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APC govs fault Okonjo-Iweala on unpaid salaries

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The All Progressives Congress has called on the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, to probe the individuals responsible for the inability of government to pay workers’ salaries.

The Imo State Governor and Chairman, APC Governors’ Forum, Rochas Okorocha, said this on Thursday.

He said that President Goodluck Jonathan and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, must take responsibility for unpaid salaries and the poor state of Nigeria’s economy.

Also, two APC governors faulted the claim by the Federal Government that many state governments could not pay salaries because they did not prioritise the payment of workers’ salaries.

They included Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi; and his Osun State counterpart, Rauf Aregbesola.

Speaking in separate interviews, the governors on Thursday laid the blame for the inability to pay workers’ salaries on the doorstep of the Federal Government.

Okorocha decried a situation where state governments had found it difficult to pay workers’ salaries, maintaining that the President and the minister should own up to their mistakes.

The governor, who spoke on Thursday through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sam Onwuemedo, argued that Okonjo-Iweala should not have shifted the blame since the complaint of the inability to pay salaries was also coming from some of the Peoples Democratic Party-controlled states.

Okorocha said, “God has begun to do something for Nigerians. The man, Buhari, who is coming in now, is a person who does not joke with discipline. When you talk about discipline, it is all-embracing. He will bring financial discipline into the system.

“By the time the man takes off, most of these things would be corrected. When the man at the helm of affairs is disciplined, invariably, other people must follow. Have you asked yourself the issue of the missing $20bn? All of a sudden, it was linked to somewhere. Nigeria is a rich country because God blessed this country. It will only take a strong leadership to get things moving.

“Buhari must set the ball rolling. Nigerians know why they voted for him. Even though he has said he will not probe anybody, but in the current situation we are, when it becomes necessary, with all these monies taken away by individuals, he should recover them for the country. If need be, he (Buhari) should put some of them on trial so that others will be very careful.

“A few Nigerians cannot be holding the entire nation to ransom. Whatever it takes to recover Nigeria’s money, it does not matter whose ox is gored; he should go ahead and do it. He must deviate from the old system for this country to move forward.”

Mr. Festus Adedayo, who is the special adviser (media) to Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, said the Federal Government was wrong to pass the blame on state governments.

A statement by Adedayo on Thursday said that the fall in the allocation accruable to the states was responsible for the financial challenges being faced by states.

The statement read, “The Federal Ministry of Finance needed to be told the equivocation in its own statement. According to it, the FG had gone to banks in the last few months to meet its salary obligations.It also acknowledged that allocations to state governments had reduced by 50 per cent. Truly, the Oyo State government, which used to collect about N4bn, has had same reduced to a little more than N2bn now.

“Before now, we were paying our workers on or before 26th of every month. How do we meet our salary obligation of about N5.3bn with such colossal reduction?”

Reacting, Rauf Aregbesola said his administration had prioritised payment of workers’ salaries, adding that the state had been augmenting workers’ salaries with its hard-earned savings since 2013.

A statement by the Director, Osun State Bureau of Communication and Strategy, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, on Thursday, said, “If it is a matter of priority, then Osun would not be among states that do not priotise payment of salaries of workers.”

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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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