Stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime industry have expressed shock following Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)-propelled failed bid to get Nigeria elected into the Category ‘C’ Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) again for the fifth time and the second consecutive time under the present Administration of Dr. Dakuku Peterside as Director General of NIMASA.
Recall that Nigeria contested for Category ‘C’ seat in the council which is reserved for 20 countries not elected in Categories A and B. But, Nigeria on Friday, however lost the keenly-contested election to Kenya.
Countries elected into the categories include: Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey.
In his immediate reaction, the former Chairman of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) and Chairman/CEO Starz Investment Company Limited, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun ,in a telephone chat with our correspondent said it is unbelievable for Nigeria to lose to Kenya, despite all efforts the present administration had put in place to make the country a force to reckon with in Africa.
He opined that the election should not have taken place in the first place considering the fact that Nigeria is a more renowned maritime nation as compared to Kenya.
He urged the Director General of NIMASA, to look in-house and work towards developing the maritime domain and forget about the IMO, adding that he does not see any reason for Nigeria to contest anymore since the organization has failed to recongnise the country.
"My first reaction is unbelievable, to lose to Kenya is unbelievable, and I think Nigeria has done a lot to improve in her maritime expectations, both locally and internationally, and including the security situation in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria has pioneered all sort of issues to address such problem and one would have expected that with all of that, the country should have a smooth sailing into the Council, and then be encouraged to do more, but this is quite disappointing and I don’t think this is right at all.
"Our leaders needs to now gather in a room put up our thinking cap and begin to strategise whether we should keep satisfying IMO that does not seem to encourage us or we should just look in house and put our own maritime domain in order for our own benefits.
"This is quite a shock to me personally, because I know the efforts the maritime agencies have put in, in the last two years, to change the narratives positively, for this to happened is quite disheartening.
"Whatever it is, there are certain bench marks that need to be considered, besides the votes, what have the two countries brought to the table, Nigeria is a bigger and renowned maritime nation historically, compared to Kenya, so in the first place there should be no room for competition between the two of them.
In Africa, Nigeria is rated highly; the Director General NIMASA is the chairman of AMAA, so that means there is recognition, our Maritime Academy Oron has woken up, so all sorts of infrastructural and developmental changes have taken place, but this is what we get in return, for me I don’t think we should go ahead with the bid anymore, it won’t be necessary, he said.
On his own part, Chairman Port Consultative Council (PCC) Otunba Kunle Folarin noted that lack of compliance to IMO rectifications and objectives cost the country another loss, he said until Nigeria begin to comply with the ratifications and meet the standard of IMO, the country may still find it difficult to get a seat in the Council.
According to him, "there are criteria for achieving a seat in the Council, and compliance is mandatory, so if Nigeria understands the criteria they should comply, another thing is that it is a contest and in a contest superiority matters.
" In a contest, you have to be above your pears, your co-contestants in terms of achieving the parameters laid down, for example the issue of compliance with IMO conventions ratifications is key, how many of the conventions of the IMO, which Nigeria has ratified has been domesticated by the National Assembly? If you say you are a member of an organisation and you subscribe to the objectives of the organisation, then compliance is mandatory, so if we have accepted some conventions and ratified them signed by the President, then it has to be domesticated, it is only when it is domesticated that it becomes a law”, he argued.
Folarin also pointed out that lack of vessels flying Nigeria flag may have also hindered Nigeria’s election into the council.
"Secondly what is our fleet expansion, what is the tonnage of ships in our registry not necessarily Nigeria flag vessels alone, first of all worldwide shipping, Liberia will always be in the white list because they maintain a very strong shipping register.
"Thirdly how many Nigeria flag vessels do we have, what is the tonnage of Nigeria flag vessels, fourthly what is the participation of Nigeria shipping in international trade, so compliance is sacrosanct it is not something you do with sentiment or favouritism and they look at those who are contesting with you, what is their compliance level, if their compliance level is 70 percent or 80 percent and yours is 30 percent with that you can’t win, because in their assessment you don’t have enough contribution to the Council.
"Can you educate them in shipping environment when you are not there, can you explain to them the difficulties implementing domesticated conventions when you have not domesticated your own, so what is the value you are bringing to the council, that is the first thing they assessed, what is the maritime value you are bringing to the council”
He assured that Nigeria can still win the seat next time, if the country decides to comply with the IMO standards and objectives".
Also reacting, President, Nigeria Association of Master Mariner (NAMM) Capt. Tajudeen Alao urged the DG of NIMASA to learn from the loss, adding that winning a seat in the Council goes beyond organising workshops or propaganda.