Why Nigeria Needs Strategic Reforms In IMO Governance Structure

Why Nigeria Needs Strategic Reforms In IMO Governance Structure
IMO Headquarters

A recent report of the Transparency International on “Governance at the International Maritime Organization (IMO)” emphasized on the case of reform. The IMO, a United Nation Agency charged with the responsibility of overseeing ocean shipping, was found to have critical governance issues. These issues affect the IMO and its 174 Member states decision-making processes and in July 2019, IMO agreed to constitute a committee for reform at IMO and some member states took similar efforts.

This submission, therefore, aimed to assess Nigeria’s participation at the IMO in terms of structure, quality of delegates and public accountability. Findings show that Nigeria is in dire need of improvement in both management and administration in IMO within the framework of ongoing reforms.

Consequently, the Agency’s Management is advised to consider reforming Nigeria’s participation at the IMO including criteria for appointment of Alternate Permanent Reprehensive (APR), the establishment of two additional commissioners and national statutory committee for IMO matters, as well as utilizing WMU graduates as the competent representative to the IMO meetings as practised by other member states.

In July 2018 Transparency International (TI) made a comprehensive evaluation of the IMO’s governance structure titled: “Governance at the International Maritime Organization –IMO: The case of reform. The findings of the report scored IMO’s governance structure weak in Accountability and Integrity relating to: the uneven influence of Member States, the influence of open and private registries, the disproportionate influence of the industry, and lack of delegate accountability.

To address these shortfalls in the IMO governance, TI recommended that IMO and its Member states should ensure that decision making better reflect the public interest by developing a universal set of rules that govern the appointment of member state delegation for transparency and control purposes as well as subjecting member state delegation to robust integrity rules and measures by extending whistleblowing and complaints policies.

The alleged flaws pointed out by TI cannot be ignored without thorough evaluations to strengthen governance and decision making by IMO and its member states. Consequently, IMO constituted a committee for the IMO Governance reforms along with other member states such as Kenya, Korea, Norway, Liberia etc. to assess and improve the efficiency of national delegation at the IMO in light of these perceived abnormalities. Hence, Nigeria cannot be an exception.


The purpose of this submission, therefore, is to shed some light on these issues including current governance structure, the composition of the delegation, Delegate accountability and identify areas for improvement within the framework of ongoing reform processes at the IMO.





Transparency International scored IMO low in accountability due to the lack of an effective mechanism to ensure that Member States representatives are appointed based on clear and objective criteria. Arguably, Nigeria’s participation has been felt by member states but could have been better improved. Some key areas to consider centres on quality representation by sending competent and qualified representatives this will engender favourable international diplomacy and politics.

As highlighted by Transparency International, IMO reports of meetings do not reflect the positions taken by individual representatives and hence, the local industry players do not know the position of their country or operating locations. Many member states were found to have poor representation as their officials could not be able to objectively argue on a position by a country of influence. Nigeria is listed among countries with poor representation due to poor technical inputs. This is because we lack a system that checkmates delegates’ performance due to the composition of the delegates to the IMO. For instance, Nigeria made a total of 11 submissions from 2011 to date at the proceedings.

Thus, the industry observers term our participation as a jamboree or some sort of vacation. While other maritime nations build and solidify existing bilateral relationships with other member states at the IMO for maximum gain, it is equally disheartening to note all past efforts are either insufficient, untimely or unprepared which led us to the present state.

Despite our modest commitment to improving the maritime sector, sadly, in the eyes of the international community, it has amounted to wastage or lack of seriousness. Given the fact that Nigeria has the highest number of World Maritime University trained expert as well as others from various recognized maritime institutions, trained to assist their country in various areas of maritime affairs. Sadly, these graduates are often relegated, underutilized or abandoned due to mere politics that is costing the country a lot. The Agency could have seized the opportunity of utilizing its trained staff from the World Maritime University, International Maritime Law Institute, Malta and others. These graduates can be utilized at the IMO and another international assignment that requires technical inputs on maritime shipping affairs.


The Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organization, Resolution A.505 (XII), Article 35 of the Convention established the office of APR from the Member States for communication with the Secretary-General (SG).

Accordingly, Nigeria established the office of Permanent Representative (PR) to handle all political, diplomatic, administrative and technical questions which may arise in the IMO deliberations. Hence, the office is strategic to advance the nation’s global maritime interest.

Whereas the APR liaised directly to the DG or Head of Government as the case may be which will be communicated to the relevant department for implementation. Local private sector concerns are usually not factored for smooth implementation, hence the need for a national statutory committee(s) formed to improve synergy, cooperation and greater dialogue with the industry.

The Agency can avoid hasty approaches adopted in the past either to win council elections or work on improving diplomatic ties with member states. The public will be better informed about the activities, obligations leading to better compliance, and in the long run project the country’s image with probity, transparency and accountability leading to effective participation.



Under the overall direction of the APR, the commissioners will undertake the following responsibilities.




1.  Support the APR work on matters related to Trade Facilitation, Bilateral relations/partnership and Human elements.

2.  Prepare. Monitor and align the programme of Trade Facilitation, Technical Cooperation and Human Elements committees.

3.  Prepare, or coordinate preparation of brief for APR

4.  Facilitate dialogue and promote improved    collaboration     and cooperation with the internal and external stakeholders.

