Nigeria’s candidate, Prof. Lawrence Folajimi Awosika, has been re-elected as Chairman of the United Nation’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).
Awosika polled 154 out of 157 votes to emerge Chair of the prestigious 21-person UN scientific body.
CLCS is the UN body that decides what portions of the seabed can be exclusively mined for natural resources such as oil, precious metals and minerals.
Awosika, first elected into the Commission in 1997, was elected for another five-year tenure in 2012 to 2015 as Chairman and with his re-election, would be on the Commission as Chairman for the 2017 to 2022 term.
Fielding candidates for CLCS would require the country’s permanent mission to the UN, in this instance, the Nigeria’s Permanent Mission to the UN, which coordinated the process and canvassed for votes for the position.
This achievement would also improve Nigeria’s future “diplomatic leverage,” according to a person familiar with UNCLOS proceedings.
Apart from signalling prestige, a membership of the commission allows Nigeria to gauge the scientific strength of claims by countries to parts of the seabed that, like territorial waters, are often hard to demarcate.
Awosika was a member of the Commission prior to his election in 2014 as Chairman for a two-and-half year.
He was a one-time Director and Head, Marine Geology, Geophysics Department of the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research.
Awosika’s resounding victory to lead the Commission for at least two and half years is seen as a ‘feather’ for Nigeria and Africa.
This is especially as no black or African has ever won the chairmanship of the Commission, according to information obtained.
The Nigerian UN official is seen as uniquely aware of the geography and geology of Nigeria’s terrain.
Hence his re-election was strongly supported by the Federal Government to consistently and effectively oversee to the progressive position of the country’s CLCS.
The Commission had 21 vacant seats and based on geographical spread, five seats were allocated to the African Group – Madagascar, Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroon and Angola.
However, Africa was later given an additional seat because there is a “floating seat” that goes to either Africa or Western Europe or Latin America and the Caribbean Group.
As the regions already had their candidates filled, that “floating seat” went to Africa, making a total of six candidates for the continent.
Awosika’s re-election was not without an a challenge as Ghana made initial frantic efforts to contest the seat with Nigeria by fielding a candidate.
However, negotiations skills were deployed by the Permanent Mission of Nigeria while the African Union also waded in to avoid embarrassment for Africa
Consequently, Ghana withdrew its candidature following AU’s mediation thereby allowing the Nigeria’s candidate for the seat a smooth sail by being returned unopposed.