The Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) 2015 has come and gone. The realities that eclipsed the expo are still hunting the participants and organizers. The success of the event is a thing that gives room for shades of interpretations, owing to a lot of factors. But could it also be said that the annual event has lived up to its vision for existence? If not, what are the limitations?
A lot of factors stood against the accomplishment of NIMAREX 2015. It was severally post-poned for political uncertainty and pledges unredeemed. After the second postponement, stakeholders became skeptical and actually asked that the expo be postponed till next year.
The Executive secretary of NIMAREX 2015 Planning Committee, Barr. Osuala Emmanuel Nwagbara said, “The year 2015 is a very peculiar year for NIMAREX,there was no sitting minister of transport and the permanent secretary of the ministry supported us as much as he could. NIMAREX was postponed twice because each of the prior date coincided with the then national election and we appealed to our exhibitors to bear with us within this period, but some of the foreign exhibitors cancelled their participation after the second postponement.
“So NIMAREX was conducted on a very lean purse coupled with the fact that some of the government parastatals and agencies that would have given us extreme support could not because they were yet to fully recover from the expenditures they made during the national election.
“In fact, if we had listened to those asking us to cancel NIMAREX 2015, the expo as an annual event would have been dead by now. “A lot of parastatals and government agencies participated unlike before, they took booths and stayed with us throughout the event, NPA was there, NIMASA, NAVY, Nigeria Shippers’ Council, Nigeria Stock Exchange among others.
Another major factor that affected participation is the segregation in NISA, some of them who were aggrieved at the outcome of the elections moved out to form another association called SOAN and then even among those left in NISA are divided because their president was called upon to resign due to issues of fraud involving the Economic Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), causing the executives to be divided as those that wanted him removed conducted another election that produced another president with a new set of executives.So when you look at all these factors you will agree that we had a superlative year and NIMAREX is here to stay.”
One of the participants, who is the Group Head, Business Development, Japaul and Oil, Maritime Services, Mr. Talabi Abayomi rated the expo as being below expectation. He explained “The exhibition recorded a very low turnout, most maritime companies did not participate and even the attendance of the people that came to view the exhibition was below expectation, I say so because I was at the expo in 2013 and the participation was a lot more wholesome both from the exhibitors and the networking opportunities.
“Also, this year the booths were very expensive when compared to what we paid last time although I cannot tell you the exact figures but I assure you it was a whole lot more expensive by comparison.”
When asked his expectations for NIMAREX 2016, he stated,“Myexpectations in subsequent editions are to see a more vibrant participation of maritime companies including the oil companies and their servicing counterparts and better organization and coordination in terms of effectiveness of purpose.
Responding, a member of the Sub -Committee on Protocol and Logistics, NIMAREX,Mr.AduGbolahun affirmed “the difference in cost is affected by the exchange rate, when it was conducted last year,the exchange rate was at about N150 to a dollar but this year the exchange rate is about N250 to a dollar which is more than a 50% increase, so there is no way this will not affect costs, also the venue, Eko Hotels and Suites is quite expensive. We are talking about millions ofnaira for the threeday event and this is because we wanted only the best for NIMAREX, so all this put together affected the costs.
Another participant, Ajoku Christian of Hudson Trident who claimed NIMAREX 2015was their first outing said, “Although we came with a lot of expectations, we did a lot of networking and I believe it can only get better with time”.
While fielding questions from journalist at a press briefing in Lagos recently, the embattled president of NISA Capt. NiyiLabinjo was asked why he did not attend the 5th edition of NIMAREX or is it that he considered the expo a wasteful exercise, he stated, “NIMAREX is the baby of NISA and I would have attended if I was around but I travelled within that period and the expo held and was a success.”
If NIMAREX could hold irrespective of the division in NISA, it is a testimony to the fact that the Expo is not dependent on the Association but an independent yearly event that represents the interest of all maritime stakeholders in the country and beyond. Be that as it may, ship-owners should see this as an indication to put their house in order if they really want to feel the impact of the Federal Government in their clamor for indigenous capacity building and development.
By Ifeoma Oguamanam