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3 soldiers feared dead, militants bomb NNPC gas pipeline as Buhari directs army to deal with Niger Delta Avengers

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  • Stop destroying pipelines, ex-militants warn Niger Delta Avenger

About three soldiers attached to the Joint Task Force (JTF), in the Niger Delta, allegedly perished in two detached boat tragedies in Bayelsa and Delta States, while suspected militants again bombed the Escravos Gas Pipeline, a facility of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in Delta State, at the weekend.

Details were still hazy at press time, but Saturday Vanguard learned that the fresh explosion occurred near a military houseboat around Ogbe-Ijoh, headquarters of Warri South-West local government area. This was as President Muhammadu Buhari was directing the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Eke Ekwe Ibas to deal ruthlessly with the militants who destroy pipelines.

On the latest incident in Niger Delta, the Deputy Governor of Delta State and Chairman, Delta State Advocacy Committee against Pipeline Vandalism, Barrister Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, whose committee is still in the creeks, carrying out enlightenment, told our reporter on phone:  “We are not very sure of what happened, but we suspect it was rupture on the pipeline.”

“However, the committee has put structures on ground to be able to arrest this kind of situation and we believe that we will be able to fish out the perpetrators if it is a case of sabotage in due course. We have reached out to traditional rulers, community leaders and youths and everybody is working chase pipeline vandals away from the state,” he said.

On how a soldier died in Bayelsa state, a community source said:  “One of the soldiers escorting oil workers from an oil spill site drowned  at Taylor Creek,  near an oilfield operated by Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC in Okordia, Yenagoa local government area, Bayelsa, while the other two drowned when their gunboat capsized.” “The boat conveying the crew from Agip’s field capsized on their way back from the site at the oilfield across and before help could come, the soldier drowned and died, they were using a hand- paddled canoe to cross the workers one at a time.

“The soldier was washing his boots when water entered that boat and it capsized and his rifle fell into the water. The other members of the crew had crossed and waiting for him to cross,” the source added. According to him, “The attention of the fishermen operating along the creek was drawn to the distressed soldier and canoe driver of the ill- fated boat and they came and were only able to rescue the boat driver.

Saturday Vanguard gathered that officials of NAOC, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, Ministries of Environment (State and Federal), Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR,  and oil workers were returning from a post clean-up inspection,  PCI,   when the incident occurred on Thursday evening. Youth President Kalaba community, Okordia, Mr Samuel Oburo, said that local divers recovered the rifle of the dead soldier on Friday.

“Some soldiers from Elele Barracks came around after the remains of the soldier was recovered and asked me to mobilize local divers in search of the rifle of the soldier. “We went in search of the gun and we recovered the rifle and handed it over to them, later in the day, another senior officer came to show appreciation to the community,” Oburo said.

An eyewitness who corroborated the story, said: “The tragic incident occurred at about 1.30 pm, it was not an attack by militants.  The Taylor Creek traverses JK4, Betterland, Ikarama and Kalaba communities in Rivers and Bayelsa states.

He said: “A total of five soldiers and three police officers were said to have accompanied the team on post clean-up inspection of the area. The team had concluded its mission in the forest and was returning to the community en route Port Harcourt when tragedy occurred.” His words: “The first two canoes successfully crossed the creek when the third canoe ferrying the soldier lost its balance as the soldier was washing his muddy boots in the water while crossing.

This caused the canoe to wave; he got frightened and jumped into the creek.” “One of our boys tried to rescue him, but the struggle was much and in the process, he drowned. By the time we succeeded in dragging him out, it was too late,” the eyewitness added. Speaking on the two soldiers believed to have died in Delta state, a security source who preferred anonymity, said: “A military gunboat had an accident in the early hours of this morning (yesterday) around Akpala, near Odidi, Warri South-West local government area of Delta state. I do not know if any soldier died but the boat was carrying soldiers.”

Regarding the gas pipeline explosion on Friday, a villager at Ogbe-Ijoh community told Saturday Vanguard: “The blast shook our houses, it was in the night, close to where soldiers have their house boat and I wonder what they were doing since they were supposed to guarding the pipelines.”

“This one happened outside Gbaramatu clan; we heard the explosion in our homes and residents residing in communities around the Warri water front, Warri South local government area also felt the impact. “’But I think it is Escravos Gas Pipeline that they attacked again around Beneth Island,” he added.  . Spokesperson of the Joint Task Force, Col Isa Ado, was unavailable for comment. However, a security source confirmed the incident, said they deposited the remains of a soldier at an undisclosed hospital.

