By Adekunle Segun
The Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) is a sub regional coastal body in West and Central Africa. The body was established with the unique aim of ensuring a cost effective shipping service on safety and reduction in pollution of the maritime environment. MOWCA was established in 1975 under the Charter of Abidjan. The initial or inceptional name was “The Ministerial Conference of West and Central Africa States on Maritime Transport” (MINCONMAR). This was later changed to MOWCA owing to certain reforms adopted by the General Assembly of Ministers of Transport at an extraordinary session of the organisation held in Abidjan from the 4th-6th of August 1999.
MOWCA currently unifies 25 countries in West and Central Africa. It is important to note that these countries have a lot of interest and activities in maritime business that are done within her domain. This makes MOWCA to have as one of her major interests the act of resolving disputes that are regional in nature. MOWCA equally accommodates landlocked countries within the subregion. The list of landlocked countries in MOWCA include Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Central African Republic and Mali.
It is, however, shocking but true, that during the 46 years of the existence of this significant maritime body, no Nigerian has ever emerged as the Secretary-General of MOWCA. More surprising is the fact that no Nigerian is currently employed in this subregional body. Nigeria for the first time is actively expressing interest in leading this significant maritime body and her 25 members. It is important to note that in leading a multilateral organisation like MOWCA amongst others, there is the need to canvass for votes from other member states and equally leverage on diplomatic relations and support.
Nigeria at present is elucidating huge serious and promising signs of making the west and central African maritime domain very reliable, efficient and safe. This is evident in the recent acquisition and commissioning of various maritime assets and work stations in Lagos. More important to note is the major drop in the activities of pirates and other crimes on our waters and by extension the West African waters.
At the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaborative Forum, the director general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr Bashir Jamoh, stressed the fact that the figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reveal an all time low in the incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, especially within the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZs). It should equally be noted that Nigeria has consistently demonstrated commitment to the activities of MOWCA.
A quick estimate reveals that Nigeria has committed over $5 million in spending on the activities of this organisation more than any other member. This spending has in no small way ensured MOWCA meets up with the majority of her responsibilities in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria also recently clinched the position of the Director General of the World Trade Organisation with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala emerging as the preferred candidate for the position.
Nigeria’s candidate for the position of Secretary General of MOWCA is Dr. Paul Adalikwu. He is a vast maritime stalwart and a director in charge of Maritime Safety and Security at the Federal Ministry of Transport. It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had given an emphatic approval for the candidature and proposed eventual emergence of Dr. Adalikwu as the Secretary-General of MOWCA. The Minister of State for Transport, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, also led a delegation of major government officials inclusive of Dr. Adalikwu to various countries in the subregion, which includes Cameroon and Angola. Adalikwu’s endorsement by Nigeria’s government demonstrates Nigeria’s continuous quest for a more vibrant and commercially significant maritime environment.
A cursory look at Nigeria’s maritime importance and presence will say nothing less regarding why Nigeria needs to lead a major subregional body like MOWCA. Amongst others, Nigeria’s seaports traffic is one of the highest in the world. Nigeria currently occupies a very strong presence in the Gulf of Guinea providing a maritime waypoint and headway to a huge number of vessels transiting the Gulf of Guinea to their various destinations. A Nigerian head of MOWCA will see the body having a huge presence in world maritime affairs.
It is, however, not surprising that some francophone and Anglophone countries have equally thrown their weight behind Nigeria and her candidate Mr Adalikwu. These countries strongly believe that a Nigerian head of MOWCA would be highly beneficial to every member of the body. Amongst other activities, Nigeria is currently at the forefront of bringing West and Central Africa abreast with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) as projected by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Also, to leverage on latest technology in making the subregion respond more proactively to the ever dynamic maritime world.
Adekunle Segun, ISPS, DPA, MLC, is a maritime industry professional based in Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reached on +2348163769265 (SMS only) or firstname.lastname@example.org
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