By Isaac Anumihe
Nigeria, at the weekend, lost woefully at its third attempt to get re-elected into the ‘Category C’ of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Council seat.
Nigeria won its IMO Council bid last in 2007 under the then Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Ade Dosunmu.
In 2011, Nigeria began a fresh move to return to the council but had always failed despite its contributions to the maritime transport. Forty countries were elected into the IMO Council in three categories for the 2017/2018 biennial. These include China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and United States in ‘Category A’.
Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and United Arab Emirates were elected in ‘Category B’ while Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey were elected in ‘Category C’.
‘Category A’ Council members are countries with the largest interest in providing international shipping services, while countries in ‘Category B’ are those with the largest interest in international seaborne trade.
‘Category C’, which has 20 countries are those 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.
But the election, which took place in London at the weekend, had Nigeria as one of the countries seeking re-election by scoring 98 points in an election that saw five African countries of Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya and Liberia joining the group at the expense of Nigeria.
A breakdown of the votes showed that Morocco scored 134 votes; Egypt, 133; South Africa, 121; Kenya, 120 and Liberia, 116. It was learnt that Singapore came tops with 142 votes to beat 20 countries.
However, ‘Category C’ is the executive organ of IMO that takes decisions in the absence of the Assembly and co-ordinates all activities of the organs of the organisation. It has 20-member countries with special interest in maritime transport or navigation.
Maritime stakeholders have expressed shock at the inability of Nigeria to get re-elected into the policy-making body of IMO, citing policy somersaults, shoddy preparation and inexperience by the Federal Government as represented by the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT) and NIMASA.
A London-based Nigerian maritime analyst, Donald Adebola, who spoke shortly after the election, attributed Nigeria’s loss to “inexperience and shoddy preparation” by the handlers of the country’s bid.
“It is clear that both the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, are not knowledgeable about the workings of IMO. While that is not wrong in itself, their inability to mobilise knowledgeable people on board to drive the process is confounding,” he said.
Also speaking, a former Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Ferdinand Agu, lamented that politicians don’t have a clear idea of what the maritime sector is all about.
“How can you contract maritime safety to a private company when the Nigerian Navy is there?” he asked.
The estacode spent on 36 members of the IMO team, which include air tickets, accommodation, feeding and entertainment, cost taxpayers more than N200 million.
At an average of $600 daily as estacode for the 36-man delegation, which spent five days at the IMO Council meeting and an average of £500 for a return ticket for each of the delegates, one can only imagine the cost of this ego trip to Nigerian taxpayers, another stakeholder, reasoned.
It was learnt that Nigeria’s 36-man delegation was led by the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. Others include the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside and some directors and top officials of the Ministry of Transportation.