Insecurity, poor infrastructure, non-professionalism, politics and low local shipping capacity are obstacles hindering Nigeria from becoming a maritime nation.

These were the observations of maritime industry players who have blamed government’s refusal to address issues stated in the International Maritime Organisation IMO audit report as part of reasons for the country’s loss at the Category C election, which held last two weeks Friday.

A Marine Consultant and Former Director, Shipping Development at Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Captain Warredi Enisuoh, blamed Nigeria’s inability to become a maritime nation on political considerations and non-professionals heading the maritime industry.

According to him, there are a series of IMO Gap analysis reports, which ought to have been implemented by NIMASA but were instead abandoned, alleging that some people feel the ‘document will erase their interest.’

He said in July 2016, Nigeria had a compulsory IMO audit called IMSAS after the country was given 90 days to come up with a corrective action plan, which he believed was submitted within the timeline through the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS).

Enisuoh lamented Nigeria’s inability to receive distress messages from ships and act immediately as the country is a Regional Maritime Coordination Centre (RMCC).

He said a lot of countries have complained that Nigeria hardly responds to distress messages directly, while asking how the IMO will give Nigeria decision-making status when it has failed in the maritime industry.

“Check the qualifications of other countries making decisions there. Two years from now, we will forget and start helping in beating the drums of war for Category C again. Come to think of it, how do you make decisions for others when the others are the ones taking care of your backyards? Britain, Denmark, Russia” he quizzed.

He warned that while Nigeria has failed to secure a seat on the Council for the West African region, it would be up against a formidable neighbour who has done well in the maritime industry.

The marine consultant said Ghana would not step down for Nigeria in the next election to jeopardize their chances at the Council, especially as it has a very high international support because of its crop of professionals.

The President, Shippers Association of Lagos, (SAL), Jonathan Nicol, listed insecurity as one of the major factors hindering Nigeria from the Council membership, noting that despite the huge presence of various Governments with warships in the Gulf of Guinea, pirates are still operating with impunity and threatening the fishing industry.

Nicol added that the over one year closure of the nation’s border pitched the Francophone community against support for Nigeria’s candidature.

He said Nigeria would have to conduct a very thorough conflict resolution towards getting back the support of the Francophone.

The President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung, said NIMASA did not carry stakeholders along, saying “it is hard for you to succeed in maritime if you don’t pay particular attention to shipping, ship owners and shipping operators and professionals.”

Another stakeholder, Capt Alfred Oniye, said he expected Nigeria to lose the IMO election, as those representing the country are not professionals and do not understand the language that could bring a win for the country.

“Nigeria will certainly lose. Those who went to represent us, are they professionals? What do they know about maritime? When you abandon a professional and you do not allow the professional to handle the job, why won’t you lose? Are those who went to represent us competent enough? Do they even understand what is happening at sea? They are far from the happenings in the waters,” he questioned.

On his part, the immediate past President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Eugene Nweke, said securing the Council membership is not a function of country’s name or population, but functions of effective administration with a commitment to investing in infrastructural/ facilities, human capacity development, and compliance levels to IMO standard regulations.

Also speaking, President, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), Nigeria, Mrs. Mfon Usoro, said to improve Nigeria’s chances of getting re-elected into the Council, the country must focus on becoming a significant maritime nation by efficiently performing its flag state, coastal state and port state functions.

The Chief Executive Officer, Ships and Ports, Dr. Bolaji Akinola, said rather than invest hundreds of millions of naira into seeking a seat in the IMO Council, Nigeria needs to pay more attention to developing her local shipping capacity and seafaring profession.