The race for the presidency of the Nigeria Shipowners’ Association (NISA) has been on with three candidates vying for the position. Others have spoken on why they are in the race, here in this exclusive interview with MMS Plus Weekly, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, a foremost ship repairer, ship-owner, capacity builder, manager of people and business mogul, speaks on why he is the most qualified and preferred candidate for the position. He says things he is capable of doing and his network internally and globally to change the fortunes of members of NISA and the Nigerian shipping sub-sector.
He is the Chief Executive Officer, Starzs Marine and Engineering Limited, Ship repairers and Shipyard Consultants. He also presides over Starzs Investments Company Limited as the CEO. Here, they are Shipowners and Managers; Marine Logistics Providers and Private Maritime Security Providers. He credentials have positioned him as a real and successful shipowner. But, what can he do as President, NISA?
Read his interview:
Why do you want to contest for President, NISA?
The answer is very simple; the Ship owners Association of any Maritime nation is a very important Association. If the policies of the Government as it relates to the Maritime Industry are to be successfully implemented, there has to be a viable Ship owners Association that has a voice, respectability, honour, pedigree of Members of that Association who can stand their own in the Maritime Industry anywhere. At the moment,I think that the Association presently is deficient in a lot of ways. If we start enumerating the reason why it is so, we will have a lot of reasons, but what is critical really is to x-ray the status quo, identify the issues mitigating against the Association and adjust them. I believe I have the pedigree to lead a team of dedicated, serious-minded members who will constitute an Exco, working with us, to collectivelybegin to sort out the issues and take the Association to the next level. I have that pedigree, I have the international clout, I have industry experience, I have public sector recognition and I think I will have a lot of value to add to the Association if I am given the opportunity to serve as President of NISA
How do you think your experiences can help you have a serious grip on NISA and take it to the next level?
I am a ship owner, and I am a ship repairer. I have been in the Maritime Industry for 42 years; that was when I started my cadetship. I was trained by an international organisation Shell Tankers UK,I have a lot of Industry experience both locally and internationally.
In my business, I have been privileged to run fleet of vessels providing job opportunities for young Nigerians. We as a company have a penchant and appetite for training young cadets who will become Officers on ships, we are doing that. My shipyard has carried out over 600 dry docking since inception in the year 2000. Today Starzs Shipyards remain the only privatelyowned indigenous ship repair yard in this country.
Apart from providing the services for ship-owners, we have also created employment opportunities for Nigerians to learn and develop skills. At the moment, as we speak, there is a plan which is about 60% achieved to expand the ship yard from a 500 tonne lifting capacity to 8000 tonne lifting capacity for repairing vessels up to 100 meters long, that at start-up will provide job opportunities for about 1000 people. That is my private sector contribution to the Industry.
On the public sector, the Government at the Federal level as well as the National Assembly has from time to time invited me to lend a voice to some of their initiatives in the Maritime Industry. I have presented a paper at the National Assembly on shipyards in the country as far back as the year 2003. I was a member of the Ministerial Committee that carried out the review of contracts award in the Nigeria Ports Authority. In 2006, I was nominated into the Technical Committee of NIMASA to restructure the place and several other things. Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron gave me an award for my contribution to human capacity development in the maritime sector because of the number of cadets my organisation was sponsoring on scholarship. I have been a speaker at the passing-out parade of MAN, Oron several times and only recently in 2012, there was a Presidential Retreat on Maritime and at the end, a Committee was set up to review the deliberations of that retreat.I was privileged to be nominated into that Committee. So, from the public sector, you can see that I have been a voice that adds value to what is being done and I believe that these attributes are what we are looking for amongst other things, to take the Association to a deserved level. If you are looking for people of integrity, I am very proud to say that my Company or my Person have never been involved in any financial scandal or any personality scandal and I stand tall everywhere I go.
You may recall that in the year 2011, I was the Pioneer Chairman of the Nigeria Maritime EXPO (NIMAREX) and I am also glad to inform you that I actually personally coined the acronym NIMAREX. At the 2011 NIMAREX which I chaired, I was able to bring the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to Nigeria for that event, even though he sent the Assistant Secretary General to represent him. As the President of NISA, we should be able to begin to take our Association beyond these shores to such organisations as IMO, interact with other International Ship owners Associations to begin to benchmark what we are doing here against those who have gone ahead of us.So there is quite a lot we can do in this respect.
