A Federal government’s directive through the Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has compelled the various associations of indigenous ship owners in the country to merge under a common umbrella known as the Shipsowners Forum.
The various splinter groups which may now have to operate as one body in deference to government’s directives are, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) led by an acting President Alhaji Aminu Umar; Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), presided over by Engineer Greg Ogbeifun; and the African Shipowners Association (ASA), under the leadership of former Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Raymond Temisan Omatseye.
The forced merger is sequel to the outcome of an encounter between the shipowners and the Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, during the African Maritime Conference in Lagos last week at which he (Amaechi) told the operators that government would not have any dealing with them as splinter groups, except they come together.
The Minister’s position had come after founding Chairman of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Chief Isaac Jolapamo lamented the division in the fold of Nigerian ship owners, Ships and Ports reports.
“To my fellow ship owners, let me say in closing that this is not the time for division in our fold. A situation where people form different associations and fragment the shipowners’ body will not augur well for anyone.
“There is strength in unity. We once had only one body of ship owners in the country. We must therefore put personal differences aside and work together towards a common goal,” Jolapamo had said at the conference.
According to sources, Jolapamo was consequently mandated by the Minister to convene a meeting of the various groups at Eko Hotel on Friday 26th February 2016 to discuss the way forward.
The outcome of the meeting, according to informed sources, was the formation of the Shipowners Forum with the emergence of Mrs. Margaret Onyema Orakwusi, as its Chairman.
Ships and Ports reports monitored by our correspondent reports that the “reconciliation meeting” was attended by the representatives of all three leaders of the splinter groups as well as prominent shipowners in the country.
It was agreed at the Eko Hotel meeting that while each association would retain its identity, leadership and membership; the Shipowners Forum would serve as a common platform with which the groups would relate with government and pursue common cause.
For over ten years, the Indigenous Shipowners Association (ISAN), which later became NISA was the only body of indigenous ship owners in the country. However, the association was polarized after its maiden election on October 24, 2014 culminating in 22 ship owners led by Ogbeifun and others forming a new association named Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) in April 2015.
Orakwusi, who was elected 1st Vice President of NISA in the October 2014 election of the association, had earlier resigned without assuming office. Emi Membere-Otaji, and Emeka Ndu, who were elected Port Harcourt and Lagos Coordinators respectively also resigned from the positions without assuming office.
The aggrieved NISA members allegedly resigned their positions in protest of Niyi Labinjo’s emergence as NISA President. Labinjo was later suspended in February 2015 by the executives of the association paving the way for Aminu Umar’s emergence as Acting President.
In July 2015, another body known as the African Shipowners Association was formed with a Temisan Omatseye as President. Omatseye and Ogebifun had contested with Labinjo for the post of NISA President in 2014.