EXCLUSIVE: Amaechi induces forced merger of indigenous ship owners’ groups

Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has forced the various associations of indigenous ship owners in the country to merge under a common umbrella known as the Shipsowners Forum, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY can authoritatively reveal.

The Minister had told the Nigerian ship owners during the African Maritime Conference held in Lagos on Wednesday last week that he would not recognise or work with any of the ship owner groups except they merged. 

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.

“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 in his peroration at the conference.

Consequently, Jolapamo was mandated to convene a meeting of the various groups at Eko Hotel on Friday 26th February 2016 to discuss the possibilities of a merger. The meeting culminated in the formation of the Shipowners Forum with Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi appointed as Chairman.

The “reconciliation meeting” was attended by the representatives of Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) led by its Acting President, Alhaji Aminu Umar;Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) led by Engr. Greg Ogbeifun and African Shipowners Association (ASA) led by Mr. Temisan Omatseye.

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.

SHIPS & PORTS DAILY reports that for more than 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 polarised after its maiden election held 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 would later be 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 former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Temisan Omatseye as President.

Omatseye and Ogebifun had contested with Labinjo for the post of NISA President in 2014.

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