Mrs. Jean Chiazor-Anishere is the President of the Women in Shipping and Transport Association (WISTA), an international association that caters for the interest of the women folk in the shipping and transport circle; she is also an executive in the Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria (MAAN). In this interview, in her usual sociable manner, she bares her mind on several issues in the maritime industry especially on the activities of WISTA, how they have been of tremendous help to members, how MAAN has been in the forefront of the campaign for Alternative Dispute Resolution to be adopted in the maritime industry.
Tell us about WISTA
WISTA is doing fine as you can remember; we just marked our 20th anniversary in July. It was a celebration of hard work, all our achievements thus far. Right now, we are preparing to go to Cyprus for the AGM and that will be on 8th of October till 11th but for all presidents of the national bodies worldwide, we will be there at the end of this month until the AGM will actually take off.
What is the membership of WISTA like in the past one year, have you recorded new membership?
O yes. WISTA has grown and it is growing. Since we introduced the chapters in the six geopolitical zones, Abuja, Uyo, Port Harcourt, Jos, Aba and Warri, WISTA is actually growing pretty fast. We have minimum of about sixty members in each of the chapters which is quite a lot. Right now, I can say WISTA-Nigeria membership strength is well over 200.
How is the association helping its members to grow their businesses?
We hold a lot of training at our monthly meetings. We used to make it monthly meeting but in this second tenure, I decided to do it bi-monthly to give us enough time to also operate our individual businesses. We hold training for our members to empower them; we have women who have excelled in their various vocations like the CEO of Britania-U, Uju-Ifejika, who comes to speak to us about how she got there which is quite inspiring for many of our members.
We have also taken members to the Naval Dockyard for members who are ship owners to see that they can actually bring their vessels to dry dock in our own ship yards and if you are WISTA member, it means that the rate will be discounted for. In addition to that, we also have members attend some summits, we were at the WISTA first international conference in Takoradi in Ghana; we had about eleven WISTA members in attendance; four executives and new members we are mentoring who we call young WISTA.
It was quite encouraging and you know Takoradi is an oil city; there members got to meet with Jubilee partners who are big oil magnates in Ghana. So, we are actually doing our best to ensure that members are empowered and an interesting episode I like to share is to thank the parastatal that absorbed our member. One of our very active members lost her job about two years ago, she is a marine engineer and we approached the parastatal to see if they could consider her for a placement and I am happy to state here that a couple of months back, that member is a staff of the agency. This is also what we try to do for our young aspiring members who we call mentees from Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron.
As you are aware, we offer scholarship to the best female cadet officer in Oron. So, we follow them through and once they graduate from the academy, we also try to place them. We have approached GAK shipping because GAK actually solicits for employees for Nigerian Liquefied National Gas NLNG. So, we have approached GAK, we have also approached Comet Shipping to see if these girls can be absorbed in these shipping companies. Our appreciation actually goes to stars consultant which has its head office in Port Harcourt at the moment.
Starz consultant is another upcoming shipping company because it has got a ship yard. I must say it is the first Nigerian to own ship yard, I stand to be corrected and I think the CEO has done Nigerians proud in this regard. We have observed that it is only in Starz consultant that we don’t have to go begging before they are accepted. It is Starz alone that will not wait for us to approach it before absorbing those girls; they actually go there and get the girls; quite a number of our girls and boys are working there. I think other shipping companies in Nigeria should emulate this. We have to start from within and that also will encourage NIMASA and the Federal Government that have taken it upon themselves with the seafarers training that is going on.
You know NIMASA has decided to take a bold step giving well over 70% of its resources in addition to 30% that the state government can add to training young Nigerians who aspire to be seafarers. They train them abroad and because some have no place to come back to, and be gainfully employed in Nigeria because we don’t have many of our ships working where they can come on board as seafarers, some remain overseas.
The fact that NIMASA has trained well over a thousand of these young ones, as seafarers, it is really so lovely is a huge applause to the agency. So, having Starz consultants doing same within, it is worth commending. WISTA Nigeria has taken note of that. Unfortunately, we are only out for the qualified female seafarers as far NIMASA is concerned and qualified female cadets as far as getting them job is concerned and we are quite happy with what we are seeing.
You are a member of the Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria; you people seem not to be loud enough in the industry, why?
