The Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside, said on Monday that Nigeria lost election into Category `C’ of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) due to late preparations.
Peterside, who said this while addressing newsmen after a meeting of the G7++ Friends of the Gulf of Guinea Group in Lagos, noted that Nigeria started late in its quest to be elected into the council.
The election was held from Nov. 27 to Dec. 8 in London.
The director-general also noted that Nigeria did not send a delegation to go from country to country, to campaign for its re-election into the council.
Peterside said that Nigeria did not spend as much as other countries, adding that before now Nigeria usually went from country to country.
He, however, said that the country could not be able to visit others because it was just coming out of recession.
Peterside noted that another factor responsible for Nigeria’s loss was the wrong impression that piracy was high in the Gulf of Guinea of which Nigeria was a member, adding that the wrong impression was always conveyed to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
He noted that due to this, most countries had instructed their delegates to vote in one direction.
Peterside recalled that Nigeria was last in the IMO Council in 2011 and “since then we made effort to be re-elected’’.
According to him, Nigeria has been first in the council in 1975.
He said that election into the council was based on democratic and peer comparative process.
“IMO acknowledged the fact that Nigeria had done very well as a maritime administration. We are the first country in Africa to subject ourselves to mandatory audit by the IMO.
“We are highly rated as performing very well in our Port and Flag and Coastal State functions.
“In the last one year, we have attracted more training than many African countries.
“The choice of who gets elected into the council is actually a democratic process and a few things were not tidied up, which have to do with administrative processes.
“NIMASA is not supposed to be directly engaged with International Organisations but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supposed to do that on our behalf, ’’ he said.
Peterside explained that all African countries, who were elected into the council such as Morocco, Egypt, Liberia South Africa and Kenya, were simply re-elected.
The director-general said that there was no proof that piracy matters had impact on the election, adding that by the time they put the information in proper perspective, it was a bit late.
Peterside was optimistic that given those things Nigeria had done in recent times, it would be elected in future exercise.
He said that the agency had developed an anti-piracy legal framework, adding that before now, there was no law to purely tackle piracy and maritime crimes.
According to him, we are building on the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and with the support of international organisations.
“We have developed an anti-piracy bill which will be forwarded to the National Assembly. When passed into law, Nigeria will be the first country to have a dedicated anti-piracy law in the whole of Africa,’’ the director-general said.
He mentioned the acquisition of military hardware and said that the country was working on this with an Israeli firm -HLS International.
“We have signed about 195 million dollars contract with the firm which had already been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
“It involves a number of maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters, fast intervention security vessels, a Command and Control Centre, surveillance system as well as training of our armed forces and training of NIMASA personnel to equip them to fight piracy,’’ Peterside said.
The director-general explained that the agency realised that one gap in the fight against piracy was that Nigeria did not have its own response capabilities fully developed.
He said, “We are trying to develop our response capability and we are also enhancing our intelligence gathering system.’’
Peterside also said that NIMASA had its own Maritime Domain Awareness Asset (surveillance system).
“We are trying to integrate all the Maritime Domain Awareness Assets so that we can have a bird’s eye view of what is going on within our maritime domain,” he said.
On regional integration, Peterside said that the agency was working with partners in the whole of West and Central Africa.
“We are host of most of the coordinating centres in West and Central Africa (that are) dedicated to the coordination of maritime security and piracy,’’ he said.