In another two months, Nigeria will be seeking re-lection into Category ‘C’ of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO); the seat that Nigeria won about two years ago.
To emerge victorious in 2007, Nigeria garnered 87 votes to beat Liberia which got 74 votes and Angola which scored 42 votes. It is on record that Nigeria’s victory was ably made possible by some African countries, especially, Ghana which was the first to step down for Nigeria. Ghana not only stepped down for Nigeria, she also campaigned for our emergence as a member of the elite IMO Council.
Conversely, while Ghana rallied round Nigeria, Liberia insisted on slugging it out against Nigeria. Thus the defeat of Liberia was very sweet and also very hearth-warming. Of all the countries that contested against Nigeria in 2007, Liberia is the only one with the highest level of diplomatic indebtedness to Nigeria. We recall that not only did Nigeria commit her resources to ensure that peace returned to Liberia, she also lost some of the finest crop of her soldiers in the process.
The fact that when it was time for Nigeria to seek a little goodwill from Liberia in return for past favours, the latter reportedly came up with a ridiculous demand. While commending Nigeria for not dancing to the drumbeat of blackmail which Liberia played, we must also hasten to say that it is painful that we lost that diplomatic war to tiny Liberia. It would have been irreparably painful and shameful if Liberia had clinched that seat at Nigeria’s expense in 2007.
By the election Nigeria once again became one of the 40 nations that have been presiding over the affairs of the 167-member nation IMO; an organization that regulates maritime affairs of the world.
Nigeria has, since 2007 been sitting with the likes of United States of America, United Kingdom, Bahamas, Australia, Chile, Indonesia, Singapore, Denmark, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and so many others. Specifically, Nigeria has been on Category ‘C’ seat with countries like Bulgaria, Iran, Kuwait, Ukraine and Poland.
The immediate past director general, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Dr Shamsudeen Dosunmu must be commended for the dogged fight to regain the pride which Nigeria lost a few years ago when Engr. Festus Ugwu (now deceased) was the director general of the then-National Maritime Authority.
Dr Dosunmu along with IMO election travelled to many African countries to garner support for Nigeria’s ambition. A similar team has been raised by the minister of transportation, Alhaji Ibrahim Isa Bio to ensure that Nigeria gets a second term in the Category ‘C’.
In 2007, sister agencies which under previous but similar circumstances would not have cared a hoot whether or not Nigeria made the list all rallied round NIMASA and indeed the ministry of transportation. Before then, they would have seen it as a purely NIMASA problem. Bu n 2007, their CEO’s were a part of the team that toured different parts of the continent to solicit support of sister African nations.
As at 2007 when Nigeria was canvassing for a return to the IMO Council seat, her profile was not as robust as today. Today, Nigeria hosts a functional Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (RMRCC), which she has been serving the purpose for which it was created.
Apart from ratifying and domesticating scores of conventions, Nigeria has been performing search and rescue functions to the admiration of her neighbouring and the global community.
For example, in the recent past, distressed ships have been rescued by search and rescue team from NIMASA. He most recent of these ships being the duo of MV Lilian Carneiro and MV Tangle were rescued on Nigerian waters. While Lilian Carneiro had a leakage in her tank, the case of Tangle was medical evacuation.
On paper, Nigeria appears good to clinch the second term, but in our manner of doing things, the campaign is coming too late. Why should we wait until the election is a few months away before we start setting up an ad committee to ensure that Nigeria secures a second tenure on the IMO Council? We did it in 2007 and we got away with it because we have the backing of key countries, but we shouldn’t push our luck too far.
Ratification and domestication of key IMO conventions, the establishment of the world-acclaimed Seafarers Identity Documents (SID), establishment of a functioning RMRCC and the nation’s status as a leading maritime nation in Africa are sufficient credential, but they are not enough, a lot of diplomatic shuttles are required.
As Nigeria is canvassing for a second term, we need to as ourselves whether the first term has been effectively used to advance the cause of Nigerian maritime industry stakeholders; especially, seafarers and ship owners.
We had advised in 2007 shortly after we won the seat that Nigeria should take advantage of her emergence as one of the 40 privileged countries in the IMO. It is apt now to ask: What have we gained, to what extent have we taken advantage of rubbing shoulders with notable maritime nations, such as, USA, UK, Japan, Norway, Panama, Greece, Russia, China and Italy ;even though they are in Category ‘A’.
As we canvass for a second term, the time to take stock is now.