Really? We have to do something about that but maybe we don’t have enough coverage in terms of media, we really are working very hard. I happen to be in the executive of MAAN, and the president is Dr. Ogbai Omeibor. I know we have been paying courtesy visit to the parastatals in the maritime industry. Lately, we paid courtesy visit to the DG of NIMASA, we have paid courtesy visit to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council. The Shippers’ Council has been supportive of our activities in MAAN. In fact, in the past five years, MAAN and NSC have collaborated to host what we call Practical Maritime Arbitration Seminar. We bring the practical aspect to bare to participants and that is held every year and Shippers’ Council has been supporting financially and otherwise. That seminar actually is our main project. MAAN is advocating for a dispute resolution centre in Africa and we are advocating that the centre should be here in Lagos. Lagos is the commercial centre for Nigeria; we know it has a huge potential for maritime arbitration.
Do you think ADR is a better option than litigation?
It is in terms of time factor. You know the first advantage that i see in arbitration is that you save a lot of time whereas in litigation, you might be in court of first instance; the very first court you take your case to. If it is in state high court, you are there for four years, before judgement is delivered and if you lose in that court, the loser takes the case to court of appeal; in the court of appeal, the case is there for another four years before settlement of records, files, you compile your appeals and all that and the appeal is heard and judgement, he takes it to the supreme court and at the supreme court, if it is not a criminal case, the court takes your time and it could be there for three to four years before your case s listed and you compile records and exchange briefs.
So, if you add the four years together in the three courts, it makes twelve years just for one matter to be resolved whereas in arbitration, it cannot stay longer than a year. It must be so tough in terms of choosing venue, maybe the parties have not paid the fee of the arbitrators might be the reason why it is delayed to twelve months otherwise it is incredible to have it for that long.
Do you think judgement could actually be gotten knowing that there is no force applicable?
There is enforcement in arbitration; the award which is life the judgement which is being delivered at the end of the session is final and it is binding n both parties. The beauty of arbitration is that both defendant and plaintiff have agreed that this person be their judge. So, they have also agreed that whatsoever judgement which is called an award is entered by the arbitrator or arbitrators would be final and binding on them. Where an award is enforced in the court or where an award is challenged in court giving reason as the arbitrator is biased, is known to one of the parties, the award seems to be unjust, unfair one so, they take it back to the Federal High Court and start all over again. That causes some delay and that could be a problem but award given abroad is enforceable in Nigeria and vice versa. So, it has a legal bite ad it is quite effective.
Notable personalities in NISA are jostling for the presidency of the association, what do you foresee?
Mr. Jegede Paul has also joined in the race. He is the first Nigeria shipping company to be listed in the stock exchange. That is good for him to try to come on to steer the affairs of NISA. What do I think? These four men are great men. The CEO of Starz Consultant, Engr. Greg Ogbeifu, Captain Labinjo, former secretary of NISA, the MD of Alpha Marine is also vying for the hot seat. The former DG of NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye is vying too. It is becoming very interesting. I read their mails; I have read particularly mails from Capt. Labinjo. I have known him for years to be someone who is intelligent, very outspoken and he has been with NISA from inception.
For Engr. Greg Ogbeifu, he has scored some first in the industry, he was the person that started with NIMAREX, he recorded a success as the first chairman of NIMAREX. The fact that we have NIMAREX was his initiative. That is a huge applause for him and I have said a lot about Starz Consultant, his own company what he is doing for the cadet officers, the young ones. He is a man with very large heart; he is well respected and loved in the industry. I know that if given the seat, we will experience a lot of changes in the association. Temisan Omatseye, I know him when he was the Director General of NIMASA; a young man with brilliant ideas, with his youthfulness, he can bring some new ideas into the association, he has got a lot of strength and he is quite dynamic.
Mr Jegede Japaul, he is some person who is well driven, focused, I like his zeal, he has shown that by being the first shipping company to register to be listed in the Nigerian stock exchange. He opened that gate. So, you see, who do I vote for? These are four great men, it is a hot seat. It is an interesting campaign,it is going to be tough, it is beautiful that we have four best men vying for this hot seat, it means whoever takes the seat among these four men, NISA will surely continue from where Chief Jolapamo stopped. I only wish all of them the best.