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Allison-Madueke goes on firing line

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…As Mu’azu mocks Gov. Fayose over Buhari’s hate- adverts

A PARTICULAR trend by a section of Nigeria’s public opinion commentators is the easy resort to herd disposition. By this, they easily fall over a particular issue, chorusing the same argument in a manner reminiscent of a flock in dire need of pasture.

The engagement, ordinarily, may not give cause for concern. The danger, however, is that beyond the veneer of championing a touted national interest, there are individuals stoking the fire with an aim of profiting from an agenda. Often, the aim which is hardly stated, usually tailored at settling scores. But by the time the dust of the exercise would have settled, some hard-earned reputation must have been sullied.

That, incidentally, has been the burden of public office holders in Nigeria. Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President, is a victim of this absurd tendency. By the time the Second Republic that he served, had been sent packing by soldiers led by the then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (now, president-elect), he was readily categorized among the rogues of the administration. Without due diligence but in obvious deference to the prevailing public opinion of the time, he was hauled into detention for a grueling 20 months.

Appeal panel

It took a more thorough opinion by an appeal panel for it to be established that the former vice president, in fact, came out of government poorer than he was before volunteering for service.

The appeal panel, in fact, had remarked that it would take somebody that is more of an angel to maintain the record that he had in service. That verdict, somehow, gave Ekwueme the needed breather. But undoubtedly, his reputation and health had been tampered with before it came. The Minister for Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, is currently undergoing this jaundiced trial in the court of interested members of the public. She appears to have been programmed for an ignominious exit from office, in what may signal an era of witch-hunt that lies ahead.

The Minister, incidentally, is not a stranger to controversies that have dogged her office since her appointment. Before now, she had been the butt of dangerous insinuations about the alleged sleaze in the petroleum industry. But she had, at every turn, rebuffed attempts to present her in bad light, blaming her woes on the antics of oil cabals that she had been having running battles with.

But with less than a month to the exit of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, the onslaught on the Minister has been on the upswing, giving the impression that she has become a marked woman.

What perhaps, seems to have added fillip to her trial on the media, is the statement by the president-elect that he is going to initiate fresh probe into the controversial “missing” $20 billion from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) account.

Buhari was said to have told a delegation from Adamawa State led by the governor-elect, Bindow Jibrilla, that he would investigate the allegations of the missing fund despite information that some persons have already started returning money to government coffers. He reiterated that the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was removed from the Central Bank because he said that about $20 billion was missing, noting that instead of the government to investigate the matter, it sacked him.

It would be recalled that Sanusi, had in September 2013, written President Jonathan, alleging that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to remit the sum of $49.8 billion to the Federation Account over a 19-month period. The letter was supposed to be for the president’s attention and necessary action but for reasons that became clearer later, the communication was leaked to the press.   NNPC, however, quickly debunked the allegation.

When Sanusi was put on the spot by the Senate Committee, inquiring into his allegation to substantiate his case, he told the members that the missing figure was $12 billion instead. He was later to change the figure to $19.8 billion and then to $20 billion. But obviously taking advantage of a system where questions are rarely asked, the former CBN governor pranced about with the confusing story and was rather lionized by the unwary public.

It was at this point that the Federal Government, wanting to set the records straight, ordered a forensic audit conducted by world-acclaimed accounting firm, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) into the accounts of NNPC. The firm came up with the verdict that only $1.48 billion was actually unaccounted for.

That should settle the matter. But that is not the case. And it is hardly surprising. Oil business, the world over, is big business. Its operations are carefully kept from the eyes of the public. They are only known within the circles of the key players- the oligopolies. This is why even some oil producing nations hardly have any say on how their oil is exploited or explored. It is, indeed, a tricky business.

It is also a dangerous terrain for a suspected intruder. This is the cross Allison-Madueke is currently carrying. By initiating and carrying out some far reaching reforms in the sector that the players consider injurious to their interest, she has clearly stepped on toes and has incurred their wrath. To them and their local collaborators therefore, anything and anyhow it takes to bring the Minister down, is in line with the tenets of the business.

This is why the in-coming administration should not allow itself to be used in the unfolding shadow-boxing that is clearly not in the interest of the country. Probing activities of a seating government of its predecessor, is not a bad idea, per se. It should also be comprehensive and not selective. This is especially if the exercise is intended to enhance governance and add value to the lives of the people.

Perceived opponents

The action rather becomes a curious engagement when it is applied as instrument of vendetta to get at perceived opponents. The excitement in the camp of those chorusing the Allison-Madueke probe mantra, suggests more to the issue than meets the eye.

This is where the President-elect is expected to exercise great deal of caution in dancing to frenzy for those yelling for action. He fell into this trap in his first coming, when brimming with exuberance of revolutionary agenda, he took some actions that later worked against his government. With the benefit of hindsight and age, it is expected that he should, this time around, not allow himself to be herded into hasty actions that may end up serving concealed interest.

Meanwhile, the PDP chairman responded to the threat of Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and challenged him to release evidence of (his) Mu’azu’s “underhand dealings” with the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Muazu had faulted the calls of some PDP leaders on him and other members of the National Working Committee of the party to resign, following the heavy defeat suffered by the party in the recent general elections, especially its loss in the presidential poll.

Fayose, one of those pushing for the resignation of Mu’azu, had threatened that he would release incriminating evidence of the national chairman’s secret support for the APC, if Mu’azu pushed further his defence.
On his twitter handle on Thursday, Mu’azu, who is said to be outside the country, mocked the controversial governor, wondering if the Ekiti governor’s “evidence” would not be like his “evidence” during the presidential campaign, when Fayose said he was sure that the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, was dying in a London hospital.

He said, “We challenge Governor Fayose to come out with the evidence that shows National Chairman worked for APC during the elections.
“We hope it’s not the kind of evidence he once said he had that Buhari was dying.”

Vanguard (additional report from Upshot Reports)

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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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