Confusion now trails the nomination of the Nigeria’s Alternate Permanent Representative(APR) to the International Maritime Organisation(IMO) in the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA), Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Federal Ministry of Transport.
This development is equally unsettling the Nigeria High Commission in London, with the fear that the prevailing ethno-political intrigues will for decades seal Nigeria’s chances of being on the Governing Council of the IMO.
The retirement of the current APR to IMO, Capt. Ibraheem Olugbade on account of long service in November, 2015 has created a vacuum waiting to be filled.
NIMASA, with the approval of the Director General, Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, had sent the name of Mr. Felix Bob-Nabenna as nominee for APR to the former Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar, who after due consideration, disqualified Bob-Nabenna on account of experience and service and directed that the nomination be substituted by Mallam Dikko Bala, a deputy director in NIMASA who is on secondment to the office of the Minister as special assistant.With all relevant procedures concluded with the relevant ministries and agencies for Bala ‘s nomination, Akpobolokemi, feeling that the Minister had no right to change his nomination approached former President Goodluck Jonathan with another nomination seeking approval for the person of Mr. Fred Ugo, an assistant director, Shipping Development, NIMASA.
MMS Plus Weekly gathered that the Director General got the approval as one of the parting approvals from Jonathan without the knowledge of the Minister of Transport, who shortly after was removed from office following the coming of a new President.
Seeing that the Minister has gone, NIMASA wrote to the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, intimating of them of confusion in the nominations. Procedurally, the ministry replied seeking explanation, following which Dikko was swapped for Fred Ugo, who is said not to have the requisite knowledge, skill and experience to represent Nigeria in IMO as APR.
According to sources in NIMASA, Ugo graduated in 2002 and was employed as level 12 officer but was single-handedly placed on level 13 by Akpobolokemi later, in difference to the civil service rule. Shortly after this, NIMASA wrote to Ministry of Transport, seeking a Surveyor, and forwarded his name. Consequently, he was promoted to level 15. However, the source Ugo is not a Surveyor because it takes, at least ten years to train a marine surveyor.
Fillers from Nigeria High Commission in London is that both Ugo and Dikko are not qualified to represent Nigeria in IMO on account of experience and training and by civil service procedures.
“Ugo and Dikko are not experienced enough to represent Nigeria as the Alternate Permanent Representative. An interview needs to be conducted by the ministry of transport to pick the right person. And if you don’t have the right person in place, in the next 20 years, Nigeria will never get near the governing council seat of IMO. It is not a posting for favour. Ugo is a fresh graduate and his ascendance to an assistant director is questionable and against the civil service procedure,” the source noted.
Speaking with a diplomat on this, he listed the requirements for APR thus: “Good understanding and knowledge of maritime policy; diplomatic skills and ability to communicate and build consensus among the membership of the organization; matured and measured disposition. Being a marine engineer, master mariner or any other technical qualification could be an ‘’add on’’ but does not guarantee effective representation as currently being experienced. IMO as a United Nations Agency is first and foremost a diplomatic mission with responsibility for shipping and maritime regulation. IMO carries out duties through diplomacy against the backdrop of maritime technical issues and arrives at desired result through consensus.
” If Nigeria is serious about maritime and its representation at IMO, an independent panel must be constituted to interview candidates from the Ministry of Transport and its agencies with a view to selecting the best candidate who must not necessarily come from NIMASA. Yusuf Suleiman, former minister of transport started that inclusiveness by appointing a deputy director APR from NPA,” he added.
Reviewing this development with the current happenings in IMO, he observed, “the current APR has been very ineffective, yet he is said to be a master mariner! For two consecutive years Nigeria has been unable to get back into the executive council of IMO. The last time Nigeria was in the council was during the tenure of William Azu, a maritime policy analyst and a diplomat per excellence. Nigeria must return to those glorious days.”
Our findings, however, revealed that the office of the APR to the IMO is currently manned by two senior officers, Capt. Olugbade, who is the ARP (the High Commissioner) and another, Engr. Anas Suleiman, who is the Technical Adviser. Between 2002 and 2003, Engr. Olu Akinsoji from the Federal Ministry of Transport was the APR, while WILLIAM Azu from NIMASA as his deputy. Upon departure of Akinsoji, Azu took over as the APR and was later replaced by the incumbent.
On the duties of the APR, MMS Plus Weekly gathered that the Permanent Representative(AP) is the High Commissioner, who is concurrently accredited to the IMO but because he must not have a maritime knowledge; has a wider audience and responsibilities ; too many diplomatic work to do and represents the Federal Government on a lot of things, and so will not have time to be attending the IMO meetings which comes almost every week, that is why there is the need for an APR, who is an alternate to the High Commissioner to IMO. So the person must be somebody who knows the dynamics of global maritime industry and must not be a captain, master mariner or marine engineer.