Few days ago, the Federal Government decided to quit the Maritime Organisation for West and Central Africa (MOWCA), after the country had spent more than $5million (about N2.5billion) on the regional body over the past 10 years.
Reports say REGIONAL collaborations are vital to Africa’s growth. It is for this reason that they are formed. But when they do not meet their core objectives, member states may decide to opt out, in spite of the numerous advantages they may or may have derived from it. This is the dilemma Nigeria has found itself at the Maritime Organisation for West and Central Africa (MOWCA) where it was an active member. After a 46-year romance, it quit the organisation during the week.
What MOWCA stands for
It means the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa. It was established in May 1975 after a charter was signed in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire during the Ministerial Conference of West and Central African States on Maritime Transport (MINCONMAR).The name was, however, changed to MOWCA as part of reforms adopted by the Gen-eral Assembly of Ministers of Transport, at an extraordinary session of the organisation in Abidjan in August 1999. MOWCA has 25 member states in West and Central Africa, and was set up to serve as the body for handling regional maritime matters . The countries are: coastal states: Nigeria, Angola, The Gambia, Benin, Ghana, Sao Tome and Principe, Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Gabon and Mozambique. Landlocked countries are Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Central African Republic, and Mali.
Amount spent by Nigeria
According to the Federal Ministry of Transportation, the country has spent more than $5million (about N2.5billion) on the regional body over the past 10 years.
Reason Nigeria quit MOWCAADVERTISEMENT
According to the Director of Press, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Eric Ojiekwe, the Federal Government took the decision, following disregard for the rules on the eligibility of candidates nominated by some member states for the position of the secretary-general of the organisation
This, according to Ojiekwe, was contained in a statement by the delegation of the Federal Government at the Eighth Bureau of Ministers and 15th General Assembly of MOWCA on last Thursday, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
The delegation said its position followed the presentation and acceptance by MOWCA delegates of over-aged candidates by Guinea and the Republic of Benin, in contravention of the rules of the regional body
The statement signed by Ojiekwe, reads in parts: “It is sad, and most depressing given Nigeria’s ardent and consistent support for MOWCA and its activities, that Nigeria as a nation must take a stand against the promotion of illegality, disrespect for the rule of law and contravention of the Rules regarding election of the secretary general of MOWCA.
“This position followed the presentation for election for the position of secretary-general of over-aged candidates by Guinea and the Republic of Benin, leading Nigeria to further observe.’’
The statement continued: “Nigeria draws the attention of the General Assembly to the comment of MOWCA as presented by MOWCA secretariat in the annotated agenda circulated this week to the Committee of Experts meeting, which confirmed that Nigeria is the only country that met the age eligibility criteria requirement that candidates must not exceed 55 years.
“The candidate nominated by Nigeria was 55 years as at when nominations closed in 2020, while the candidates of Guinea were 60 years old and that of Benin was 62 years old,” the statement further stating, arguing that the Nigerian candidate was the only eligible candidate and should have been declared unopposed.
“The apparent willingness of some member states to consider for elections candidates who knowingly contravened the age criteria having exceeded the maximum age limit by more than five years in the case of Guinea and seven years by Benin, does not portend well for the reputation and operation of MOWCA as a rule-based organisation,” the statement said.
Ojiekwe further pointed out that no member state has supported MOWCA as much as Nigeria, as the records show the country has contributed over $5million in the past 10 years “with the organisation not employing one Nigerian’’.
“It should be noted that not a single citizen of Nigeria has ever been employed in MOWCA, and this is the first time that Nigeria has contested for the position of the Secretary-General of the organisation even though it is an uncontested fact that it is essentially the contributions of Nigeria that has sustained the organisation over the years.’’
Who takes over at MOWCA?
The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Transportation, has said MOWCA has no secretary-general for now.
Ojiekwe said the delegation to the election dismissed speculations that the country quit the body because it lost the plum office of Secretary-General.
“It has come to our notice that a section of the media (not The Nation) are reporting that Nigeria backed out of the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa, MOWCA, after losing election into the office of secretary-general of the organisation.
“For purpose of clarity, we wish to inform the public that the election did not hold after Nigeria excused herself from the 15th General Assembly of the body in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo where attempts were being made to accept candidates who did not meet the eligibility requirements.
“There is no substantive secretary-general of the organisation because of this impasse. Nigeria left the discussions preceding elections because as a country we will not be a party to circumvention of laid down rules and extant procedures governing the 46-year-old body,” the statement read.
