By Stephen Ubanna
Dakuku Peterside , Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and other officials of the agency who had accompanied him to this year’s Assembly of International Maritime Organisation, IMO, Council’s meeting in London, were optimistic that the country would be re-elected into the Council Category C seat this time around.
The optimism was informed by the fact Kitack Lim, the IMO Secretary General had rated the country as one of being the most improved among the maritime Compliant nations in the African Continent. Recall that first major attempt by the country had made to be re-elected into the Council Category C, under the current peterside led NIMASA management was at its biennial meeting in 2017 but lost out to the East African country of Kenya. Blame the loss the loss of the election then to his lack of understanding to the over 120 IMO Council members politics.
The loss of the election may have strengthened the resolve of the Nigerian maritime regulatory Agency to go back to the drawing board to prepare ahead of the 2019 Council meeting. Insiders told The Value News that that agency with the support of the Officials of the ministry of Transportation, particular, Gbemisola Saraki, the minister of state, who was said to have led the Nigeria delegation had made adequate arrangement for the election.
The Nigeria delation to the IMO Council meeting led by the minister of state transportation, according to a list made available to the Magazine included Peterside, whose agency, NIMASA, was the lead achor, Hajia Hadizaaging Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Danjuma Goje, former governor of Gombe state and Chairman , Senate Committee on Transport, lyanda Ikpeazu, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration.
Other members of the high profile delegation I were Sabiu Zakari , Permanent Secretary, ministry of Transportation, Duja Effedua, Director of Maritime Accademy , Oron, Akwa Ibom state and Hassan bello, executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC. But Petrside, the Nimasa , boss, was said to have played a major role in the Campaign to ensure that Nigeria wins the Council election.
Unknown to many, Kenya, which defeated Nigeria in the 2017 election and now seeking a re-election into the the Council Category seat , appears to have taken advantage of President Muhammadu Buhari closure of the land Borders with the neighbouring West African countries of Republic of Benin , Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon , which had received wide international condemnations to penetrate their ranks to turn against Nigeria.
Indeed, the response by the Beninese delegation when approached by the Nigeria delegation led by Saraki, the minister of State, Transportation speaks volume. ‘’if you want our support , go and open your closed land Borders’’. The Beninese Head of delegation may be acting out the script of President Patrick Talon who has never hidden his hatred over the closure of the Borders in deeds and action, over the the last three months.
Talon may have known that the Nigerian Border closure with the neighbouring countries would work against Nigeria making it to the IMO Council Category C, and therefore , was ready to play the spoiler’s role, as Nigeria was not ready to play ball: reopen the closed land Borders.
The French speaking country was said to have teamed up with other countries both within and the African Continent which are opposed to Nigeria , to Campaign against the country. It was not surprising why Nigeria lost narrowly the election to Kenya.
Twenty countries which were said to have special interest in maritime Transport and Navigation which were said to have been re- elected into the group included Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, , Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Malasia, Malta, Mexico, , Morocco, Peru, Philipines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey.
Peterside, the NIMASA helmsman, may have spoken his mind about Nigeria loss of the IMO Council Category C election in London, when he said ‘’Despite the fatherly role Nigeria has played on the African Continent, some countries still didn’t like our rising profile and insisted on working against us’’.
An angry NIMASA boss had said, ‘’the loss of the IMO Council election was not just about putting our House in order ‘’, attributing it to a ‘’political game and Conspiracy at the highest Diplomatic level’’. T
Perhaps, what may have touched the NIMASA boss the most was the fact that the European country of Switzerland also teamed up with the other African countries opposed to Nigeria to work against the country. The European country was said to have justified its decision to vote against the African giant, Nigeria, because the seizure of their vessel over the last two years by the Nigerian Navy .
Maritime watchers believe that the aggrieved countries which had one problem or the other with Nigeria may have waited for the Assembly of the IMO Council biennial election in London to pay Nigeria back in their own coin, particular: Benin, Cameron and Switzerland. They knew that Nigeria would certainly ask for their support and votes to be re-elected into the IMO Category C Seat which it lost in 2017 to Kenya. They had their way.
In spite of the loss of the IMO Category C Council Seat to Kenya, the NIMASA boss had told the Shipping World in an interview that, ‘’it would not take away the fact that Nigeria remains a big maritime player in the African Continent with the second highest tonnage’’.
An insiders informed the Magazine that there was more to the Nigeria loss of the IMO Category C seat to Kenya. The source insists that a lot of work still needed to be done by the nation’s maritime sector in order to be able to face the Challenges ahead. Peterside may have agreed to this in the interview with the Shipping World, ‘’there was still much work that needed to done in the country’s maritime sector to put it back on a sound footing in order to stand future IMO elections.
Saraki, the minister of State , Transportation, who was said to have led the Nigerian Delegation to the IMO Council meeting said that much: the Campaign for the 2021 bid had begun’’. The minister who could not hide her feelings has made it clear to Peterside, Hajia Usman and maritime stakeholders, that they must work harder to ensure that the country gets a seat on the International maritime table.
As a prelude to ensuring that the country wins the 2021 IMO Council Category C , election, She was said to have initiated first step to appraise the factors that led to the loss of the election and make amends. ‘’We are going back all the countries that voted to ask them that they did not think we have done well or why they did not vote us’’, she firther said.
She noted that there was no basis for Nigeria to have lost the election to Kenya because the ‘’country has performed remarkably well in reforming its maritime sector to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals , SDGs . She cited some of the milestones that had been achieved over the last four years in maritime and safety, gender equality and environment responsibility.
Liberia, the other African country, which was said to have made it to Category D were said to have been supported by the United States , US, which narrowly made it to Category A of the Council Seat.
Notwithstanding that, Nigeria had lost to Kenya in the IMO Category C, election, Peterside believes that the country was not humiliated as it had lost the election by only one vote compared to the last biennial election in which it lost by 12 votes to Kenya, an indication that the gap is narrowing. It was not surprising why he saw Nigeria performance at the election as a great improvement.
In apparent reaction to the Nigeria loss of the IMO election, Isichei Osamgbi, a Deputy Director, and the NIMASA , Spokesperson disclosed that Nigeria was not the only loser but the entire West African sub-region as it had lost its only seat in the Council.
At present , the 10 countries with the largest International Shipping services that make up the IMO Council, Category A, Seat include China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russia Federation, United Kingdom, UK, and theUnited States US, while the 10 others on Category B , which are hoping to make it to Category A, included Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and United Arab Emirates, UAE.