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Brazil’s congressional committee votes in favour of impeaching Dilma Rousseff

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Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff began a week that could make or break her administration with a bruising defeat in a Congressional impeachment committee.

After a bad-natured and at times chaotic debate, the members on the committee voted 38 to 27 to proceed with a motion to remove the Workers’ party leader from office for puffing up government accounts before the 2014 election.

Their decision sets the stage for a full vote of the lower house – most likely this weekend – on whether to approve the country’s first presidential impeachment.

Rousseff’s supporters – who claim the impeachment drive represents a coup – will take consolation from their share of votes on the committee. If repeated in the plenary, their opponents will fail to secure the two-thirds majority needed for the motion to advance to the Senate.

But much can happen in the next six days in a political tussle that has more plot twists and political drama than than a series of House of Cards.

The latest surprise was a leaked speech by vice president, Michel Temer that appeared to show him preparing to move into the president’s palace and establish a government of national unity and salvation.

Temer told reporters the audio message was intended for a politician close to him who had asked if he was prepared to govern in the case that Rousseff were to be impeached. He said the message was mistakenly sent to the wrong group on text messaging service WhatsApp. Workers’s Party officials accused him of betraying his running mate.

This raised the already high political temperature in Brasilia, where demonstrators have already begun gathering outside Congress. Public security officials expect pro- and anti-impeachment rallies to attract hundreds of thousands by the time of the plenary vote. To prevent violent clashes, thousands of troops will be deployed alongside the police and barricades have been erected on the main esplanade to separate the two sides.

Apart from occasional scuffles, most of the tension has so far been released in Congress and public statements. Rousseff’s supporters have put up a spirited fight. Attorney general José Eduardo Cardozo, condemned what he called a “flawed” process.

“It is absurd to dismiss a president who has not committed crimes, nor stolen a penny,” he said. “Such a process without crime or fraud would be a coup.” But he and other allies were overwhelmed in the televised committee meeting.

Antônio Imbassahy said his opposition Social Democratic party votes for impeachment “because it understands that Brazil does not deserve to be governed by a president who has committed crimes of responsibility in a conscious and continuous way, who lied to the Brazilian people, who defrauded the elections, who violated democracy, who destroyed the economy”, he said. “The final judgement is ahead. The votes will be registered in history. And history does not forgive.”

The committee defeat was expected. Since the biggest party in Congress – the Brazil Democratic Movement party (PMDB) – declared it would abandon the ruling coalition last month, Rousseff has effectively been leading a minority government.

The president is also on the ropes as a result of economic recession, corruption scandals and plots by the PMDB and other parties to seize power.

But Rousseff, who has more than two years of her mandate left to run, is far from being knocked out.

Her opponents are not assured of the two-thirds of the 513 seats they need in the lower house. Even if they get this level of support, impeachment will also have to be approved twice by the Senate – first by a simple majority, then by two-thirds – before it is finalised. The government can also challenge the process in the supreme court.

Public opinion is another factor. Despite her own dismal approval ratings, which hover around the 10% mark, most of Rousseff’s rivals are even more despised and are accused of equal or greater wrongdoing.

The impeachment process has been spearheaded by lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha, a PMDB leader who is accused of taking more than $5m (£3.5m) in kickbacks from state-run oil company Petrobras and lying to Congress about secret bank accounts in Switzerland.

Rousseff’s most likely replacement is Temer, also of the PMDB, who also faces impeachment proceedings because he signed off on the same policies as the president. More than half of the 65-member impeachment committee are also charged with bribery or other crimes.

Compared with these accusations, the penalty for the president’s alleged wrongdoing is of questionable proportionality. Her administration was not the first to temporarily window-dress government finances, but none of her predecessor faced repercussions of this severity. The Workers’ party claims this represents a “coup”. This accusation was echoed by former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, musician Chico Buarques and other artists on Monday night at a rally of several thousand anti-impeachment supporters under the Lapa arches in Rio de Janeiro.

Many of those who dislike the ruling party do not use this term, but they are uncomfortable about the threat to democracy posed by the removal of an elected president on such flimsy grounds.

Overall, support for impeachment remains high, but appears to be ebbing. A Datafolha poll at the weekend, showed 61% of respondents favoured Rousseff’s removal, down from 68% in March.

The last president to come so close to impeachment was Fernando Collor de Mello who resigned in 1992 on the eve of his conviction by the Senate.

Guardian

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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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