So far, how do you see the Campaign and all that is happening, do you have confidence in the Electoral committee?
Yes, I believe they are doing what they have to do and sincerely, I haven’t been very aggressive in the campaign and that is on purpose, the reason is simple. We are talking of an Association of Ship owners and Associate members whose membership strength is less than 200. It is a small number. We are also talking about members of the Association who are presenting themselves to be elected in the office. I believe that the majority of the members of the Association know what they want, they know who they want and those who don’t know are asking those who know and I believe that it is not the amount of convincing that I will do now that will remove the fact that I have operated a credible company or I haven’t. So we are going through a due process but I am convinced that at the end of the day that the people that will emerge or should emerge are people that have track records rather than people that have been able to do a lot of advertisement, or a lot of paper work or talking and things like that and that’s why I have not been too bullish. My track records speak for itself and I think from what I see happening, the members of the Association are credible enough to know what type of leadership they want.
If you are given the opportunity how will CVFF look like?
CVFF is a very contentious issue, I have said it openly and I will say it again. It is improper for the Government to sit on people’s money. The money we are talking about belongs to the ship owners, it does not belong to the Government and as such it is illegal for government to sit on that money. That will be a summary of the stance I will take but having said that, I think it will be proper that the Administration that will emerge after the election should constructively again engage the relevant organs of government to find out what the problems are. There must be a reason why we have the situation and I think if properly engaged, it is possible to get to the root of the problem. And it is only when you get to the root of the problem, that you can begin to maybe come up with a strategy to solve it. But if I win as the president, I am not going to come out there chasing CVFF. I am a victim of the non-implementation of the CVFF. My company is one of the six companies that were nominated for that fund, but we have not waited for that, we have gone on to continue our business. That means, there are other alternatives of funding in financial institutions both locally and internationally that have been keeping the industry going. While looking at CVFF, my Administration will encourage the Association to begin to look at other options which can be brought to play and I have a few ideas in that regard that I think I will bring to table at the appropriate time.
How will you look at the issue of full implementation of the Cabotage Act?
The ten-year period since the inception of Cabotage should not be seen as a total waste of time because various organs of government had made various efforts to get Cabotage implementation to work and they have not succeeded for obvious reasons. The Legislative arm of Government has a big role to play in the implementation of Cabotage. There are probably some aspects of that Act that need to be reviewed. It may be that as Ship owners Association, we would have some contributions to make towards solving the problem but we don’t have a full answer because it is not within the ambit of our legislation to do that. But in my opinion, it may be good for the Association to set up a small committee of three or four to look into what efforts have been made in the past. There are reports, recommendations, and proposals that may have been made. Some of them could be repetitions, we could crystallize of all those efforts, bring it into the Association, we will brainstorm around it and definitely we will come out with our own recommendations; there is no need repeating what others have done, this man did this, that is his recommendation, that one did that, that his recommendation. These recommendations are not documented and at the end of the day, we see a situation where there is need for political will on the part of the Government to make another effort and then once you have that crystallized position, you now know which arms of Government to engage initially from the constructive perspective. If we have a strong Association that has a voice, it doesn’t matter who wants to bring it to the table to talk, they will listen to you without necessarily being belligerent or trying to attack people on basis of that.We don’t need that, we need a different approach to bringing people to the discussion table and I think that is the way I will like to go.
How will you handle the issue of Crude Affreightment and Lifting?
It will not be my focus, I think NISA has a lot more fundamental issues to address than that, it will not be my focus. Having said that, I know that some efforts have been made in the past to get involved in that issue, we will look at what efforts were made in the past and we will decide if we are strategically positioned to begin to push it further or not, but it is going to be a collective decision but on a personal note, I don’t think that is the priority
What edge do you think you have over other contestants?
My pedigree. One of the contestants has been in the Association’s Administration for so long, why hasn’t he implemented or used that opportunity to make a change? Another contestant has been a Director General of NIMASA, a very strategic position to be able to change things, why hasn’t he done that?So give me a chance, I am the only one that hasn’t been there, just give me a chance. I am the only person that have not been given a chance to prove what he can do apart from the ones I have proven in my business, let me go there and make a difference but in any case, at the end of the day it is important that we all come out of this united, there shouldn’t be any reason to get so worked up about it. It is a good development that this level of interest is being shown.