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$2.29m scam: EFCC witness alleges threat to life

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A witness brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to testify against former Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim yesterday told Justice Adeniyi Ademola that his life was in danger.

Ohakim, who was Imo State governor between 2007 and 2011 is facing a three count charge of money laundering arising from his alleged purchase of house 60, Kwame Nkrumah Street, Plot No 1098, Cadastral Zone A04, Asokoro District, Abuja with cash payment of dollar equivalent of N270m in November 2008.

He was also accused of failing to declare the property as part of his assets when asked by EFCC.
The prosecution said the offences bordering on cash payment of N270m violated section 15(1) (d) and section 14(1) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004. At the resume hearing yesterday, prosecution counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo said the EFCC witness, Mr. Abu Sule, who had testified before the court on how he allegedly helped Ohakim to acquire the huge edifice, called him on Monday and informed him about Ohakim’s second son, Emeka, who came to the witness’ office at Asokoro and made enquiries about his (Sule) residential address.

Keyamo said: “The witness called me around 9 a.m. yesterday that the second son of the accused person came to his office at Asokoro and made inquiries about the residence address of the witness.

“He asked three people, one Itakpo, Okoh (taxi drivers) and one Architect Sola, which they refused to show him. He said he wanted to consult the defence, but that the matter was not the issue of counsel to counsel because the defence cannot protect the witness.

“It is the court that can make words of caution to the other party,” Keyamo said. In his reaction, Okakim’s legal team led by Prof. Awa Kalu, SAN, vehemently opposed the allegation raised by Keyamo. Kalu said: “We want to register our approach to an issue that should have been settled somewhere.

“I have no doubt that this allegation was meant for the purpose of destabilising the defence. When the court stood down, he had the opportunity to discuss the issue with either the counsel or the father of the son, but he didn’t raise any caution. “In African tradition, when a young boy misconducts himself, the attention of his parents should be drawn to it.

“We find this issue very disturbing. It is on record that the PW2 testified on November 2, 2015 and only yesterday, the young man would go and find out the residence of the witness. “Since Keyamo refused to give the defence opportunity to investigate the matter, we urge the court to dismiss this story.”

As tempers flared between both parties, Keyamo stood up and loudly said: “I will not sit down and watch him cast denting words against me. I will never treat the issue of threat to life in private. That is my position.” In his intervention over the disagreement that ensured, Justice Ademola said the issue ought to have been brought to his chambers.

“Let us adjourn this matter till tomorrow (Wednesday) when tempers are calm at 12 p.m. “Having regard to what transpired in court, this criminal charge is hereby adjourned to January 27 for trial,” Justice Ademola said.

It would be recalled that the EFCC witness had testified before the court how he reportedly helped Ohakim to conceal the ownership of a mansion in Asokoro, Abuja, which he said the ex-governor bought with $2.29m in November 2008.

National Mirror

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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