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Buhari slashes N40bn off NASS constituency projects

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  • As U.S. Broadens Fight Against ISIS With Attacks in Afghanistan

As the details of the 2016 Budget continues to unfold, it has emerged that President Muhammadu Buhari has slashed the N100 billion Constituency funds meant for the 469  Senatorial Districts and Federal Constituencies to N60 billion.

Investigations by the Nigerian Tribune indicate that the President ordered the reduction, a situation which has placed the constituencies of the Principal Officers in the Senate and House of Representatives in jeopardy.

The National Assembly has since 2008 struck an agreement with the Federal Government whereby some projects are set aside for execution in the 109 Senatorial Districts and 360 House of Representatives seats through different Ministries and parastatals.

The projects are designated as constituency projects, though, some Nigerians went away with the impression that the funds are allocated to the lawmakers.

The amount meant for execution of the projects have remained constant at N100 billion in the past years, with each geopolitical zone getting N10 billion, while the balance of N40 billion is spread among the Senatorial Districts and Federal Constituencies of the Principal and Presiding officers in the two chambers.

Investigations however confirmed that while the President government has agreed to continue to fund the Constituency projects, it has however indicated that the amount would be slashed to N60 billion.

It was gathered that the Senators and members of the House of Representatives have been requested to submit details of the project to be executed in their constituencies to the Committees on Appropriation in the two chambers.

Sources affirmed that the cut would affect the N40 billion meant for execution of projects in the constituencies of Principal Officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives, as according to a source, all the constituencies are only to now benefit from the N60 billion allocations.

“The six geopolitical zones are normally allowed to benefit from the N10 billion per zone allocation, where the remainder of N40billion is spread to the Constituencies of the Principal Officers and presiding officers. But we are made to understand that as a fall out of the leadership tussle that engulfed the National Assembly last June, whereby leaders not supported by the hierarchy of the All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged in the Senate and the House of Representatives, the usual largesse due to NASS leaders is being withdrawn.

“It is like saying you can keep your positions but you can’t keep the largesse,” a source said.

“What has been happening is that each fiscal year, the six geopolitical zones are allocated the sum of N60 billion as development projects.. each of the projects are chosen by the Senators and Rep members. The projects are however located in different Ministries and parastatals, which are given funds to execute the projects. But the joy of the lawmaker is that he would claim credit for being the facilitator of the projects.

“Now that the sum of N40 billion is being removed from the constituencies of the Senate President, the Speaker, their Deputies and the other Principal officers, a huge distortion might occur in the manner the allocations are made,” another lawmaker in the know said.

In the meantime, the United States has carried out at least a dozen operations — including commando raids and airstrikes — in the past three weeks against militants in Afghanistan aligned with the Islamic State, expanding the Obama administration’s military campaign against the terrorist group beyond Iraq and Syria.

The operations followed President Obama’s decision last month to broaden the authority of American commanders to attack a new branch of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. The administration — which has been accused by Republicans of not having a strategy to defeat the group — is revamping plans for how it fights the terrorist organization in areas where it has developed affiliates throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Many of these recent raids and strikes in Afghanistan have occurred in the Tora Bora region of Nangarhar Province — an inhospitable, mountainous area in the eastern part of the country, near the border with Pakistan. It was in Tora Bora that Osama bin Laden and other senior Qaeda militants took refuge during the American-led invasion in 2001, and eventually evaded capture by slipping into Pakistan.

American commanders in Afghanistan said they believed that between 90 and 100 Islamic State militants had been killed in the recent operations. Intelligence officials estimate that there are roughly 1,000 Islamic State fighters in Nangarhar Province, and perhaps several thousand more elsewhere in the country. But even the generals leading the missions acknowledge that a resilient militant organization can recruit new fighters to replace those killed in American attacks.

“We have rules of engagement now that have been very well thought through,” Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said last week, adding that they “allow us to do what we think needs to be done.”

Although Mr. Obama had declared an end to combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the operations are part of a continuing and potentially expanding American military footprint in the Middle East and Africa for the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

In Iraq, the United States has about 3,700 troops, including trainers, advisers and commandos. There are several dozen Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria. Mr. Carter has said the United States and its allies are looking to do more, and has asked other countries — including several Arab ones — to contribute more to the military campaign as it moves to reclaim Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, the two major cities controlled by the Islamic State.

Administration officials are weighing a new campaign plan for Libya that would deepen the United States’ military and diplomatic involvement in yet another front against the Islamic State. The United States and its allies are increasing reconnaissance flights and intelligence collecting there — and even preparing for possible airstrikes and commando raids, according to senior American officials. Special Operations forces have met with various Libyan groups over the past several months to vet them for possible action against the Islamic State.

In Afghanistan, American and other allied commanders fear that the combination of fighters loyal to the Taliban, the Haqqani network and the Islamic State are proving too formidable for the still struggling Afghan security forces to combat on their own.

The United States has 9,800 combat forces in Afghanistan. Although that figure is scheduled to decline to 5,500 by the time Mr. Obama leaves office next January, administration and military officials are privately hinting that the president may again slow the troop withdrawal later this year.

At a hearing last week, Mr. Obama’s nominee to be the next commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., was asked by Senator John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, if he believed that the overall security situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating, rather than improving.

“Sir, I agree with your assessment,” said General Nicholson, a veteran of multiple deployments to Afghanistan. He said that the Taliban had fought against Afghan security forces “more intensely than perhaps we anticipated” and that the rise of the Islamic State there had been unexpected.

General Nicholson said that, if confirmed by the Senate, he would take his first 90 days to review the two primary missions in Afghanistan — counterterrorism and advising and assisting Afghan forces — before offering his recommendations on American troop levels in the country. The departing commander, Gen. John F. Campbell, is scheduled to testify before Congress this week, and he is expected to likewise underscore the rising threat from the Islamic State.

Under newly relaxed rules the White House sent to the Pentagon last month, the military now needs to show only that a proposed target is related to Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan. Before, such a target could be struck only if it had significant ties to Al Qaeda.

The military had also been able to strike Islamic State targets in self-defense, but the new rules lower the standard for such offensive operations against the group.

There are significant differences between the Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan and those in Iraq and Syria.

In Afghanistan, a majority of the militants were previously part of the local Taliban or Haqqani network, and many of them have now “rebranded” themselves as members of the Islamic State. While the leaders of the group in Iraq and Syria are mostly from those countries, many of their fighters come from other Middle Eastern countries and Europe.

The Islamic State militants in Afghanistan receive some money from leaders in Iraq and Syria, but there is little evidence that they receive much direction about when and where to launch attacks, according to military officials. There have been few examples of the Islamic State members in Afghanistan being able to effectively communicate with each other to carry out complex attacks, like the ones often launched in Iraq and Syria. Nevertheless, the group has claimed responsibility for several deadly bombings in Afghanistan in recent months.

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan has thanked American officials for their recent efforts against the Islamic State, which he fears is gaining strength, according to senior American officials.

As the Islamic State has expanded in Afghanistan, it has also fought the Taliban while the two groups have competed for influence and money.

“They are trying to assume control at the local level over checkpoints, over the drug trade, over flows of illicit goods,” Brig. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, a spokesman for the American military in Afghanistan, said in a telephone interview on Sunday.

Even as the Islamic State has emerged in Afghanistan, an old enemy seems to be reappearing there.

In October, American and Afghan commandos, backed by scores of American airstrikes, attacked a Qaeda training camp in the southern part of the country that military officials said was one of the largest ever discovered.

Tribune with additional report from MSN

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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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