that theatrical contrivance, Dr. Peterside’s successor happened to be a Kaduna State indigene, Dr. Bashir Jimoh, a marine transportation expert with the NIMASA.

Like Nigerians did Dakuku in 2016, Jumoh was instantly applauded as the best for the job, considering his educational status and exposure. But if academic qualifications and cognate experience were to be the panacea for NIMASA’s challenges, it is safe to say that the cyclical changes in NIMASA wouldn’t have been necessary because many of Dr. Jumoh’s predecessors had come into that office with truckful of certificates. Here is another sound Nigerian emerging from the miasma of the “Nigerian factor” who sooner or later shall have to call for press conferences to tell the world about his latest sources of migraine.

There have been concoctions of facts, opinions and assumptions on why Dakuku was humiliated.
Although a typical Presidency has been stingy with the truth, some sources have traced the reaosn to failure of the sacked DG to meet his employer’s expectations and targets; his inability to develop indigenous shipping which has brought about loss of patronage by critical stakeholders and partners; and discourtesy for or poor relationship with the National Assembly.

Other speculative reasons, in a nutshell, include alleged gross mismanagement of funds, for example, as seen in his choice to pay 10, 000 US Dollars per day per vessel on Fast Intervention Vessels for two years, instead of dry docking and servicing of 22 vessels seized by the EFCC from Global West Vessels Specialists and Tom Polo; over 3billion wasted on hyacinth removal contract; extravagant end of year parties; uncompleted projects and inflating of contract sums and awarding same without due process, as well as 200 Pounds monthly imprest withdrawal from the London office.

Most recently, Dakuku is said to have attracted the displeasure of the National Assembly’s joint committee on NIMASA, chaired by Telsim Folarin (Senate) and Legor Idagbo (Representatives), when he failed to appear before it to answer questions on his failure to present the audited accounts of the agency for years. The Committee therefroe had no choice than walked out the NIMASA’s Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage, Mr. Gambo Ahmed, who stood in for him. Unfortunately, the second chance given to the embattled DG to arrange himself never came but was lost to the eventuality of his sack.

Yet to others, Dakuku was a victim of masterminded circumstances by cabals in high quarters. According to this school of thought, his sack was schemed to give that strategic position to a northerner. Outspoken Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike, belongs to that group. Speaking when the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Eyinaya Abaribe, led a minority caucus in the Senate on a condolence visit to him over the passage of his uncle, Chief Charles Wike, the governor described Peterside’s abrupt ouster as a reflection of the subsisting sectionalism of the incumbent power. “They have taken away majority of the prominent positions occupied by our sons and daughter in the Federal Government. Is Rivers State not part of Nigeria?”

To Rotimi Amaechi, no matter what happened, Dakuku should have been given a second shot to vindicate or condemn himself. By implication, the loss of Dr. Joi Nunieh, Prof. Charles Dokubo and Dr. Peterside Dakuku in the serial sacks are, by and large, Hon. Rotimi’s aggregate losses. Many believe he is the hooded benefactor to the trinity on account of the role he may have played in their appointments. Some have argued that the sack of the trio is an act of clairvoyance and calculated war of attrition against Amaechi, perhaps towards 2023.

In particular, considering the way the country works, the sack of Peterside may mean automatic collapse of bonds, possible stoppage of his initiatives no matter how populist, shift in management paradigm and priority on projects, new appointments and fresh policies. It could even mean total abandonment of the collective Niger Delta interest, thus serving as warning to others from the zone presently holding positions at the Federal Level, but who have survived the first four years, study the clouds very well.

Dakuku came into office on March 15, 2016.
Against all arguments, it would be wrong to dismiss the fresh ideas and earnest contributions of Dr. Peterside at adding value to the evolution of NIMASA across critical sectors. Under his four years, great new things have happened. That his sack has the potential to gloss over his lofty achievements could only be a function of who tells the story, why and where.

Originally established in 1987 as the National Maritime Authority (NMA), the agency metamorphosed into NIMASA in August 1, 2007 as an apex supervising agency in maritime matters and related institutions “responsible for regulations related to Nigerian shipping, maritime labour and coastal waters” and also “undertakes inspections and provides search and rescue services”.

The agency has had 12 DGs from inception, with the pioneer being Dr. Bassey U. Ekong in 1988; John Egesi, George Mbanefo Eneh (1999), Alhaji Munir Jaafar, Baba Galadima 1996 -1998; and Architect Ferdinand Agu (2000 -2005). Others were Engr. Festus Ugwu, Mrs. Mfon Usoro, Dr. Shamsudeen Adegboyega Dosunmu (2007), Temisan Omatseye, Zaikede Patrick Akpobolokemi (2010-2015), and DR. Dakuku Peterside (2016 -2020).

There appears to be a scourge on the hot seat of NIMASA. Available facts show that only one or two DGs from inception may have had double terms (like Ferdinand Agu who was reappointed to be dismissed by former President Obasanjo in 2005), or been able to escape the leprous hand of corruption and premature dismissal.

Dr. Dakuku Peterside even belongs to the species who have stayed for as long as four straight years; the shortest on record being John Egesi who lasted for only three months. So should we now congratulate Dr. Dakuku Peterside for such a long stay that ended in no strange way?

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