Chief (Mrs) Carol Akum Ufere can literally be called “iron lady” due to the numerous offices she had occupied. As the first woman Port Manager, Rivers Port Complex in the 100 years of its existence; and General Manager (Special Duties), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Apapa Lagos, where her core function is to coordinate activities of International Maritime Associations and Inter- Ministerial Relationships.
From Aro-ndizuogu in Imo State and member, Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPMN); Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, Women in Shipping & Trade Association (WISTA); and Women in Logistics & Transport (WILAT) – she is the fifth president of Committee of Friends For Humanity (COFFHA).
Recently, she spoke about her career, her life and the COFFHA vision during her tenure as president.
|From Google Search
Your seat at NPA was a very hot one as a woman. How did you cope in office, home and as COFFHA president?
It’s not easy I know. It’s a huge task but I have kind of found a way to cope in every aspect. When I’m at work , I’m at work, when I’m at home , I’m home. I try to handle each particular role by striking a balance so that none would suffer. I’m a workaholic and when I am working every other thing takes the back stage. Luckily it’s a digital world. Technology has made things very easy. My family is a phone call away when I’m at work and luckily, I have an understanding husband who also is quite supportive of what I am doing as regards my work and COFFHA.
When I’m at home, I do my cooking, I have a help in the house but somehow my help is just a support staff. Even when I was in Port Harcourt as the port manager, when I came home at weekends, I did all my cooking; I dish different food in each container. I prepare my husband’s breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as my children’s. You can’t come to my home and not eat. My husband wants me to do the cooking and I take joy in doing the cooking.
For the children, I’m always involved in all their activities. I’m involved in their school work and I know their teachers and lecturers respectively.
Luckily they are now adults, so it’s easier. My baby is in her 2nd year in Mass Communication. I have 5 children. My first child, a girl, is a lawyer and she’s into oil and gas. She has a thriving blog and she’s also a motivational
speaker. My eldest son is a design engineer, he’s in the US with his wife and they have beautiful children. My third son is an Electrical/ Electronic Engineer and my other son is an accountant.
Could you tell us your experience at Nigerian Ports Authority as the first female port manager?
It was challenging and at the same time stressful. I dealt with government
agencies, the shipping community as well as the public. I dealt with the community itself. You know how they are with their “we are the son of the soil, and you are operating on our land, we must benefit from the proceeds of our land mentality? But it’s usually with God’s grace and wisdom. I was able to handle these different groups in such a way that I didn’t have any problem. I have a very supporting head of department and staff and even the union. They’re my support group. It was a very interesting, challenging and wonderful experience. Maritime business is international business and I dealt with the outside world and made sure the business functioned seamlessly, to ensure whatever revenue is due to government came to government.
As a woman did you at anytime think of giving up your job at NPA?
Frankly speaking, I will say no. My motivation comes from God. At times, I drive my workforce so hard. Even up till now, I keep asking myself where I got the energy from. I flew from Lagos to Abuja for meetings and I’m back again in Port Harcourt same day. I would say at that period of my stay in Port Harcourt I had God’s favour and grace.
As the President of COFFHA, can you tell us what the organization is all about?
The full name is Committee of Friends for Humanity and it started in 1991 by a group of three friends, Mrs. Phil Okonkwo, Mrs. Gloria Osema and
my humble self. It was an idea that came up when a friend invited me to Soroptimist International meeting. I went with her and having seen and enjoyed the deliberations, l just felt that Soroptimist International is already big and operating on a very wide scope and l felt that if we replicate such a thing in Nigeria I mean me and my friends on a similar scheme it could make more impact and reach to the society. So when I discussed with them, they accepted the idea and that was how COFFHA was born. In 1993, the association was incorporated with the CAC and here we are 24 years on going stronger and tougher. The name was derived from the fact of our friendship, because we are friends that came together initially and from there we started inviting all our other friends, so a friend brings in a friend: that’s why you have Committee of Friends for Humanity. It’s basically all about charity, touching lives, reaching out to the less privileged and that’s the reason we are together.
What are your achievements in the last 24 years?
We have achieved much really, considering that we are just a group of women who are successful in our various businesses, the public service and other endeavours. The unique thing about us is that we have been operating from our purses, we have been blessed by God and we felt we should equally extend such blessings to others and we had a whole lot of benefactors and those who have identified with this noble cause from inception. So, any time we come together we call on them and they always
support us. But we do not have any foreign donor. Our husbands basically have been our support and pillars because we are all married women and we are all graduates. It’s an association of equals and that means the presidency goes round. Among our donors are the likes of Steve Mayaki, Engineer Dike Nwaobia and Mr. Emma Nwakanma. They are too numerous to mention, but they have been so magnanimous with their donations and presence at all our activities.
|From Google Search
What’s your major focus as the president?
We have had four presidents and they have achieved a lot. I am going to build and consolidate on their achievements. During Phil Okonkwo’s tenure, we decided that since COFFHA has gone this far, there is a need for us to have a permanent place we call COFFHA Center, because we help widows and we are also taking care of orphanages, the physically challenged and empowering women. We had an outing in Anambra State and another in Lagos State and we felt it is not just empowering them only but to ensure they are coping with what we have empowered them with. This demands a lot from us because we are all very busy. So we thought if we had a center, a skill acquisition center, it will go a long way, because it’s not only to empower them financially, we also empower them by the skill they acquire from the center and then we can now monitor their growth from there. For the physically challenged, because we have a center, we hope we can attract donors and this is a lot easier for us, because they can come, see what we are doing. So, under Phil’s tenure, we were able to raise funds and acquire a land at Ajah. My own project now is to build on that land and equip the centre and we pray that during the commissioning God will give us generous donors for us to be able to raise enough money to run the center. It will be a vocation center where we’ll teach tailoring and at least when some know how to sew, they can always make enough money for themselves. We also teach hair dressing and other vocations of interest to the caliber of people we are targeting.
You look great what’s the secret?
It’s the grace of God. I’m into church activities so much. On daily basis, I wake up at 5.30 to attend Mass. I’m a devout catholic. I start the day at 5.30 with adoration at Mass. If I can’t make the morning Mass I make sure I attend afternoon or evening Mass. No matter where I am, the first thing I do is to locate the nearest Catholic Church since our order of service is the same everywhere.
Being close to God helps me a lot to handle all the events in my life.
Thanks for reading this.
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