Dr Mkgeorge Onyung has taken over the leadership mantle of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) from the Founding President, Engr Greg Ogbeifun who pioneered the leadership of the association in the last four years having served out his constitutionally allowed two terms.
Dr. Onyung, a medical doctor and Managing Director of Jevkon Oil emerged the new SOAN President in a keenly contested free and fair election held by the association in Lagos on Tuesday.
He polled 12 votes to defeat his closest rival Engr. Alfred Okoigun who polled ten votes in the Presidential Election category. Whereas Mr. Eno J. William emerged the 1st Vice President with twenty-two votes while Mr. Sonny Eja also emerged as the 2nd Vice President with a total of twenty-two votes.
Winners in other categories of the election which was umpired by Chairman of Ship Owners Forum, Barr. Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi are: Mr. Babalola Adefarati who emerged the new Financial Secretary/Treasurer with a total of twenty-two votes while Engr. Lucky Akhiwu and Engr. Stan B. Athekame who contested for the position of Chairman, Technical Committee had a tie as both garnered eleven votes each leading to a run off which eventually saw Engr. Lucky Akihwu garner a total of twelve votes to defeat Engr. Stan B. Athekame who polled ten votes.
The election also produced Mr. Wisdom Nwagwu as Chairman, Training and Capacity Building Committee, Dr. Louis Ekere as Chairman, Ethics and Privileges Committee while Mrs. Iroghama Obuoforibo was returned as Chairman, Finance and Membership Committee, all emerged with a total of twenty-two votes each.
In his acceptance speech, the new SOAN President acknowledged the huge task before him and his new executive. He vowed to form a very formidable team in the association that would positively engage all relevant stakeholders for the benefit of the association.
He also promised to ensure smooth relationship between SOAN and all its regulators, stakeholders and the International Oil Companies (IOCs) so that the shipping industry would move forward.
Speaking further, Dr Onyung thanked Barr Orakwusi for her commitment to the SOAN course, and also thanked Engr. Greg Ogbeifun for his pioneering efforts and leadership qualities. The new SOAN President revealed that he wears size 42 shoes but would try and fit into Greg’s size 45.
He however, called on Greg not to abandon the SOAN Ship on account of his (Greg) stepping aside, saying that no one looks for periwinkle in the soup if there is snail.
Responding, the out-going President, Engr Greg Ogbeifun promised to make himself, his time and resources available to the newly elected SOAN Leadership as the executives get down to business of improving shipping in Nigeria.
Speaking on his four years experience as SOAN President, Ogbeifun said,” You heard that we started from a very humble beginning at a time when there was turbulence in the industry by reason of other bodies that were in existence and ran into difficulties; the perception of the government and the industry of the association that existed then were very contrary. They were seen as being belligerent, confrontational, fighting the system, fighting the government, that didn’t help the course of the ship owners.
“Eventually, when the few of us realize that unless we change the tide, the whole ship owners irrespective of where you belong were going to be grouped as belligerent, as fighting government, as not seeing anything good. So, we decided to take a different turf. So, the first challenge I have as the President of SOAN was to get the industry, government agencies and relevant stakeholders to understand that SOAN is a different entity of ship owners, with a different mission to change the story.
“So, it took a while for them to begin to listen, to begin to give opportunities, to begin to hear us and that was the most challenging period. But thankfully today, I would like to say that SOAN has become a critical stakeholder in the maritime industry. Even in the Nigerian government, they recognize that they now have an entity that they can engage to be able to implement their policies.
“On a personal note, I would like to say that I was lucky to have a group of owners who believed in the course, there were challenges but we were able to overcome them. The executive that we had in the two terms worked tirelessly as much as was within their capabilities and don’t forget that it was during these four years that the oil and gas industry witnessed a dramatic fall in the oil price”, he stated.
Meanwhile, the date for the inauguration of the new executive will be announced later.