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Biafra: Kanu cries to Britain for help



  • Migrant workers suffer ‘appalling treatment’ in Qatar World Cup stadiums, says Amnesty

Detained leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday called on the British government to come to his aid over his continued detention by the Federal Government. In a terse letter through one of his lawyers, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, Kanu described himself as a victim of travesty of justice and gross human rights violation due to his prolonged detention by the Federal Government. Kanu, who expressed readiness to stand trial, said however that what he was yearning for is fair trial as opposed to persecution.

In the letter dated March 24, 2016, and addressed to the British High Commissioner in Abuja, the Biafra agitator, who had filed a suit before the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, against the violation of his rights, said he was wrongly arrested and put in detention.

He drew the British envoy’s attention to his rights and privileges as a British citizen. “It is repeating the obvious to state that our client is a full British citizen, by virtue of which position he is entitled to all rights, privileges and protections, guaranteed under British laws and conventions. “We are therefore, constrained in the circumstance, to formally notify the British government through this medium, of our well-informed reservations, and apprehension, that our client is undergoing persecution in the charge above referred, and deliberate design by the persecutors to frustrate every effort of the defense team aimed at giving our client a fair trial,” Kanu’s lawyer submitted in the letter.

It was the submissions of Kanu’s counsel that the unlawful detention of his client from October 14, 2015 till January 20, 2016, without any lawful orders of court, and in flagrant disobedience of orders of courts of competent jurisdiction, all directing for his unconditional release and discharge, amounts to a gross violation of his fundamental human rights. Ejiofor, who chronicled all the alleged abuses of Kanu’s fundamental human rights, recalled that the Chief Magistrate Court in Abuja specified in the First Information Report originally filed against him had discharged his client of all bogus and frivolous allegations against him, yet “the Department of State Security, that dragged him to court refused to obey the orders of the same court.” This position, according to Ejiofor, “was in keeping in line with the pronouncement of the President if the Federal Republic of Nigeria in his media chat telecasted live on December 29, 2015

In the meantime, despite five years of growing criticism, Fifa and the Qatari authorities have been accused of ongoing indifference towards systemic abuse and “appalling treatment” of migrant workers working on stadiums that will host the 2022 World Cup.

A damning new report by Amnesty International, which interviewed 132 contractors working on refurbishing the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha and a further 102 landscapers who work in the Aspire Zone sports complex that surrounds it, claimed that they all reported human rights abuses of one kind or another.

The findings will prove controversial because Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy has made ensuring minimum standards are met on World Cup stadium projects a priority in the wake of widespread criticism of the broader conditions in which migrant labourers, who make up more than 90% of Qatar’s 2.1m population, live and work.

For the first time, Amnesty said it had definitively identified mistreatment and abuses on a World Cup stadium site rather than on infrastructure projects that underpin Qatar’s ambitious 2030 Vision, of which the football tournament has become an integral part.

It said that workers refurbishing the Khalifa stadium, scheduled to host one of the World Cup semi-finals in 2022, reported they were forced to live in squalid accommodation, appeared to pay huge recruitment fees, and have had wages withheld and passports confiscated. Amnesty conducted the interviews during three visits over the course of a year from February 2015.

Qatari law prohibits retention of passports, delayed payment of wages or deceptive recruitment (where workers are promised a certain wage in their country of origin only to be paid less when they arrive). But Amnesty found evidence that all of those practices remained widespread during the period in question.

The number of labourers working directly on World Cup stadiums increased from 2,000 to 4,000 in the past year and is expected to grow to 36,000 in the next two years.

The Amnesty report alleges that while the organising committee has introduced welfare standards there are “significant gaps in application” and its efforts have been undermined by indifference from Fifa and apathy from the Qatari authorities.

The stadium is part of the lavish Aspire Zone sports complex where Bayern Munich, Everton and Paris Saint-Germain trained this winter. The Welsh rugby team trained there before last year’s World Cup.

Of the men interviewed, Amnesty’s report found that the vast majority alleged they had their passports confiscated, 88 had been denied the right to leave Qatar, many reported their wages being paid three or four months in arrears and there was evidence that some workers on the stadium contracted to a labour-supply company “appear to have been subjected to forced labour”.

It said that there was evidence of workers being threatened with non-payment of wages, being deported or – conversely – not being allowed to leave Qatar because their employer would not provide an exit permit.

It claimed all the men interviewed had taken out loans to pay for recruitment-related fees, often to agencies in their home country. The practice is forbidden by Qatari law but remains widespread.

One metalworker on the stadium told Amnesty in April 2015: “My life here is like a prison. The work is difficult, we worked for many hours in the hot sun. When I first complained about my situation, soon after arriving in Qatar, the manager said, ‘If you want to complain you can, but there will be consequences. If you want to stay in Qatar, be quiet and keep working.’ Now I am forced to stay in Qatar and continue working.”

Amnesty concluded that the human rights abuses it documented were the result of “multiple failures” and that while there had been a belated focus on the quality of workers’ accommodation by some of the companies involved, they have done little to address other well-documented issues such as deception in the recruitment process.

“The abuse of migrant workers is a stain on the conscience of world football. For players and fans, a World Cup stadium is a place of dreams. For some of the workers who spoke to us, it can feel like a living nightmare,” said Amnesty International’s director general, Salil Shetty.

“Indebted, living in squalid camps in the desert, paid a pittance, the lot of migrant workers contrasts sharply to that of the top-flight footballers who will play in the stadium. All workers want are their rights: to be paid on time, leave the country if need be and be treated with dignity and respect.”