The countries against Nigeria
Some countries, it was learnt, stood against the Nigerian candidate because in 2016, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, had pledged the ministry’s readiness to assist the MOWCA in establishing a Maritime Development Bank.
Amaechi, sources said, gave the assurance when the representative of the Secretary-General of MOWCA, Col. Mariko Mamadou, visited him in his office in Abuja.
Nigeria, findings have shown, was offered the right to provide the secretariat for the MOWCA Development Bank but some member states are not happy that the bank is yet to take off.
“It said the idea to establish a regional development bank for the organisation was conceived in 2000, adding that the minister requested MOWCA to furnish the ministry with the detailed status of the organisation and documentation of the projects of the organisation. MOWCA was further requested, as a matter of policy, to write a formal letter to the ministry spelling out Nigeria’s responsibility in the establishment of the Maritime Development Bank.
“As soon as I receive a memo from your Secretary-General, I will take it up from there,” Amaechi was said to have promised Col Mamadou had congratulated the minister on his appointment and stated that he was in Nigeria to solicit the ministry’s support to achieve success in the establishment of the Maritime Development Bank.
“Mamadou further enumerated some of the organisation’s priority plans as the setting up of MOWCA’s Secretariat in Nigeria, appointment of a Project Coordinator, Financial Consultant/Business Consultant and Legal Consultant, who would be responsible to perfect legal documents for the smooth take-off of the organisation’s projects in Nigeria,” the senior official said.
Govt nominates Adalikwu
In January, this year, the Federal Government nominated Dr. Paul Adalikwu as its candidate for MOWCA secretary-general. Adalikwu’s nomination, which came after approval by President Muhammadu Buhari, was the first time Nigeria is indicating interest in producing the head of the 45-year -old organisation.
Election into the office should have involved the participation of 25-member countries drawn from West and Central Africa.
Adalikwu, who is the Director, Maritime Safety and Security in the Federal Ministry of Transportation, parades a wealth of experience in administrative and maritime matters. He is also assisting in the establishment of a Regional Maritime Development Bank (RMDB) to be hosted by Nigeria.
The multilateral financial institution is expected to address the lingering challenges of funding for maritime-related commercial projects and deepen the region’s capacity to harness the benefits of the blue economy.
Adalikwu’s desk was responsible for overseeing the success of the Global Maritime Security Conference hosted by Nigeria in 2019.
An alumnus of the University of Calabar, Adalikwu holds a doctorate in Public Administration and Management from Hamlin’s University, Minnesota, United States.
He is vast in maritime, tourism and policy matters. He was in the nucleus of the 2019 Global Maritime Security.
The Norwegian Government, the United Kingdom Government, Nigeria’s government, the Government of the People’s Republic of China, and the Government of Japan have contributed to IMO’s work in the region.
Amaechi seeks Ghana’s support
In May, Amaechi appealed to Ghana to support Nigeria’s bid for the MOWCA’s top seat. He made the appeal when the Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA), Benonita Bismarck, who was visited him in Abuja. Amaechi intimated the delegation that Nigeria had been supporting the organisation. The minister, who also expressed Nigeria’s readiness to support the West African Maritime Bank, called on Ghana to key into the initiative.
Bismarck, said they were in Nigeria to strengthen collaboration between the two countries.
Bismarck stated that with ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Zone, there was the need for both nations to partner on developing non-trade barriers and trade facilitation.
She further spoke on the need to bring Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Liberia into MOWCA as the organisation currently had only two anglophone countries with 17 being francophone.
Bismarck expressed that hoped that with the minister’s support, these countries could be brought on board.
Interestingly, MOWCA’s member countries in 1998 generated an estimated 247million tonnes of cargo, which represented 4.8 per cent of world cargo, 95 per cent of which was sea-borne.
MOWCA has also identified some problems at the sub-regional level on the cost-effectiveness of shipping services. These are: availability of shipping space, frequency of sailings, level of freight rates, competitiveness and survival of national/regional operators, efficiency of seaports, safety of cargo/ships, inland transportation networks, availability of coastal shipping services, efficiency of multi-modal transport systems and trade facilitation, protection of shippers interests, and the special case of landlocked countries.
Experts said the decision of Nigeria to quit the organisation would affect the establishment of the proposed regional maritime bank, divide the organisation more, make it to lack funds and ideas, affect the landlocked countries and reduce regional collaboration on maritime safety and security and if the ministers fail to resolve the problem, the organisation may die because of lack of funds and support.