It may well be an honour to go to war twice, but it is quite shameful to lose the same battle a second time. This captures Nigeria's current drive to strengthen her muscles to re-contest for the Category 'C' election at the global maritime stage.
Nigeria had contested and previously lost the same election twice - in 2011, and 2018, and is currently preparing to go to the stage again by November this year, when the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), will be having its council meeting.
Category C comprises countries, which have special interest in maritime transportation or navigation, and whose election to the IMO Council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world.
Nigeria's membership of the IMO Council under Category C will place her in a strategic position to play a pivotal role in the African region considering her importance as a major shipping destination within the continent as well as her efforts towards ensuring safety and security of navigation within the Gulf Guinea.
As the clock ticks closer to the election, stakeholders believe that the nation, particularly critical stakeholders in the industry, should begin to chart the path to a successful outing this year, and indeed, have reappraisal of the industry performance and fix the lapses.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Ecomarine Terminals, Adedayo Moruf Balogun, argued that for Nigeria to be an important member of the Council, it needs to really work hard and domesticate some of the conventions in order to clinch the position this time around.
"Did we do the post-mortem on why we lost those past elections and what should be done? If you lost a match, it is good for you to come back home and examine yourself so that you can have a better performance next time. If you do the same thing, you will get the same result. So, you have to do things differently to be able to get different results," he said.
On his part, the National President of National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents, (NCMDCLA), Lucky Amiwero, asked: "How many of the IMO conventions have we complied with if you are vying for the seat? Also, the National Facilitation Committee of IMO has been dropped since 2008; they were to facilitate maritime trade in line with the conventions. When you are vying for a seat, are you just looking for position or productivity?
"Nigeria should concern itself with how things can be done properly in terms of complying with the conventions and domesticate and implement them. Look at the kind of ports we operate, look at the roads. Those are the major trade facilitation factors and those are the issues. We need to look back and ask ourselves: Are we a serious nation? Are we really a maritime nation? What are we doing in terms of our laws? Our domestic laws and international conventions that are applicable to our procedures and processes should be well-implemented."
Also, the Rector, Maritime Academy, Oron, Emmanuel Effedua, urged stakeholders in Nigeria's maritime industry to support the government agencies in achieving set goals.
"This time around, I don't think NIMASA and the Ministry of Transportation alone should go out there to the international stage. They need all the necessary support. If we sit together and have a small retreat, I think it is enough for us to talk about what went wrong during the earlier outing, and what we can do to bounce back. Some of them have friends, some have countries they have invested huge monies, they could also join NIMASA's effort in getting us back into the Category C of IMO. So, I pray that in November this year, the Ministry should endeavour to pick some other players, and probably share them to the MDAs in the Ministry to sponsor so that we can have a very robust outing this time around.
"We have spent the last 12 months to provide the environmental conditions that will give us the ambience for quality training. We are now in the phase two, which is to concentrate more on human capacity building which include training the trainers, getting the appropriate people to teach in that place.
"Nobody is bigger than this country, and nobody should derail efforts for this country to get back into Category C. We are rich. We are strong. We have the capacity, but we need to dot the 'Is' and cross the 'Ts' and that is where the stakeholders come in," he said.
Ahead of the November general election of IMO, the Federal Government had constituted a committee on Nigeria's return to Category 'C' of the United Nation's agency.
Nigeria became a member of IMO on March 15 1962, and ever since has remained a committed member of the organisation by participating in its meetings and activities.
It first became a member of the Category C of the IMO Council in 1975. Nigeria contested and lost its bid to be re-elected into the council in 2011. It also contested and lost in 2018, but the national has remained committed to the organisation and participated actively in its activities.
The Director-General, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, had earlier this year disclosed that Nigeria had so far ratified about 40 IMO and International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions on maritime safety, maritime labour, and marine environment management.
"We are working with the Federal Ministry of Transportation under the auspices of an Inter-Ministerial Committee to ratify an additional six IMO conventions before the end of 2019, to ensure that Nigeria as an IMO member state fulfils its treaty obligation.
"The Agency is also working with relevant stakeholders under the auspices of the IMO Mandatory States Audit Scheme (IMSAS) Corrective Action Plan Committee, to ensure that all queries raised in the 2016 IMO Audit Report on the Nigerian Maritime sector. Particularly, is the domestication of ratified maritime conventions are addressed before the first quarter of 2019, to boost Nigeria's re-election bid into Category C of the IMO General Council," he said.