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Afenifere, Falana others demand Buratai’s probe over Dubai homes

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  • As EFCC arrests Fayose’s associate

Prominent Nigerians and groups on Monday urged the Federal Government, particularly the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, to investigate the Chief of Army Staff,  Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, over the purchase of $1.5m properties in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.

The Chief Of Army Staff and his two wives were reported last  week by an online medium, Sahara Reporters, to have owned   $1.5m  properties in Dubai.

The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with The PUNCH, said Buratai  should be probed over the allegation of the Dubai property scandal.

He stated, “The defence the army put up for him is so silly to be believed outside the barracks. All the earnings of Buratai since he joined the army, if all were saved, cannot buy a house in Dubai, let alone two.

“The army also exposed itself as a lying institution when it said Buratai was never in charge of procurement in writing. The investigation should make Buratai to let the country know that he did other businesses to buy the property in question so that the integrity of the anti-corruption war can be intact.

“The house could only come legitimately through other businesses outside his pay. The savings from the salaries of any army officer in Nigeria cannot buy a house in Dubai.”

Also, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project said it was the duty of the EFCC and the ICPC to investigate Buratai’s claim that the houses purchased in Dubai were done with his personal savings.

Speaking in an interview with one of our correspondents on Monday, SERAP’s Executive Director,  Adetokunbo Mumuni,  said for the anti-corruption war to be seen as fair, the anti-graft agencies must consider whether Buratai could afford the properties based on his financial records as a civil servant.

He said, “The bulk stops at the table of the EFCC and the ICPC to investigate the COAS. Did Buratai and his two wives acquired the property in Dubai and paid for it in a single transaction? As a civil servant, how much has he received in salaries and emoluments? Are these big enough to acquire the properties? For the anti-corruption war to be seen as fair and not selective, the anti-graft agencies must investigate Buratai. It is their duty.”

Reacting, the President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, told one of our correspondents that Buratai should be probed in as much as he could not justify the purchase of the Dubai property with his legitimate earnings.

Ugwummadu, a lawyer, said, “The main thrust of the two major legal regimes designed to deal with anti-corruption regime is to ensure that by no means persons allowed to live in excess of their legitimate  means.

“If Buratai’s years of entry into the military are known and his salary ascertainable and it is not enough to satisfy a full-time soldier who is also excluded from other endeavours apart from farming and agriculture, he should be probed.

“This is painful to me, because Buratai has shown commendable capacity to fight against insurgency in Nigeria.”

He however warned that “we must be circumspect because that could be this antics of the fifth columnist.”

The Ministry of Defence had earlier on Monday dismissed the controversy generated by an online media report over the ownership of two properties by Buratai’s family in Dubai.

The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, said that the media report was an attempt by some persons to distract the leadership of the Armed Forces from the successful prosecution of the intensified campaign against terrorism in the North -East.

The minister’s comments were contained in a statement signed on his behalf by his Principal General Officer, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Ahmed, on Monday.

But a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has slammed the Nigeria Army for defending Buratai over the Dubai properties.

Falana said it was not the business of the Army to speak for Buratai on the allegations.

According to him, since public offices require public trust, Buratai should submit himself to the Code of Conduct Bureau and the anti-graft agencies to clear his name.

He said, “Buratai should willingly invite the CCB, the EFCC, the ICPC to look into the matter. If Buratai was alleged to have unjustly purchased the houses, he has to come out to defend himself. He must show how the money used to purchase the houses was transferred.”

In the meantime, an associate of Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, who is alleged to have received huge cash from former Minister of State (Defence) Musiliu Obanikoro on behalf of the governor, has been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Mr. Abiodun Agbele is reportedly detained at the Lagos office of the EFCC.

EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren confirmed Agbele’s arrest.

Fayose’s spokesman, Lere Olayinka also confirmed the arrest.

