SOAN in industry partnerships to create job opportunities for Nigerians--Okoigun

SOAN  2nd Vice President,  Mr. Alfred Okoigun

The Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) in partnership with key stakeholders in the maritime industry is creating a broad spectrum of job opportunities for young Nigerians.  

SOAN President, Greg Ogbeifun, 
The SOAN 2nd Vice President and Chairman, Organising Committee, End of Year AGM, Mr. Alfred Okoigun, revealed this in Lagos at the weekend.
Okoigun highlighted the remarkable success and prospects of the ongoing collaboration, and the anticipated gains, in terms of brighter industry future; and of days when the body would freely train the nation’s cadets and provide them new vista of genuine hopes.
He said: “We are beginning to get the collaboration of the industry players like the Nigerian Local Content Board, the NAPIMS office, NIMASA, etc with every one of them, not just listening but even asking us: what are your challenges; and where can we help you. This was not a common thing before.”
He added that it was remarkable to have honourable personalities including the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, the Petroleum Minister of State, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Local Content Board, Simbi Wabote, and the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency  (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, among others identify with SOAN, five years into its formation.
His words:  “This was not how it used to be in the past when we operated as if we were on our own and they were on their own; fighting one another and even as some of the coordinating ministry were also not in harmony.
“But through the SOAN, we have been able to blend them all together, because we have emphasized the importance of National Interest!
“Can you imagine the fact that with the quantum of water we are endowed with, we have not harnessed and prospered from it?
“If you go to Holland, Sweden, Norway or even Dubai of recent, without much of water; you can see what they are doing with their waters. But here, we are just scratching the surface!
“So, this year is to really get the Government and the key players together, to enable all parties, brainstorm and explore how we need to continue to collaborate and improve together in the overall interest of both the Maritime industry and the citizens.
“Let’s collaborate together; let’s broaden out and let’s leave a legacy,” the shipping mogul stated, emphasizing that the body has actually achieved far more than verbal recognition or acceptance of the relevant decision makers.
“For instance, our collaboration with the Local Content Development Board had tilted the table favourably for Nigerians. I remember some eight or ten years ago, when some of us were in to bid for contracts with any of the IOCs, the list of the bidders were usually of the foreign companies. For you to be even admitted to be one of the participants was a big deal. But today, I have seen that the list of the bidders approved by NCMB was 99 per cent of our local companies, at least in some categories!
“And even those that were not indigenous companies were still Nigerian registered companies; where Nigeria enjoys a 51/49 per cent favorable tilt. That is the level it is now. And why is that possible? It is because the local content law is there! And we also have focused people, who are standing out, to implement it.
“So, the issue is no longer that of not giving Nigerians the room to operate, it is now the challenge of Nigerians coming out to perform.
“Before, there was no ear to cry to, today, we have several ears, listening to see where we can be helped.
“We have some relevant stakeholder who should join us; but are still outside. But I am happy that some of them are already appreciative of what SOAN is able to do. We are using the tools of personal engagement, as well as the media to let them know they should no longer stay out.
Speaking on what to expect at the 2018 AGM holding on Tuesday December 11, at the Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, Afred Okoigun confirmed the personal attendance of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; and the Minister of State, Petroleum, Ibe Kachukwu as Special Guests of Honours, and some other dignitaries; adding that the Doyen of the Nigerian Maritime Industry, High Chief, Adebayo Babatunde Sarumi would be the Chairman of the occasion.
He also provided a list of top class leaders who would be in attendance as guest speakers and panellists including Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman; the NCDMB Executive Secretary, Simbi Kesiye Wabote, GGM NAPIMS, Mr. Roland Ewubare; the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral, Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; and the NIMASA Director General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
“We are expecting strong stakeholders to participate. We have zeroed seriously on the real professional, because we are talking of issues of National interest”, he emphasised, noting that the Comptroller General of Immigration will equally be in attendance.
“The Comptroller General of Immigration will equally be in attendance. This again underscores the importance of bringing everyone together, because at the end of the day, if we say the foreigners are dominating our industry, we must also understand that it is the immigration that issues them the endorsement. So, they should know what we are doing!
He identified the initial selfishness with which many stakeholders had pursued issues of common interest in the past as reasons why things did not work, pointing out that at the current pace and with the level of commitment, on the parts of both Government and industry operators, the youths would soon begin to smile.
“Why many things have not succeeded in this country is because when some people say they are fighting for other people, the reality is that they fight purely, for their individual concern!” he said, adding that acceptance and recognition for SOAN only came, after the stakeholders identified the body’s altruistic and selfless goals.
He expressed his joy that the body has also overcome the debilitating feeling of ‘Nigerians cannot deliver’, adding that it was this feeling that largely positioned the industry in the hands of foreigners.
“But of course, financing still remain a big problem of the whole industry’, he indicated further, noting that “the people they are competing with are those that are from countries which granted loans under 10 percent per annum, when loans are sourced in Nigeria at a minimum of about 14 percent.
“But, can that stop us? No!” he posited, even as he stressed the determination of both the country and the SOAN to provide desired training opportunity to its youths. He strongly believed that the ongoing collaboration with NIMASA would achieve the desired results.
Also speaking on the occasion, the SOAN President, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, expressed satisfaction that the body had between the last AGM and now, not only achieved at least 70 percent of its targeted objectives, but also achieved a paradigm shift in the perception and operations of shipping in the country.
“One of the great achievements of SOAN in the last 12 months is that as a result of our last outing, there has been huge paradigm shift, from the way Government and government agencies have been tackling issues relating to the Maritime sector.
“I’m pleased to inform you that out of the several issues we raised last year, a good 70 percent of them have already been addressed; and the rest are being addressed in a space of 12 months, courtesy of the SOAN. There has been quite some tremendous growth in the establishment.
“To name a few, as a result of our outing and constructive engagement of government, I can confidently tell you that the Hon. Minister of Transport has now decided to see to the possible conclusion of the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) to the extent that he has now taken the issue to the Presidential level for assent.
“Behind the scene, a lot is going on positively, because we are constantly engaging, and there has been a more positive disposition from NIMASA and the leadership of NIMASA on issues that concerns us”, he explained further.
The SOAN First Vice President, Dr. McGeorge Onyong, stressed the need for synergy between Government and the shipowners, noting that since Nigeria is blessed with both cargo and ships, it should not be an insurmountable challenge to harness it, alongside its other resources, so as to bring succor to all Nigerians, especially the youths, more so, that SOAN has the specialized knowledge, and the capacity to re-invent the industry.
He was genuinely optimistic that Nigeria would one day be lifting its cargo, saying that though he can’t be emphatic of the time, nonetheless he knows that Nigeria is very close to doing that, working in close collaboration with relevant stakeholders.