The Maiden Lagos International Shipping Expo (LISE) organized by the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) was marred by the lack of presence of Ship owners, government officials and key industry stakeholders.
The founder and immediate past president of SOAN, Eng Greg Ogbeifun was also allegedly absent at the conference, while his company; Stars Investment was conspicuously absent at the exhibition stands.
The leadership of Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) told Shipping Position Daily that they could not attend the conference because SOAN failed to extend an invitation to them.
This is even as members of SOAN have accused the president, Dr. McGeorge Onyung of running the association as his personal property since he took over from Greg Ogbeifun.
Our reporter who was present at the event observed that the conference was a shadow of the Nigerian Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) an annual event held by Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) when there was not yet SOAN or other splinter groups.
Apart from the facts that heads of maritime agencies had traveled to London for International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Council meeting, the SOAN conference witnessed very few ship owners at the opening and closing days.
The event tagged "Ocean Blue Economy and National Development” was meant to attract foreign and local investment into Nigerian shipping industry as well as tackle plethora of issues plaguing shipping business in the country.
However, maritime stakeholders have attributed the low turnout at the event to the infighting among the various shipowner groups.
Engr. Matthew Alalade, President of Merchant Navy Senior Staff Association believes that the reason for the low turnout at the conference may not be far from the infighting among members in the association.
He said there is need for the two shipping associations to come together as one formidable association, rather than having factions in the industry.
According to him “The low turnout may be as result of the infighting in the association, and we learnt that the NISA group are coming together as one, I don’t know how they planned the event, I don’t know if SOAN extended their invite to other maritime stakeholders in the country, because we didn’t get any invite, even if they do, they ought to follow it up with calls and reminder, because, if you don’t do such a thing, you are about to fail, or let me say you may not see the people come to your event.
"But, I believe with time, the association will resolve the in-house crisis and come back as one” he said.
A maritime stakeholder who doesn’t want his name in print also alleged that the conference had a low turnout, because some of the members of the association (SOAN) were not happy with the way the president was running the association.
He alleged that the President, Dr McGeorge Onyung have been running the association as though it was his personal company.
In his words “The truth is that, many of the members are not happy with the president, many of the members are saying the President is running the association as though it is his own personal company, and that they can no longer work with him, you will discover that many of the members are not around, and in fact, the former President Greg Ogbeifun is also absent from the event and his exhibition stand is also missing"
"So, I would urge the president to put his house in order, because we expected much from the maiden event, than what we are seeing” he said.
When asked if the association extended the invite to attend the conference to NISA, he said he could not ascertain if the president extended the invite to them.
When contacted one of the three man steering committee of the factional group (NISA) Mr. Paul Jegede said the association didn’t get any invite from SOAN and so it will be difficult for any of their members to attend since they were not invited.
“Who are those they sent to, because NISA as an association have come together as one body, and there is a steering committee that is running NISA now, I don’t know if they send it to the old committee, so if they don’t send to the steering committee there is no way any member will take it from old executive, because I didn’t get any invitation and maybe the way I didn’t get it that’s how other didn’t get it too” he said.
On his part the Chairman of the event and member of SOAN, Mr. Lucky Akhiwu said they are not in competition with NISA and there is no reason why they would asked them not to be a part of the event.
According to him “we are friends and we are not competitors with NISA, and there is no reason to say a group or faction should not attend we all have a common interest, we are all Nigerians and we are looking at how to make Nigeria work.
“At ship owners association, our goal is simple we want to see how Nigeria can play in that space to acquire vessels and ships because, 90 percent of global trade is done by shipping, so therefore we are friends and we are not competitors in anyway and the bottom line is that how can we make the country great.”
When asked if there are plans for the two associations to come together as one, he simply replied “I don’t want to go in there, that’s another discussion for another day” he said.