1.                 Support the APR work on matters related to the Marine environment, safety and ocean affairs.

2.                 Prepare meetings, mainly related to MEPC and MSC convention and protocol.

3.                 Manage the preparation and production of outreach material, attend relevant conferences, meetings and seminars

4.                 Representation in meetings of the United Nations system and other international or regional organizations dealing with Environment, Safety and Security.

5.                 Execute any other tasks on related issues,

as assigned by APR.


5.  Establish and maintain a knowledge partnership mechanism for IMO’s technical cooperation activities.

6.  Prepare proposals for, and manage, outreach campaigns, activities related to Nigeria’s global maritime goals.

7.  Representation in meetings of the United Nations system and other international or regional organizations dealing with strategy, mobilization and partnership.

8.  Execute any other tasks on related

issues, as assigned by APR.

6.                 Prepare, or coordinate preparation of brief for APR

7.                 Facilitate dialogue and promote improved collaboration and cooperation with the internal and external stakeholders.


1.                 Knowledge and understanding of theories, concepts and approaches in maritime affairs.

2.                 Conceptual analytical and evaluative skills and proven ability to conduct research and analysis.

3.                 Demonstrated professional competency and mastery in the relevant maritime affairs

4.                 Ability to develop clear goals that are consistent with agreed strategies, foresee risk and contingency planning

5.                 Organizational and time management skills and a high degree of initiative together with the ability to work with minimal supervision

6.                 Integrity, discretion, accuracy and meticulous attention to detail

7.                 Proven ability to establish and maintain effective working relations with internal and external stakeholders, at all levels including in an international, cross-

cultural context.


Minimum of ten (10) years demonstrated high-level expertise required in a relevant



Minimum of grade level 13 on a meritorious service to the Agency




Advanced University degree (Mater’s or equivalent) required in a relevant field


Excellent command of written and spoken English is required, knowledge of other official languages of the organization will be

an advantage.


Proficiency          in            MS         Office                applications, Phyton



Although Transparency International alleged that delegation size influences the IMO, experts have weighed on that position and conclude that in a strict sense, it is not. What matters here  is how vocal or prolific in terms of submissions delegate might be small or large. However, some instances relating to working groups take place simultaneously with the plenary, obviously a large delegation may have an advantage over a smaller one. Besides, a large delegation may project a sense of superiority in meetings if the size of the delegation is perceived by some as related to the resources that the delegation has at its disposal.



Delegations are categorized into: the head of delegation, representatives, alternates, advisers and observers. Typically, heads of delegations, representatives and alternates are staff members of the respective member government while industry and NGOs are registered as advisers and observers. National Statutory representation might depict such pattern as embraced by IMO;

Since IMO have no rules on who may be allowed to take part in a delegation. That privilege resides with the member state on accounts of technical expertise and other strategic decisions.



The number of submissions to the IMO is surely an indicator of influence or power. Therefore, speaking without submission, only by coincidence another state submitting something that conforms to your interests does not give an influence as compared to a member state that regularly submits 5 to 10 submissions per MEPC (FAL or MSC) meeting has a higher chance of getting some of his submissions adopted. Also, persistent submissions project a sense of leadership.



In line with the foregoing, the government is advised to consider the following recommendations:



i.                            Limiting the number of national delegations to a maximum of ten delegates, plus advisers or observers. This will ensure enough people attend the plenary session and working groups running in parallel.

ii.                          WMU graduates must be utilized as a delegate in line with their training courses as well as other trained maritime experts from other institutions that can add quality inputs at the IMO.

iii.                    The regular delegates should be public servants and

members of the national statutory committees.


i.    Establishment of two commissioners one in charge of Maritime Safety & Environment and the other charged with the responsibility of Human Element, Facilitation to be based in London subject to IMO ratification. Moreover, given the pressing demands and technicalities of the questions from IMO, some member states added specialized experts as commissioners who assisted the work of APR on Safety, Environment, Trade Facilitation and Human Elements. These commissioners provide technical inputs, analyze and harmonize national position whilst serving as members of technical committees as may be applicable.

ii.   There is need for Nigeria to set up a National Statutory Committee (NSC) to assist with operational inputs while the applicable department of the MARADs or other government agencies enforces the compliance. Additionally, a national statutory committee is formed in line with various committees of IMO with sub- committees and or working groups with robust

representations from the private sector and NGOs.



i.                             There is a need for RC&SM to design Nigeria’s IMO governance Framework and Organogram in line with ongoing reforms at the IMO.

ii.                           The Agency should identify thematic goals to be achieved at each biannual, projecting Nigeria as a resurgent maritime nation whilst leveraging bilateral relations in fostering political and diplomatic ties with member states.

iii.                         The PRDMS Dept. to work with relevant departments of the Agency, to review and collate the Agency’s performance and identify areas of improvement on

IMO applicable instruments.


1.  The Agency should establish clear criteria for the appointment of the APR along with the job description.

2.  There should be performance measures for APR  and

Commissioners appointed at the IMO to be reviewed annually.

 This document was developed by Youngship, a team of young professionals in the logistics and transport sector in Nigeria.

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