Last week Friday, Nigeria once again lost its bid to regain the Category C seat of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in a keenly contested elections in London Headquarters of the world body.
Last weekend loss makes it the fifth consecutive failed attempts which Nigeria made to recapture the global crown it lost in 2009.
The latest loss was particularly painful and dramatic as the country lost to Kenya by one solitary but vital vote.
Disappointed stakeholders have since then been making wild guesses as to why Nigeria has consistently become a serial loser at the IMO Council seat elections.
While some believed that the maritime administration in Nigeria has not done enough to made the country merit a seat to dine with serious maritime nations in the world, others believed the loss was an unfair reflection of efforts of the present management of NIMASA to shore up our maritime fortunes.
As a matter of fact, Captain Tony Onoharigho, a shipping expert, had earlier foretold the failure of Nigeria at the just concluded IMO elections when he said it would be difficult for the country to get the council seat.
He based his foreboding feelings on the fact that the country is not even on the White List or Grey List.
Nonetheless, we are saddened by this latest loss given the level of improvements we thought our maritime administration has recorded in recent times.
Before this time, the previous loses have mainly been attributed to notoriety of Nigeria’s waters for pirate attacks as well as the shamble state of our ship registry.
Our Search and Rescue operations were also blamed while the poor level of compliance of port infrastructures to the ISPS code was not spared.
But in recent times, the present management of NIMASA led by Dakuku Peterside, has shown uncommon commitment and courage to tackle these challenges.
We can recall that incidents of pirate attacks on our waters drastically reduced early this year due to the collaborative efforts of NIMASA with Navy.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) even acknowledged this feat in its quarterly assessment reports.
To show its commitment to fighting piracy, Nigeria went further to rally global onslaught on piracy at the problematic Gulf of Guinea which is notorious for its piracy attacks.
For three days, Nigeria, through the instrumentality of NIMASA and Nigeria Navy, hosted global conference in Abuja where world maritime powers as well as countries in the Gulf of Guinea were invited to brainstorm on how to end the scourge.
To complement its security efforts on Nigerian waters, NIMASA launched an operation of a modern and sophisticated security architecture known as Command, Control Computer Communication and Information System(C4i).
This is to create maximum security, strong surveillance as well as low freight costs that will boost the confidence of investors and port users.
Also, the current NIMASA management took a bold step to revamp the ship registry which has for some years been a disincentive for ships to fly Nigeria’s flag.
Dakuku not only set up a competent body of experts to review the ship registry into modern one, but vowed to implement all their recommendations.
He followed this up by immediately setting up an implementation committee and gave himself a time frame in which he should be assessed on this effort.
On the ISPS code compliance level of Nigerian Ports facilities, the United States Coast Guards (USCG) commended NIMASA as the Designated Authority (DA) over the improved compliance level attained by the country which was rated at 90 percent.
The Search and Rescue operations of the agency has recorded significant milestones in recent times with its rescue operations to salvage distressed ships, passengers and crew members.
With all these efforts to improve maritime security and Safety on our waters, which is the core function of any maritime administration in the world and for which Nigeria through NIMASA has acquitted itself, what more does the world want?
The efforts of the incumbent NIMASA management in maritime security has even been acknowledged by the IMO when the body described Nigeria as the most improved maritime nation in the sub-region.
Why then are all these efforts by Nigeria not rewarded with a victory at the IMO elections.
As far as we are concerned, Nigeria lost the elections to grand international conspiracy and criminal gang-up by her jealous and ingrate neighbours.
We are not by any means suggesting that our challenges in the maritime industry are over.
On the contrary, we still need to firm up on some other key areas of administration and operations to put the industry on a sound footing.
But our position is that unlike the four previous defeats, the current loss is most unjustified and unkindest cut given the sincerity of purpose of Dakuku-led management in its reformation agenda in the industry aimed at correcting some of the administrative and operational lapses that had hitherto caused our failures at the IMO Council elections.
Despite this loss however, we would like to commend Nigeria nay NIMASA for fighting a good battle.
They have put up a good show.
To us at nigeriamaritime360.com , Nigeria didn’t lose as a result of administrative ineptitudes and operational laxity as some critics may want us to believe but instead we lost to bad international politics heavily steeped in “bad belle”.
We want to encourage Dakuku and his team not to be despondent nor allow their fighting spirit to be dampened as a result of this defeat which to us, was “against the run of play”.
Rather, the management should go back to the drawing board and commence immediate preparations for the next IMO council elections in 2021.
The defeat should also spur NIMASA to improve on its current drive to reform the maritime industry that will make us break the chains of defeat in subsequent elections.
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