No doubt, the recently-held conference of Association of African Maritime Administrators (AMAA) lived up to its pre-event billing as a convergence of who-is- who in Africa’s maritime administration.
According to AMAA, it is an umbrella body of five African Maritime Stakeholders’ groups, namely: Association of Maritime Administrations of Africa, Africa’s Ship Registry Forum, African Ship Owners Association as well as Africa Shippers’ Council and Seafarers’ Forum.
It drew participants from across all the sub-regions of Africa, other parts of the globe and of course, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).It was also graced by several stakeholders in Nigeria, including the President who was represented by the Vice President; Yemi Osinbajo.
The icing on the cake for Nigeria was the emergence of the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA); Dr Dakuku Peterside as the new Chairman of AAMA.
The AMAA is believed to be working to also institutionalise agreements reached in October 2016 in Lome; Togo, where all heads of governments came together and signed the Lome charter on African Integrated Maritime Security, Safety (AIMS).
The Abuja meeting was also in that direction, going by some of the resolutions that were reached. And the quality of attendance, the papers that were presented and the resolutions are testimonies to this.
For us as Nigeria, the next question is – what happens after the grand hosting of AMAA. After expending such humongous revenue to host the AMAA, one should naturally ask- what is in it for us?
Some days to the conference, the man at the centre of it all, that is, the DG of NIMASA had said: “Nigeria is bidding for a seat of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Council where decisions are being made, and I believe that at the end of this conference we will enjoin the support of our brother nations in Africa so that Nigeria could be a voice for the African continent. We are not just going to represent Nigeria in the Council, we are going to represent the African continent and we are going to be a voice for Africa, a strong one at that”.
The IMO Council has three categories –A, B and C, all with 40 member countries elected. Category ‘A’ consists of 10 nations” with the largest interest in providing international shipping services”. They are: China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States of America.Category ‘B’ also has 10 States “with the largest interest in international seaborne trade”. The nations are: Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.The seat in Category ‘C’, which Nigeria seeks to reclaim, comprises of 20 nations, not electable under Categories A and B. According to IMO, Category C Council members are States with “special interests in maritime transport or navigation and whose election to the Council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world”. Currently, Category C Council members for the 2016-2016 include: Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt and Indonesia. Others are Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey.
Obviously, Nigeria seeks to unseat Kenya, Liberia, Morocco or South Africa.
Let’s not forget that the IMO Category ‘C’ Council which we now seek to reclaim had once been won and lost by Nigeria, having been in the Council in the past. Between 2000 and 2013, Nigeria was in and out of the Council a few times.
Elections into the IMO Council seat, especially the one Nigeria is seeking, is quite an expensive venture and that is where our worry is triggered. Each time Nigeria ventured into elections in the past, we ended up spending huge revenue on diplomatic shuttles across Africa to solicit support. The question is: Can Nigeria muster such resources, especially under the current economic dispensation of recession?
Many industry stakeholders have expressed opinions that there is really not much benefits attached to the IMO Category ‘C’ seat.
Apart from this, what has our previous grand entries into the famous Council seat fetched us as a nation, how did it impact on our ship ownership, sea farers training and certification, safety of ships and cargo in our waters and within our territorial waters, and so on.
We think that a council where the likes of United States of America, United Kingdom, Bahamas, Australia, Chile, Indonesia, Singapore, Denmark, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and so many others will be seated alongside Nigeria should certainly not be just a matter of just national pride.
Back to the hosting of AMAA conference and the expectations that it will offer Nigeria the fillip to clinch the IMO seat.
For the huge financial resources that were deployed to hosting the conference, the nation deserves maximum benefits.
We think that rather than sit pretty after the Abuja conference Nigeria and indeed the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency should immediately begin the campaign.
Nigeria needed two things from hosting the AMAA- to clinch the chairmanship of the body, and to win a seat in the IMO Council. We already have one in the kitty, remaining the IMO Council seat. If we don’t get it, our hosting the AMAA conference and expending so much would have been a waste.