The report is particularly critical of Fifa’s failure to exert pressure on the Qatari authorities and a “lack of meaningful action to address the issue”.

The crisis-hit world football governing body has only now promised to “formalise its human rights due diligence process”, vowed to change its World Cup bidding rules and has commissioned Harvard’s Professor John Ruggie to write a report on its human rights standards.

The Amnesty report concludes its “actions and omissions offer little hope that Fifa plans to do all it can to ensure that the 2022 World Cup will leave a positive legacy and not a trail of human misery”.

Shetty said: “Despite five years of promises, Fifa has failed almost completely to stop the World Cup being built on human rights abuses.”

In the wake of a series of damning reports by NGOs, including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, and major investigations by media outlets including the Guardian, the Qatari government commissioned law firm DLA Piper to review the issue in 2013.

It promised to overhaul the kafala system that ties workers to their employers, reform the exit permit regime and introduce new laws that required payment to workers to be made electronically.

DLA Piper reported in May 2014 but almost two years on, the government has failed to enact its recommendations in full and has failed to properly audit how many migrant labourers are killed or injured at work.

In May last year, Amnesty accused the Qatari government of “promising little, delivering less” and has said the promised reforms to the kafala system do not go far enough.

In its new report, it concludes: “The government’s response raises serious questions about Qatar’s willingness to protect the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers living in the country. If abuse on a flagship World Cup project does not merit investigation and action, it is unlikely abuses that do not attract the international spotlight will be dealt with in an effective manner.”

The main contractor on the Khalifa stadium is a joint venture between Six Construct, a subsidiary of Belgian company Besix, and Midmac, a Qatari construction company. Other companies are contracted to carry out specific tasks, including Malaysian company Eversendai.

In turn, it used at least two “labour supply companies”. They are effectively agencies that sponsor a number of migrant workers to come to Qatar and hire them out to other companies.

As the report points out, the worst examples of abuse are often found buried beneath layers of sub-contractors. The landscaping work on the Aspire Zone is being done by Nakheel Landscapes, a Qatari company. The work on the Aspire Zone is not an official World Cup project.

In its response to Amnesty, Fifa pointed out the achievements of the supreme committee in introducing minimum welfare standards, the commitment by the new Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, to integrate labour rights specifically into the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup and the formation of a 2022 Fifa World Cup sustainability working group.

“While Fifa cannot and indeed does not have the responsibility to solve all the societal problems in a host country of a Fifa World Cup, Fifa has taken concrete action and is fully committed to do its utmost to ensure that human rights are respected on all Fifa World Cup sites and operations and services directly related to the Fifa World Cup,” said Fifa’s head of sustainability, Federico Addiechi.

A Fifa spokesman added that dialogue over improvements to workers welfare was a “ongoing process”.

“Challenges remain, but Fifa is confident that the structures and processes set up so far by the supreme committee for Delivery and Legacy, which is the entity responsible for the delivery of Fifa World Cup infrastructure, provide a good basis to monitor labour rights of migrant workers on Fifa World Cup stadium construction sites,” he said.

“These processes include the workers’ welfare standards in place since 2014, a compliance check for all tenderers, regular reporting that is publicly available and a four-tier system of auditing. This approach and these measures have been discussed with the key stakeholders, including Amnesty International.”

The spokesman added: “Furthermore, Fifa will continue to urge the competent governmental authorities in Qatar and other stakeholders to also take action and ensure that such standards become the benchmark for construction projects in Qatar.”

In a response to Amnesty, Midmac said: “We admire the work Amnesty International does and are fully committed to ensuring our entire workforce is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

It said that where a sub-contractor was not willing to correct deficiencies it would immediately stop any collaboration with them. It said “terminating a sub-contract agreement is the strongest message we can send to those who are found to be non-compliant”.

Six Construct said it had terminated the contracts of some sub-contractors as a result of Amnesty’s investigation, while Eversendai said it had stopped dealing with the two labour supply companies, had no intention of working with them in future, and would engage direct labour “wherever possible”. It said it was now in full compliance with welfare standards.

Nakheel said it was committed to making improvements to its employee conditions but in the absence of Amnesty sharing relevant information “we wholly deny abuse of any of our workers on the Aspire maintenance project”.

The Aspire Zone Foundation said it would be working “hand in hand” with the supreme committee to launch a number of positive initiatives across all World Cup related projects.

Qatar’s 2022 supreme committee said it had called for an “immediate and comprehensive review of the application and enforcement” of its workers’ welfare standards among all contractors, sub-contractors and labour supply companies.

In a statement it said that it is “committed to ensuring the health, safety and well-being of every worker on World Cup projects”, that “the tone of Amnesty International’s latest assertions paint[s] a misleading picture” and “the conditions reported were not representative of the entire work force on Khalifa”.

The supreme committee argued that Amnesty focused on just four of the 40 companies that work on the stadium and that many of the problems identified by the NGO had already been rectified by the time it approached it with the findings some months later.

Last week, Qatar was given 12 months to end migrant worker slavery or face a possible United Nations investigation that could see it become the fifth country to face a formal inquiry by the International Labour Organisation.

The move followed an ILO delegation to the Gulf state this month that also found migrant workers stranded for months without pay and stripped of their passports.

National Mirror with additional report from Guardian UK


WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners



…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



The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured



…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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