Stakeholders commend Gbemi Saraki as MOWCA bows to Nigeria’s demands

Customs has become a hindrance to trade facilitation, says Saraki 
Minister of State for Transport, Senator Gbemi Saraki

 

Stakeholders in the maritime industry have commended the Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemi Saraki for strongly protecting Nigeria’s interest at the Maritime Organization for West and Central Africa (MOWCA). This is even as the regional body has acceded to Nigeria’s request to drop candidates that are not qualified to contest the office of Secretary-General. 

MOWCA, SHIPS & PORTS can authoritatively report, has also scheduled November for the election of a new Secretary-General after Nigeria walked out of the first election in August due to observed irregularities. 

Recall that on Sen. Gbemi Saraki’s directive, Nigeria’s delegation walked out of the venue of the election for the position of MOWCA Secretary-General during the 15th General Assembly of the organization held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo on July 29. 

The Minister’s directive was based on the fielding of overage candidates for the position by Guinea and the Republic of Benin in clear contravention of the rules regarding the election.

“The rules were clear enough. Only those who are 55 years and below could contest for the position of MOWCA Secretary-General but when the General Assembly decided to approve the candidates of Guinea and Benin who were above 60 years, the Minister sensed foul play and attempts to undermine Nigeria’s candidate, Dr. Paul Adaliku, who was 55 years old as at the time of nomination. 

“The Minister therefore took the bold and courageous step of asking the Nigerian delegation to walk out of the election to protest the observed irregularities,” a member of Nigeria’s delegation to the General Assembly said. 

The position was confirmed by the spokesman of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Eric Ojiekwe, in a statement issued in Abuja on August 2. 

Ojiekwe said Nigeria’s delegation to the MOWCA election “expressed sadness at the outcome of the meeting, given Nigeria’s ardent and consistent support for MOWCA and its activities over the years”. 

“Nigeria as a nation must take a stand against the promotion of illegality, disrespect for the rule of law and contravention of the rules regarding the election of the Secretary-General of MOWCA.

“Nigeria draws the attention of the General Assembly to the comment of MOWCA as presented by MOWCA secretariat in the annotated agenda circulated this week to the Committee of Experts’ meeting.

“It confirmed that Nigeria is the only country that met the age eligibility criteria requirement that candidates must not exceed 55 years.

“The candidate nominated by Nigeria was 55 years as at when nominations closed in 2020, while the candidate of Guinea was 60 years old and that of Benin was 62 years old.

“By this, the Nigerian candidate and Director, Maritime Services, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr Paul Adaliku was the only eligible candidate and should have been declared unopposed,” the FMOT spokesman said.

Ojiekwe said Nigeria frowns at the “apparent willingness of some member states to consider for elections candidates, who knowingly contravened the age criteria by more than five years in the case of Guinea and seven years by Benin.”

The statement further pointed out that no member state has supported MOWCA as much as Nigeria, as the records show the country has contributed over $5million in the past 10 years “with the organization not employing a single Nigerian”.

“It should be noted that not a single citizen of Nigeria has ever been employed in MOWCA, and this is the first time that Nigeria has contested for the position of the Secretary-General of the organization even though it is an uncontested fact that it is essentially the contributions of Nigeria that has sustained the organization over the years,” he said.

Findings by SHIPS & PORTS reveal that Ghana and some other countries in the region have thrown their weights behind Nigeria and demanded the enthronement of due process in the conduct of the election. 

Many MOWCA Member States believe that the organization may face hard times if Nigeria withdraws its financial support. 

“Nigeria is the highest financial contributor to MOWCA. We pay more than USD600,000 (about N30million) every year as subscription while others, except Ghana, pay a mere USD50,000 (N2.5million). 

“In spite of our huge contributions, we don’t have a single Nigerian staff at the MOWCA Secretariat. Not even a cleaner or a driver. It is all about the Francophone countries. This must end. This is the first time we are vying for any position in the organization and since our candidate is the only qualified candidate, he must be given the position unopposed. 

“The strong stance taken by the Honourable Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemi Saraki, has sent a clear message to the other countries. They now know that there is a new order in our country. Nigeria will no longer be taken for granted,” an official at the Federal Ministry of Transportation Abuja, told SHIPS & PORTS on condition of anonymity because he had not been permitted to speak on the issue. 

Adaliku set to emerge as MOWCA Secretary-General 

With the acceptance of Nigeria’s insistence that due process be followed in the election of the MOWCA scribe, Nigeria’s candidate, Dr. Paul Adaliku, is certain to emerge as the new Secretary-General during the election rescheduled to hold in November. 

“This is putting Nigeria first. This is the kind of leadership we need. We should not allow other countries to ride roughshod over us. I commend the Honourable Minister for her strong leadership and patriotism,” President of the Nigerian Importers Integrity Association (NIIA), Godwin Onyekazi, said. 

 

 

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