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Again, Buhari returns budget to National Assembly

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  • Slams N1.3trn suit on Shell, four others over Bonga oil spill

For the third time, the 2016 Appropriation Bill has been returned as President Muhammadu Buhari  was said to have picked holes in the re-worked budget and returned it to the National Assembly for further legislative work.

It was reliably gathered that the re-worked budget was sent to the President at about 1.15 am, yesterday, but was returned to the National Assembly at about noon, yesterday. It was also gathered that principal officers and members of the review committee from both legislative chambers met, yesterday, at about 3.20pm till about 5.30pm in the Senate wing to reconsider the observations made by the President on the budget.

Vanguard’s attempts to get some of the principal officers and the review committee members to confirm or deny the story proved abortive as some of them switched off their phones, while those whose phones were active ignored calls and refused to respond to text messages. A source close to the committee confirmed that the budget was actually submitted to the President but that he refused to touch it due to some issues he was not comfortable with.

He said:  “The budget got to the State House at about 1.10 am  and Mr. President went through it early this morning (yesterday) and still had some issues with some of the figures.

“I cannot tell you exactly what it was but I think the insertions made by the lawmakers were not significantly altered. “You know the lawmakers had moved some allocations for key projects that are dear to the President to other areas, especially to their constituency projects.

“Of course, they have changed some but I believe Mr. President is not satisfied with the reconciliation they made. I think this is one of the reasons it was returned.” He also disclosed that the President would assent to the budget today should the lawmakers make all the corrections and transmit the document to him tonight (last night).

He said: “I can assure you, Mr. President is desirous to sign the budget because he is aware and has acknowledged that Nigerians are going through hardship. So, if the budget is cleaned up this night and sent to him, he will sign it as soon as possible. That I know very well.” Further probe into the matter revealed that the N500 million diversion of funds to constituency projects is “what is giving the president headache.”

A lawmaker, who is not a member of the review committee but a member of the standing committee on appropriation, told  Vanguard in confidence that the “President wants a situation where the insertions should be reduced to about N50 million before he will sign the budget.”

The reviewed copy, which was sent yesterday morning did not cut substantially from the N500 million. At press time, the review committee meeting was still ongoing as the members struggled to ensure that all the observations of the President are put in order before presentation.

In the meantime, President Muhammadu Buhari has authorised the Attorney General and Minister for Justice alongside the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, to institute a N1.3trn suit against Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company and four others.

The suit is being instituted on behalf of the Federal Government and the 350 communities in Delta and Bayelsa states affected by Bonga oil spills of December 20, 2011. Joined as co-defendants in the suit are; Shell Petroleum N.V, B.V Netherlandse International Indusrie-E Handel Maatschappij, The shell Transport and Trading Company Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, who are all allied companies of Shell Nigeria Exploration and production Company. In the suit, Nigeria is demanding N884bn as compensation for the oil spill that destroy the affected communities and another N495bn as restitution and restoration of the devastation caused by the spill on the eco system and the country’s territorial waters and N50m as legal cost.

In an affidavit sworn to by a Deputy Director, Oil Field Assessment Department of NOSDRA, Mr. Akindele Olubunmi, and filed before a Federal High Court Abuja by a Lagos lawyer, Barrister Awosika Dada Adekunle, the Deponent averred that he has the consent and the authority of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice and the Director General of NOSDRA to depose to the affidavit. The affidavit also stated that the plaintiffs instituted the legal action in relation to damage and devastation done to the Exclusive Economic Zone of the country, ecosystem, marine life and the environment by the Bonga crude oil spills of 2011.

The Federal Government, according to the affidavit, said it is suing the defendants, in order to protect the interest of fishermen and persons affected by the crude oil spillage, numbering about 285,000 persons from 350 communities and satellite villages with their consent to institute the suit.

Government said around December 20, 2011, the defendants export line, linking their Float Production Storage and Offloading, FPSO, vessel at their Bonga Field Deep Offshore supplying crude oil to a tanker (MV NORTHIA), got ruptured and spewed out crude oil into the sea. The plaintiffs said the incident was reported to the Federal Government same day through NOSDRA.

“Consequently, the defendants admitted spewing out 40,000 barrels of crude oil into the sea, causing devastation and degradation of the aquatic life, marine environment, including the territorial waters of Nigeria along Niger Delta axis and destroy the sea beds and aquatic lives in the Continental Shelf within the Nigeria Exclusive Economic Zone,” the plaintiff said.

The plaintiff added that there were severe disruptions to communities, persons, properties and lives of people in the shoreline area as a result of the spill. Plaintiff added that as result of the report and admission by the defendants, it commissioned consultants and expert in collaboration with other stakeholders that included Nigeria Maritime and Safety Agency, National Assembly Committee on Environment and Ecology among others, to carry out the mapping area that suffered economic losses and damages.

“Aftermath of the investigations and in line with their statutory duties and obligations, the plaintiffs notified the defendants of their decision to pay $3,600,191,206 representing compensation to the 350 communities and satellite villages impacted by the Bonga Oil spill disaster and punitive damage which is to be paid to the plaintiffs as sanction totalling $1.8bn to deter occurrence of such act”.

However, it was alleged that despite the facts that the defendants have processed and received insurance claims for the crude oil spillage that occurred at OML 118 Bonga Oil Field, they have refused and neglected to pay compensation, punitive damage and cost of restoration, restitution and redemption of the environment statutorily assessed by the plaintiffs.

According to claimants’ affidavit, the plaintiffs punitive compensation being requested was adopted after the United States Supreme Court decision of 25th June, 2008 against Exxon Valdez in Wallings Versus Waillings and in line with international best practices as it has been seen in other climes like Ecuadorian court, which awarded $9.5bn against Chevron Corporation and most recently in the United States of America where British Petroleum in April 2011 settled and agreed to pay $20bn as compensation for oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Consequently, the plaintiffs are seeking an order directing the defendants to pay the sum of N712, 837,858,788.00 to the plaintiffs as compensation to the affected communities.

Vanguard with additional report from 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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