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$2bn deal: Clear your name, Atiku tells Adoke

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  •  As EFCC tells Metuh:  Jonathan not needed to prove case against you

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has refuted allegations that he was behind the travails of a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), in the hands of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Atiku advised Adoke and all those invited by the EFCC to go and clear their names with the anti-graft agency instead of trying to drag innocent people into the fray.

The former Vice-President said this in Abuja on Tuesday, in a statement by his media adviser, Paul Ibe.

Ibe said, “The former Vice-President does not have a hand in the travails of the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice.

“The Turaki Adamawa advises the erstwhile Attorney-General and others so invited to focus on clearing their names instead of dragging innocent people into the fray.”

Adoke, had in a letter to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo named former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as one of the people behind his travails.

Meanwhile, there were indications on Tuesday that the Presidency resisted moves by some of those involved in the $2bn Malabu oil deal to stop the EFCC’s investigations into the deal.

The PUNCH learnt that that there had been attempts by some of those being investigated over the deal to get the Presidency to stop the commission’s investigation.

A top government official, who confided in our correspondent in Abuja, said that powerful forces had made moves to reach the Presidency over the issue, but they had not succeeded.

“I can confirm to you that there have been moves to reach the Presidency as part of efforts to stop the investigation, but such moves have failed,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said it does not require former President Goodluck Jonathan as its witness in order to prove its money laundering case against the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Olisa Metuh.

The EFCC stated this in its response filed before Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court in Abuja to oppose the no-case submission by Metuh.

Metuh and his company, Destra Investments Limited, are being prosecuted by the EFCC on seven counts fraud.

The charges include allegations that he fraudulently received from the Office of the National Security Adviser in November, 2014 the sum of N400m meant for the procurement of arms and money laundering involving $2m cash transaction.

The prosecution alleged that part of the N400m was used by Metuh to fund the PDP’s presidential campaign for the 2015 election in which Jonathan was the party’s candidate.

After the prosecution closed its case, Metuh on February 18, sought and obtained the leave of court to file a no-case submission.

In the no-case submission, Metuh urged the court to discharge and acquit him on the grounds that the EFCC had made no case against him with the eight prosecution witnesses called and all the documents tendered.

Metuh, who filed the no-case submission through his lead counsel, Mr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), argued that the prosecution could never have been able to make any case against him without the EFCC calling Jonathan as a witness in view of the testimony by PW5 (fifth prosecution witness).

He argued that since PW5 (the Managing a Director of CMC Connect, Mr. Yomi Badejo-Okusanya), had testified that he made presentation on a media campaign proposal to Jonathan and for which money was paid from the N400m, the former President was a vital witness that ought to be called by the prosecution.

Justice Abang had fixed Thursday to entertain argument for and against the no-case submission.

Meanwhile, the EFCC, in its response, which it filed on Tuesday, urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission, insisting that Jonathan was not needed to prove its case.

It stated, “My Lord, in paragraphs 2.22 to 2.25, the defence also contends that the prosecution, through PW8 (EFCC’s investigative officer, Junaid Sa’id) failed to investigate the statement of the 1st defendant (Metuh) to the effect that presentation was made to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and that the sum for the exercise was paid into the 2nd defendant’s account (Metuh’s firm, Destra).

“It is further contended that the former President, to whom the presentation was made for which the payment was made, is therefore a material and indispensable person in order for a prima facie case to be established.

“Learned senior counsel (Metuh’s lawyer) therefore alleged presumption of withholding of evidence by the prosecution.

“In response to the above argument my lord, we submit that nothing can be farther from the truth. The defence cannot pick and choose witnesses for the prosecution and as rightly pointed out by the defence, the prosecution is not required to call a host of witnesses or a particular witness in proof of its case.

“What the law requires the prosecution to do is to call material witness(es) in proof of its case.”

The anti-graft agency, through his lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission filed by Metuh and his firm and direct them to give an explanation to “the overwhelming oral and documentary evidence placed before the court by the prosecution.”

Insisting that a “prima facie case of money laundering has been established” against the accused, Tahir added, “Your Lordship is further urged to dismiss or discountenance the no-case submission and call upon the defendants to enter their defence.”

Concerning counts one and two, Tahir argued that the evidence led by the prosecution was uncontroverted “as it raises a prima facie case of taking possession and control of the stated sum (N400m) and therefore calls for an explanation by the defendants and this they can only do in their defence to the charge”.

On the other leg of the two counts, alleging that the N400m was part of proceeds of alleged corrupt act of the immediate past NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), Tahir asked whether it was not unlawful for the ex-NSA “to have, in breach of public trust reposed in him, misappropriated government funds in favour of the defendants, who on the evidence, had no contractual dealings with the ONSA”.

On count three in which Metuh and his firm were accused of retaining or concealing the sum of N400m, the EFCC argued that the accused “retained the sum of N400m on behalf of the PDP for its campaign activities by concealing the said sum in their Diamond Bank account.

It said Metuh ought to have known that the fund “directly represented the proceeds of an unlawful act” of the ex-NSA.

Concerning count four, Tahir stated that the prosecution had led evidence to show that the N400m was used for campaign activities of the PDP and other personal purposes.

On counts five and six relating to making cash transactions of a sum of $2m, far above the statutory threshold of N5m for individuals and N10m for corporate bodies, the anti-graft agency alleged that the accused violated Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.

The EFCC stated, “The point to note in this transaction are the following, which are vital:

“The origin of the initial sum of $2m, which belongs to either of the defendants remained undocumented (which goes against the very essence of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act i.e. financing terrorism and disguising, concealment or laundering the origin of illicit funds.”

The anti-graft agency added, “All the above points my lord, go to show the length to which the defendants went to conceal the origin of the $2m.’’

Meanwhile, the EFCC said some Asian countries, especially China, are frustrating its anti-corruption efforts.

The Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, said this on Tuesday in Abuja when the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria paid the commission a courtesy visit.

The representative from First Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Nelson Uduak, had earlier lamented that Japan and China were not helping Nigeria in the area of anti-fraud cases.

He said, “Some countries appear very difficult to operate in. There are some countries in which our banks have lost money. There are some fraudsters which we are able to trace but once the money gets to certain countries like Japan or China, you find out that there is no cooperation.

“If it is the United States, you can be sure to a large extent, that once you can identify the person (suspect), you will get cooperation; but there is no such cooperation in the Asian countries. We don’t know how you can help us.”

Magu, in his response, agreed that China had not been helpful in the anti-graft war.

He said, “The cooperation from the Chinese end has been very minimal, it is not encouraging. There is more collaboration from the US, the United Kingdom and Switzerland essentially through INTERPOL or government to government.”

Magu added that the EFCC was tracing a $2bn fund belonging to First Bank, which was transferred to London, but did not explain further.

The EFCC boss also urged bankers to assist in the fight against corruption as the commission could not do it alone.

“You are auditors while we are investigators; so, in a way, we are doing the same thing. We need to synergise, work together. We are all stakeholders and we are in a war. We also ask for your support,” he said.

The representative of Heritage Bank, Mr. Manny Ugbomah, urged the commission to give its personnel the permission to travel out of the country with bank representatives whenever they were carrying out trans-border investigations.

The Chinese embassy in Nigeria could not be reached for comment as its spokesman, Chen Pen, did not respond to calls and a message sent to his mobile on Tuesday.

The Japanese embassy could also not be reached for reaction as its Media Relations Officer, John Nwankwo, could not be reached on the telephone.

Punch

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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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