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Banks’ rules stop BDCs from accessing forex

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  • As NOUN suspends law programme; to set up engineering faculty

Banks are introducing stringent rules to ensure that Bureaux De Change (BDCs) do not access the Diaspora funds-related foreign exchange (forex) being canvassed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), it was learnt yesterday.

The CBN had granted approval to authorised dealers who are a gents to approved International Money Transfers Operators (IMTSO) to sell foreign currency accruing from inward money remittances to licensed BDCs. The regulator also set the guidelines.

The banks have however, gone beyond the CBN’s guidelines on accessing the funds, by introducing more  bottlenecks to frustrate BDCs from accessing the funds.

President, Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) Aminu Gwadabe said yesterday that banks were asking BDCs to produce evidence of rendering returns on previously purchased forex, evidence of Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) filings of company secretary, CBN registration certificate and funding of the beneficiary account.

Gwadabe described the conditions as stringent and high-handed. He urged the CBN to intervene. He said the conditions were part of the banks’ plans to frustrate the BDCs from accessing the funds because the lenders want to disburse the funds to BDCs where they have interests.

However, the CBN yesterday, issued a new circular to all the banks, asking them to sell dollar to BDCs. In the circular titled:  Re: Sales of Foreign Currency Proceeds of International Money Transfers to Bureaux De Change Operators, CBN Acting Director, Trade and Exchange, W.D. Goting, said  the authorised dealers shall sell foreign exchange cash to BDCs subject to a maximum of $30,000 to a BDC per week.

He explained that a BDC shall nominate its preferred authorized dealer, a commercial bank, and can only procure the said amount from only that bank of its choice in a week. The CBN warned that any breach of this condition will attract appropriate sanction.

It said the selling rate by the authorized dealers to BDCs shall be the buying rate from International Money Transfers Operators (IMTSO) plus a margin not exceeding 1.5 per cent;

“Foreign exchange cash purchased by BDCs from authorized dealers shall be sold to foreign exchange end-users at a rate not exceeding two per cent margin above the buying rate. For the avoidance of doubt, the two per cent margin stated in three above shall applicable to all funds to be retailed by BDCs regardless of sources of fund,” the CBN said.

According to the apex bank, authhorised dealers shall continue to render weekly returns on sales to BDCs and the BDCs shall also continue to render weekly returns on the purchases from authorized dealers.

It explained that funds purchased by BDCs shall be disbursed for the Business Travel Allowance/Personal Travel Allowance; overseas school fees; overseas medical fees, with maximum disbursement per transaction not exceeding $5,000.

“Records shall be maintained for all transactions by the BDCs showing the Bank Verification Number of the end-user, including endorsement of the amount disbursed in the international passport of the beneficiary; International Money Transfer Service Operators shall continue to render weekly returns on their operations with agent banks directly to the CBN as specified,” it said.

The CBN warned that: “Any authorized dealer and BDC that diverts funds or violates the provision of these guidelines shall attract appropriate sanction including, suspension of dealership licences”.

In the meantime, the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), plans to set up a Faculty of Engineering, its Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Abdalla Adamu has said.

Adamu disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja, during a courtesy call to Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC). According to him, NOUN respects regulatory agencies and will not do anything without their input and considerations.

“We are moving from a static situation to a very active situation; with the support we are getting from the NUC, everything is possible. “I am not being specific at the moment, but I will let you know that we set up a committee to look into the possibility of establishing a Faculty of Engineering.

“That committee has submitted its report and it will be tendered at the next senate meeting. “At the same time, there are challenges with courses that require specific competences—laboratory courses, clinical courses, engineering courses-these are courses that require competences.’’

Adamu appealed to NUC to intervene in the lingering stand-off between the institution and the Council for Legal Education (CLE) over the latter’s refusal to admit NOUN graduates into the Law School. He also said that NOUN graduates were excluded from participation in the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) and solicited the commission’s intervention.

The vice-chancellor prayed the commission to direct Nigerian universities to desist from discriminating against graduates of NOUN in their postgraduate programmes. According to Adamu, Nursing Science and all programmes in the Faculty of Science, require extensive laboratory experiences which pose a challenge.

“NOUN strives to enable students to acquire practical experiences through regional laboratories and agreements with existing hospitals and universities.

“We pray NUC to facilitate the use of university/hospital laboratories on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) basis for NOUN’s science and clinical based students throughout the federation,’’ he said. Responding, Rasheed said that it was wrong to perceive NOUN as a part time institution as it was an Open Distance Learning (ODL) based institution.

He said that ODL was the future of university education as many countries had embraced it in accordance with modern realities. According to him, NUC will seek the cooperation of NYSC and vice-chancellors in addressing the challenges raised by Adamu.

“Many graduates of NOUN may not qualify for NYSC because many of them may be above 30 years by the time they graduate; but technically, even if it is only one graduate that is below 30, he should be called up. “We will address it with NYSC. “It is a policy of CLE to deny certain categories of graduates the opportunity of attending law school; the perception is that NOUN operates on part time basis but that should be discountenanced.

“NOUN is an ODL institution and that is the future of university education around the world,’’ he said. Adamu also pledged to discuss with vice-chancellors on how to share NOUN’s nursing students to acquire skills and competences. He said he was part of NOUN as he was a sabbatical professor in the institution prior to his latest appointment. (NAN) Meanwhile, the National Open University of Nigeria in Abuja on Tuesday formally announced the suspension of admissions into its Law programme.

The decision, according to its Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Abdallah Adamu, was sequel to the exclusion of graduates of its Law programme by the Council for Legal Education, from attending the Nigerian Law School. He also premised the decision on the advice by the National Universities Commission that students should be stopped from undertaking the course, pending the resolution of the impasse generated by the refusal of the Law School to allow NOUN graduates to attend its programme.

The CLE had taken the decision on the grounds that the mode of study of NOUN was either by correspondence or part-time. Adamu made the announcement when he led a delegation of the Governing Council of NOUN on a congratulatory visit to the newly appointed Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof. Abubakar Abdulrasheed. At the event, he also called on the National Youth Service Corps to allow NOUN graduates to participate in the mandatory one-year service.

Adamu said the interpretation of the Act establishing NOUN by CLE contravened the prevalent global understanding of the mode of instruction of the open university. The VC said NOUN remained an Open Distance Learning institution which, according to him, provides accessible, affordable and equitable education to millions of individuals who would work and learn at the same time due to their circumstances.

He said, “We are praying to the Executive Secretary to draw the attention of the CLE to the fact that NOUN, as an ODL institution, does not equate to part-time or correspondence institution. In order to make things easier for everyone, we have accepted the NUC recommendation to halt admission into the programme until we streamline our activities with the CLE for NUC to convince the CLE that we are an ODL institution.”

Nation with additional report from Citizen

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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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