Stakeholders worry as Nigeria loses IMO council seat again

IMO Headquarters, London

For the fourth time, Nigeria has failed to clinch the coveted Category ‘C’ seat on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council.

This development, which apparently dampened the morale of stakeholders in the industry, would again deny Nigeria the pivotal role of contributing in taking key decisions in the global maritime space.

Category C comprises countries, which have special interest in maritime transportation or navigation, and whose election to the IMO council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world.

At an election held during the 31st Session of the IMO, Nigeria lost to Kenya by one vote in the Category C elections. Kenya got 111 votes to come 20th, while Nigeria got 110 votes to make 21st. Saudi Arabia got 106, Poland 101, and Liberia 100.

This made the West Africa lost its only seat in the council, as Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, and Kenya retained their seats in the 20-member Category C of the IMO.

The last time the country got elected into the council was in 2009, during the administration of Dr. Ade Dosunmu after its initial election in 2000.

Commenting on this development, Former President, Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Greg Ogbeifun, said the nation should look inward and develop its capacity and expand its platforms in other to earn a better reputation in the comity of maritime nations.

Ogbeifun, who is also the Chairman of Starzs Investments Company Limited, said: “The country as a whole, particularly the maritime agencies responsible for this have stepped up their efforts to develop the sector in the last couple the years, although there are still some challenges. From the international perspective, I think we have done well, but what is remaining is for us to now look inward and see how we can develop our own resources.

“For example, we have been talking about training cadets. As long as we continue going around the world and beg people to put our cadets on their ships, we are telling the world that we don’t have any serious platform. First, we should be able to develop our own maritime platform that will make us less dependent on the foreign countries, because anytime anybody comes to your house to start begging for something, you will feel that the person is weak and deficient. So, if you are in a position to vote that person into any serious position, the first thing that strike your mind is that, is it not this person that came asking me for internship space? Is it not this person that does have any single ship to carry his import or export?

“So, right now lets look inwards and put those things that will make us independent in place. So if different countries are seeing Nigerian ships flying Nigerian flags out there, they will know that we are really a global player and take us serious. Right now, we don’t have any presence.
We should take it to the next step and actualize some of these initiatives within our shore and stop depending on foreigners. As long as you keep flying to Malasia, Singapore and London, we will keep having these issues. Let us do it in such a way that they are coming to us. We are a great nation and we should work to sustain it,” he said.

Speaking in the same vein, the President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tony Iju, said the nation should review its international relationship and then look inward to examine the reasons behind the loss, and make necessary amendments.

Iju said: “We have to look inward on why we are loosing the elections. First and foremost, we have to put our house in order when it comes to maritime industry. We have to streamline our relationship with international best standards amongst other nations. We need to pursue our trade relationship with all neighboring countries. Most importantly, Nigeria has to be very friendly in our relation with other nations; you can imagine us losing to Kenya. This is not a jamboree issue. It’s a very serious matter, and we need to take it as such,” he said.

However, Nigeria will have another chance at the Council in 2021, during the next biennial session of the IMO Assembly.

The Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki, who led the country’s delegation, said the campaign for the 2021 bid had begun.

Saraki said it was of paramount national interest that “Nigeria gets a seat on the maritime table”.

She said the country would, as a first task, appraise the factors behind its narrow loss.

“We are going to go back to the countries that voted to ask them what they did not think we have done well or why they did not vote for us,” Saraki stated.

But she insisted Nigeria had done remarkably well in reforming its maritime sector, to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

She pointed to the milestones in maritime safety and security, gender equality, and environmental responsibility.

Saraki was delighted by the efforts of the Nigerian delegation to campaign for the Category C seat.

The IMO on Friday 29th, elected 40 states to be Members of its Council for the 2020-2021 biennium.

Category ‘A’ had 10 states with the largest interest in providing international shipping services including; China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States.

Category ‘B’ had 10 states with the largest interest in international seaborne trade, they are; Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

On the Category ‘C’ which Nigeria contested, it includes 20 States not elected under (a) or (b) above, which have 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. They are; Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey.

The Council is the executive organ of IMO, and is responsible under the Assembly, for supervising the work of the Organization. Between sessions of the Assembly, the Council performs all the functions of the Assembly, except that of making recommendations to Governments on maritime safety and pollution prevention.

Nigeria had lost consecutively in 2009 and 2011. In 2017, the nation went all out, but lost again. The preparation for 2019 IMO Council election had been on since the beginning of this year with many strategies and campaign mechanism targeted at clinching that seat, but unfortunately Nigeria lost the election again for the fourth consecutive time.

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