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Bomb blasts kill 27 at Yobe, Kano bus stations

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Two blasts rocked bus stations in embattled northern Nigeria on Tuesday, killing at least 27 people, as relentless attacks persist less than five weeks from general elections.

The first, killing 17, was caused by a bomb that ripped through a station on the outskirts of Potiskum, in northeast Yobe state, which has been targeted repeatedly by Boko Haram Islamists.

Roughly four hours later, two men blew themselves up after getting off a bus at a busy terminus in Kano, the north’s largest city and another frequent Boko Haram target. Ten people were killed.

Despite the bombings, President Goodluck Jonathan late Tuesday said the military was gaining the upper hand against the insurgents.

“The president assures all Nigerians, and the people of the northeastern states in particular, that the days of mourning victims of incessant terrorist attacks in the country will soon be over as the tide has now definitely turned against Boko Haram,” his office said in an emailed statement.

The Nigerian militant group, blamed for more than 13,000 deaths since 2009, has in recent weeks expanded its uprising into neighbouring countries, raising fears of a regional crisis.

In Niger on Tuesday, a mine planted by the insurgents killed two soldiers and injured four others in the Diffa region bordering Yobe, a security source said.

Niger this month joined Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria in a joint operation aimed at crushing Boko Haram’s uprising, and many expected the Islamist rebels to launch cross-border reprisals.

Nigeria had hoped the four-nation offensive could contain the violence before elections initially scheduled for February 14 but which were postponed by six weeks because of the insurgency.

But with the bloodshed continuing on a nearly daily basis, security fears remain high ahead of the March 28 vote.

The Potiskum explosion occurred at the Tashar Dan-Borno motor park on the outskirts of the city immediately after a man put a bag in the hold of the bus and then tried to board.

“The bus had just loaded with passengers on its way to Kano when a huge explosion happened inside the bus at exactly 11:40 am (1040 GMT),” said a driver’s union official at the bus station.

Potiskum was also attacked on Sunday, when a young girl detonated explosives strapped to her body at a crowded market.

Thirteen dead and 31 injured were initially brought to Potiskum General Hospital after Tuesday’s blast, according to a nurse at the facility, but she added: “Four more died here.

“So, we have 17 dead and 27 people with injuries.”

The drivers’ union official said it was not immediately clear whether the man who placed the bag in the boot was a suicide bomber, or whether the explosives were hidden inside it.

Rescue workers at the scene said that all 12 people on board the bus were killed.

The girl in Sunday’s attack which left seven people dead in Potiskum was thought to be as young as seven, according to multiple witnesses.

Boko Haram Islamists have increasingly used young girls and women as human bombs at so-called “soft targets” such as markets and bus stations, which are hit regularly.

The explosion at the Kano Line Station occurred at about 3:40 pm (1540 GMT) and sent people rushing from the site of the blast, many of them covered in blood.

“I was attending to customers when I heard a loud explosion that shook the building,” said one local shopkeeper, who works opposite the terminus.

An orange seller inside the bus station confirmed his account.

“We rushed outside and we saw plumes of black smoke coming from the Kano Line Station,” the shopkeeper said.

“People and buses were rushing out of the bus station. One bus was splattered with blood and human flesh.”

Kano state police spokesman Musa Magaji Majia described the attack as “suicide explosions” by two men after they got off a bus from Wudil, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) away.

“Ten people were killed in the blast and several others were wounded.

“The area was cordoned off and then bomb experts swept the place for more explosives but nothing was found,” he told reporters.

Both bombings again underlined the severe security challenges confronting Nigeria in the run-up to the March elections.

Nigeria and neighbouring armies have claimed major successes in the campaign against the Islamists, but Boko Haram has proved resilient.

But promises of an imminent end to the insurgency have proved empty in the past.

Jonathan has admitted that he and his government underestimated the threat posed by the militants in the early days of the insurgency.

His administration is facing intense domestic and international pressure to hold the vote on March 28, with the United States and others warning against subverting democracy on security grounds.

The 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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