GNN Liberia profile segment this week capture one of the nation’s largest employer, a business tycoon and the country’s perceived billionaire, Dr. Benoni Urey was born on June 22, 1957 to the union of Mr. Webster Urey, a farmer, and Mrs. Emma Boyce Urey, a school teacher in the City of Careysburg, Montserrado County where he spent most of his life, is the seven of eleven siblings.
Dr. Urey is happily married to Mrs. Mai B. Urey since 1986, and both are blessed with four daughters; namely Danielle, Telia, Jebbeh, and Benita.
Academically, Dr. Urey attended preschool to first grade at the Careysburg Public School, where according to information. He exhibited a high aptitude for education; he was awarded a scholarship by the United States Government, through the Voice of America Relay Station located at the time in Careysburg to attend the than American Cooperative School (ACS), in Monrovia, from Grade 1to 12th.
Being anxious to acquire further education, young Urey after the completion of his high school , matriculated into the Cuttington University College in Bong County , now Cuttington University, where he successfully earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1979; majoring in General Science with emphasis in Chemistry. Whilst at Cuttiington he was elected to serve as President of the Senior Class, and President of the Mason Social and Athletic Club.
In recognition of his academic and on the ground excellence, Urey was awarded a Scholarship by the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC). In 1986, through that award, he earned a Master Degree in Public Finance and Human Resource Development, as well as a Master of Science Degree in Public Private Planning from the University of Southern California in the United States of America.
Back home, immediately upon receiving his undergraduate degree from the Cuttington University College, he served as Training Officer at the LEC. After graduation from the University of Southern California, he returned to Liberia, and was appointed Deputy Managing Director for Planning and Training at the LEC Training Institute, a position he held from 1986 to 1990 when the senseless and brutal Liberian civil war broke out which halted most activities.
From 1990 to 1992 Dr. Urey worked as a Consultant at the African Development Bank (ADB) in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast in various capacities. Recruited in 1993 and returned to Liberia, where he was appointed as the Managing Director of the Liberia Rubber Development Corporation in Bong County.
In 1995 he was appointed President of the then inactive Agriculture Cooperative Development Bank (ACDB) during the Interim administration of the late Professor Wilton Sankawulo, where he renegotiated the many outstanding loans owned the Bank; Dr. Urey used repayment amounts to establish a subsidiary of ACDB to purchase and export rubber which resulted in the complete restoration of the Bank.
From 1996 to 2003, the same Interim Government appointed him Commissioner of the Bureau of Maritime Affairs, the position which was also reconfirmed by former President Charles Taylor. Dr. Urey held this position until October 2003.
At this Bureau, Dr. Urey setup measures to ensure that Liberians be employed in responsible positions in the operation of the Maritime and Corporate programs; and in particular, the positions of the Deputy Commissioner for Financial Affairs and Maritime Comptroller, the Deputy Commissioner for Corporate Program and the Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs.
While service as head of that Bureau, Dr. Urey encouraged the young people of the Country, particularly from the student community to pay keen interest in their educational sojourn by staying in school; providing Maritime scholarships locally and internationally in Maritime Disciplines. As a result of this initiative by Dr. Urey, dozens of Liberians, mainly students benefitted from this nationalistic gesture of Dr. Urey and graduated with honors from universities and colleges around the world.
Some of these universities and colleges that were used to upgrade the academic milestones of these Liberians included: The Marymount University, The Maine Maritime Academy, the California Maritime Academy, the University of Rhode Island, and the Seamen Churches Institute all in the united States.
Others were: Alexandria Maritime (Egypt, the World Maritime University of Malmo Sweden, the Maritime Law Institute of Malta, the then Regional Maritime Academy now the Regional Maritime University of Ghana, and here in Liberia: the Liberia Maritime Institute in Marshall City, Margibi County, the University of Liberia, the Cuttington University, and the AME University among others.
Other contributions to the Bureau of Maritime, now the Liberia Maritime Authority included the establishment of a Port State Control inspection of ships; aimed at effectively carrying out foreign ships inspection. The supervision of the rebuilding of the Liberia Maritime Training Institute in Marshall, and his quest and insistence that Liberian trained Sea-fearers are employed on ships flying the Liberian Flag at various ports around the world.
Dr. Urey’s successful negotiation of the management of the Liberian Maritime Program with the Liberian International Sgipping & Corporate Registry or LISCR, as a result of efforts and management’s contract million with LISCR, the Liberian Government at that time annual revenue increased from US$4 million to over US$12 million, from the combine Maritime and Corporate Registry programs.
While at the Maritime, Dr. Urey also lobbied in winning a seat for Liberia on the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the conclusion of arrangements for the Government of Liberia to benefit from IMARSAT fund which accumulated a profit of over US3 million to the Government of Liberia from the INMARSAT fund.
Despite of his wealth, but his care for his people, Dr. Urey from 2009 to 2011 was elected by the City Council to serve as Mayor of the City of Careysburg, and election was endorsed by the Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a position he held with distinction, and performing to the expectation of his people. During his administration, as Mayor of this great City, Dr. Urey undertook several developmental projects that residents of this historic city are now enjoying.
Some of his developmental initiatives being enjoyed today by the citizens and residents of Careysburg including and not limited are as follow: the renovation, modernization and furnishing of the Administration Building, negotiating and supervising the rehabilitation of the Magisterial Court, Police Station, market building which houses hundreds of marketers, the construction of a local low-cost housing estate and the completion of three units with personal funds; construction and maintenance of all city streets including the erection of street signs among other.
Dr. Benoni Urey’s concern and passion for the wellbeing and uplifting of his people always made it his duty to stay with his people despite of the civil war which compelled hundreds of Liberians to flee for their lives; making sure that the unemployed were giving job opportunities through the establishment of his chain of businesses.
As Chairman of the Board and a major stakeholder of the largest GSM Telephone Company, the Lone Star Cell/MTN, Dr. Urey’s wealth has drew the attention of the world describing him as Liberia’s riches man even though appeared sample when meeting him for the first time is very passionate in the growth and development of his home country, and the empowerment of its citizens through jobs creation.
The establishment of Wulki Farm, an agriculture venture established in 1998 and situated in Careysburg, Montserrado County is the largest combined livestock and vegetable farm in Liberia which has also employed dozens of Liberians is involved in the following: Poultry (Layers, Broilers, Turkey, Geese, Ostrich, Ducks, Quails and Guinea Fowls
Fish Farming (Tilapia and Cat Fish
Pineapple Juice Production
His media empire include ng the LIB 24 and Shiata Media Companies which were established in 2003 comprised of a television and two radio stations which are together providing professional media services have also employed trained and professional media experts many of whom are Liberians.
His Real Estate Company, the U-Housing established in 1990 specializes in the acquisition and development of properties nationwide, while his Car Rental services, the U-Car Rental, is offering a unique fleet of modern vehicles, Dr. Urey’s establishments have made lots of employment available to unemployed Liberians making them to put food on the table of their dependents.
Due to his quest to improving the livelihood of his people, Dr. Urey, the perceived richest Liberian businessman is doing all in his powers to putting Liberia on the map amongst the world’s riches people.
Photo captions: A staunch loyalist and official of former Liberia’s jailed President Charles Taylor, Benoni Urey, has added his voice to the call for the establishment of a war crime court in Liberia.
Watch out next week for another profile of the week