By DAPO OLAWUNI
Even as Nigeria on Friday again lost its bid for election into the Category C of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Council, stakeholders in the maritime sector have expressed divergent views even as some technocrats believe Nigeria has done enough to deserve the seat.
The IMO Council is the decision- making body of the United Nations specialised agency responsible for regulating the global maritime industry. The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is flag administration representing Nigeria on the Council.
This is the fifth consecutive time Nigeria is losing its quest to get elected into the IMO Council. Nigeria contested and lost the Council seat bid in 2011, 2013, 2017 and 2019.
Since the results we’re announced on Friday, DAILY TREND NEWS have monitored stakeholders comments and body language across all platforms.
Immediate past Executives Secretary of Nigerian Shippers Council, Barr Hassan Bello corrected insinuation in some quarters that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Federal Ministry of Transportation should be held responsible for the serial losses.
Bello in his comments said Nigeria had put up a gallant fight even before the elections.
“Piracy is being challenged successfully, we have hard and soft infrastructure, we have the legal frame work – an Act of parliament and even convictions
“The numbers of attacks on the waterways is going down, much commendations for NIMASA by IMO and the international community. And the campaign headed by HMOS who used in born diplomatic savvy Yet we fall short
There is more to it than meets the eye”
“We need to question that IMO policy, Remember the UN? It was forced to change certain things, we must commend NIMASA and FMOT” Bello said
Also commenting, President of Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) Capt Tajudeen Alao wondered what Nigeria did not do to satisfy member states.
“We couldn’t have failed , politics aside, we must quickly, check ourselves and fight constructively , preparing for next election.
Category C is show of Special Interest, we have done more than enough??” he stated
Nigerian Ambassador to Democratic Republic of Congo and Former Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Eng Omar Suleiman agreed that Nigeria has done very much with commendations.
He however cautioned that IMO and the United Nations are not voters in the election, he said “They are just INEC during the elections you know that”
“We need a very new approach to IMO elections. We have been doing the same thing and expecting a different result which is not possible.
“New campaign, new alliances and new approach. Get people who know the industry to talk to people not only civil servant. I don’t know how the people on top of this industry knows this industry.
“Elections are not won by the number of people you carry during the elections. Elections are over before IMO meeting.
“We lost before the the elections. When going to polling boot you don’t go to choose. You have your candidates already”
Amb Suleiman advised that a committee for next IMO elections comprising of professionals should be set up immediately if Nigeria still wish to contest the seat next year.
Meanwhile, maritime surveyor and former President of Merchant Navy Officers and water transport Senior Staff Association, Eng Mathew Alalade has warned that Nigeria should not contest IMO seat again for the next two years.
According to him, NIMASA and the government should take time to address the various negative reports emanating from Nigeria, especially piracy and attack of seafarers at sea.
These reports, if not addressed properly, he said it would continue to work against Nigeria’s chances.
On her part, former Director General of NIMASA, Mrs Mfon Usoro advised that Nigeria’s goal should be about becoming a maritime nation, and not just a seat in IMO Council.
She said “That will be a natural consequence of being a major maritime nation. Can one contemplate an IMO Council without the key maritime nations?
“When we become a true maritime nation , member States will lobby us to contest for Council, the IMO will reckon with us.
“Critical issues that will transform Nigeria into a significant maritime nation which in summary is for Nigeria to focus and efficiently perform its: Flag State functions; Coastal State functions; Port State Functions” she said
The last time Nigeria won the IMO Council election was in 2009 under Temisan Omatseye, who was then the Director General of NIMASA.
The Assembly of the IMO announced on Friday that it has elected 40 members of its Council for the 2022-2023 biennium.
Nigeria contested in the election which was held in London at the IMO Headquarters on Friday for the Category C seat in the council, reserved for 20 countries not elected in categories A and B.
The countries in Category C have special interests in maritime transport or navigation and they represent all major geographic areas of the world.
20 countries elected under Category C were Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, the Philippines, Singapore, Qater, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey and Vanuatu.
Nigeria including Kuwait, Peru, South Africa all lost their bids to get re-elected into the Council
Under Category B, made of countries with largest interest in international seaborne trade are Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates were elected.
Elected into Category A, which consist of countries with the largest interest in international shipping services are China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The newly elected Council will meet, following the conclusion of the 32nd Assembly for its 126th session on 15th December and will elect its Chair and Vice Chair for the next biennium.