At, Ekowe community in Southern Ijaw local government area of Bayelsa state, unknown gunmen invaded the home of the traditional head, Chief Togboro Godwill. According to community sources, the royal father was not at home when the gunmen struck, but his wife and newborn baby narrowly escaped death. The gunmen stormed the riverside community, host to a Federal Polytechnic, at about 3.00 am in a 200 horse powered Yamaha engine speedboat. They reportedly vandalized the residence.

Police Public Relations Officer, Bayelsa State Police Command, Asinim Butswat, said he was not aware of the incident. Pipeline explosion: Buhari directs Chief of Naval Staff to deal with Niger Delta Avengers In Abuja, President Mohammadu Buhari was on Friday directing the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas to deal ruthlessly  with the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA and other militant groups responsible for the incessant explosion of oil pipelines and gas installations in the coastal region.

The president stated that his government has decided to curb the increasing wave of militancy more than ever before, saying that it threatens national development. The president spoke at a meeting with the Global Director (Upstream) of the Royal Dutch Shell Group, Mr. Andrew Brown in his office at the presidential Villa, Abuja. Mr. Brown had appealed for an urgent solution to rising crime and militancy in the Niger Delta.

In a response to the appeal, President detailed Naval Chief to reorganise and strengthen the military Joint Task Force (JTF)  in the Niger Delta for the assignment, assuring the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta of Federal Government protection. He said that all necessary actions would have to be taken to protect strategic assets in the region from vandals and criminals.

The President further told his visitor that the operations of the JTF were  also  being enhanced by increased support and cooperation from the United States and Europe in the areas of training, intelligence, equipment and logistics. “We have to be very serious with the situation in the Niger Delta because it threatens the national economy. I assure you that everything possible will be done to protect personnel and oil assets in the region,” he said.

A statement by Mallam Shehu, the presidential media aide stated that “the President urged aggrieved persons, militants and communities in the Niger Delta to drop their confrontational stance and work with those who have been charged by the Federal Government to review the Amnesty Programme initiated by the Yar’Adua Administration for the benefit of all parties.”

President Buhari also hailed the resilience of Shell and its resolve to continue working in Nigeria despite the operational challenges of the environment. He however urged the company ensure the end  of gas-flaring in the Niger Delta quickly and produce more gas for electricity generation to support manufacturing and job creation in the country.

Meanwhile, the Shell Executive has dispelled speculations that the company was pulling out of Nigeria. He said that contrary to such speculations, Shell was currently in discussion with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation  (NNPC) on new joint oil and gas projects.

In the meantime, former militant leaders, under the aegis of Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative, have urged the Niger Delta Avengers to embrace peace and stop their unnecessary destruction of pipelines and national assets.

The LPCDI, the umbrella body of most of the first phase ‘Generals’ in the Presidential Amnesty Programme, made the call after rising from an emergency All Niger Delta Security Stakeholders Meeting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital.

The ex-militants in a statement signed by the National President, LPCDI, Reuben Wilson, aka ‘General Pastor’, and made available to our correspondent on Saturday, told the Avengers that the use of violence to agitate for the betterment of the region was no more necessary and had been overtaken by events.

Wilson, therefore, asked the NDA to rather channel their grievances to President Muhammadu Buhari through the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Brig.-Gen. Paul Boroh (retd.) for more effective result.

He warned them that their current violent campaign was not in the best and collective interest of the Niger Delta but would rather impoverish the people of the region, attract unnecessary hardship and worsen their plight.

Wilson appealed to the Niger Delta people to give President Buhari the opportunity to fulfill his promise to the region by maintaining peace, saying there could not be any meaningful development in an environment ravaged by violence.

He added, “The Niger Delta struggle has advanced beyond the use of violence. We had in the past used violence to attract the entire world to the plight of the region.

“We, therefore, need to utilise other peaceful and civil means to build on the sympathy of the world towards the Niger Delta for more effective results rather than resorting to violence.

“That the current resurgence of militancy is an unnecessary distraction to the current administration.

“That all groups and individuals actively involved in the Niger Delta struggle should channel their grievances to Buhari through Paul Boroh for more effective coordination and positive resolution of their grievances.

“That every Ijaw group or persons involved in region’s struggle that for any reason is unable to utilise the office of the SA to President on Niger Delta Affairs to resolve issues bordering on the betterment of the region or Ijaw ethnic nationality should utilise the platform of Ijaw Youth Council or reach out to Victor Ebikabowei, aka General Boyloaf, to mediate in the resolution of such issues.”

Vanguard with additional report 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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