In a statement, Olayinka said: “Our attention has been drawn to the arrest of Mr Abiodun Agbele by the EFCC and we wish to say that we encourage the EFCC to carry out its investigations without politics as it is being done now.

“It must be pointed out that at no time was Mr Abiodun Agbele invited by the EFCC, and if he had been invited, he would have honoured the invitation. Therefore, there is nothing to celebrate in his arrest if it is not political.

“As already pointed out, Governor Ayodele Fayose does not have anything

to do with any fund from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). He has stated how his election was funded and Zenith Bank that he said funded his election has not denied doing so.”

Fayose may not be able to travel abroad for a while because of the ongoing investigation of about N4.745billion slush funds traced to him, ex-Minister of Defence Musiliu Obanikoro and  firms linked to a former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Otunba Iyiola Omisore

Fayose risks arrest in some countries, especially the United Kingdom where he is not covered by the immunity clause in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution.

Some of his former colleagues, the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Joshua Dariye, were arrested and quizzed by the London Metropolitan Police when they underwent a similar investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The Federal Government has a number of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with more countries which may make foreign trips difficult for Fayose.

The EFCC has launched a manhunt for two aides of Obanikoro.

They are Ms Idowu Oshodi and Olalekan Ogunseye, who the EFCC believes have travelled out of the country.

Idowu is believed to be in London. The anti-graft agency is “collaborating with the relevant agencies in the UK for appropriate action about her”.

The clues available to the EFCC suggest that Ogunseye must have gone to the United States, it was learnt.

Although  Ikenna  Ezekwe was invited, the EFCC did not find  anything linking him with the alleged fraud.

According to sources, Fayose has been technically watch-listed by the EFCC since he is under investigation.

A source said: “With his accounts frozen, Fayose is already technically watch-listed by the EFCC. His immunity does not go beyond the shores of Nigeria.

“ Nigeria now has a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty(MLAT) with many countries and we are not obliged to make the list available to any governor or political office holder.

“He has the option of staying at home or taking a risk to travel abroad like some governors did in the past and face the wrath of the law. Some of these slush funds drawn from the Office of the National Security Adviser(ONSA) have their accounts domiciled abroad.

“Whatever is the case, we are going ahead with the ongoing investigation of the governor, ex-Minister of Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro and  some firms linked to a former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Otunba Iyiola Omisore.”

Ms. Idowu is  a director of  Sylvan Mcnamara Limited, allegedly owned by Obanikoro and his sons,  which  was allegedly used to launder the N4.745billion.

Oshodi, who owns 299,000 shares in Mcnamara, is said to be living in London after parting ways with the Obanikoros.

The top source added: “We need to interact with Oshodi and Ogunseye or else we may be forced to declare them wanted if they do not honour our invitation. At a point, Ogunseye was a signatory to the account of Mcnamara.”

One of those who know how the N4.745billion was shared by Fayose, Obanikoro and Omisore opened up yesterday.

The source said: “It is true the cash was transferred from ONSA to the account of Sylvan Mcnamara Limited. I don’t know  why all the key actors have not owned up  at all. The EFCC did a thorough job on this scandal; there is no doubt about it.

“When the cash came, Fayose actually got about N2.2billion, not the N1.219billion being reported. Also,  about N1.7billion was transferred into the accounts of some companies for Omisore. There are records of all these transfers to these firms for Omisore in some banks.

“Out of the hefty sum,  only N800million was allocated to Obanikoro because it was not yet time for the 2015 poll.”

“The ex-Minister actually chartered a plane which ran two flights to Akure Airport on the day the cash was delivered to Fayose.

“Obanikoro was accompanied by a DSS operative and his Aide-de-Camp from the Nigerian Navy. They were on the chartered plane with him. All these officers are still in service; they knew what transpired. The flight manifest is with FAAN. Those who loaded the cash onto the plane are alive.

“At the appropriate time, some of us will come out to testify on what we knew about the slush funds.”

Punch with additional report from Nation

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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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