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CCT Trial: Saraki flies in evidence experts from US, Israel Forecloses ‘soft landing’ option

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  • As Lai Mohammed tells Nigerians: Govt working hard to relieve your pains

Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, appears set for his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), following the decision of his legal team to fly in experts on evidence from the United States (US) and the State of Israel.

Sources close to the Senate President told the Nigerian Tribune that the Senate President had side stepped the touted “soft landing” option, said to have been proposed to him by some chieftains of his party, adding that he had decided to take on his accusers at the CCT trial.

It was gathered that Saraki had decided to tackle squarely the suit filed against him by the Federal Government over his asset declaration forms when he served as Kwara State governor.

Sources said Saraki had already flown in a group of experts in evidence from the US and the State of Israel and one of the Scandinavian countries, to provide what was described as “specialised services” to his legal team, being led by Chief Kanu Agabi.

It was further gathered that though some of the experts were not lawyers, they were expected to provide good insights and analyses of the evidence being adduced against the Senate President, as well as probe into the character of the witnesses.

A source said that the experts were “crack investigators”, as well as forensic and handwriting specialists,  adding that they would help the Saraki team get information on the witnesses and documents that would be presented at the Tribunal.

“The experts started arriving on Monday and they have had some preliminary meetings with the legal team in Lagos. They will be moving to Abuja ahead the resumption of the trial,” a source said.

Another source told the Nigerian Tribune: “The investigators will ferret out and scrutinise thoroughly all available information on the eight prosecution witnesses, including their school records, service records from their past and present places of employment and personal information that may help the defence team in the course of the trial. Most of those so-called witnesses will not be credible when information concerning their life is presented publicly before the Tribunal.

“It is also expected that with the fear that the prosecution may present forged documents, our  team needs to be vigilant and proactive, considering the manner in which the proceedings before the tribunal is being conducted. Our people believe that with the way properties that have nothing to do with Saraki are being put on the charge sheet, there are tendencies that documents to sustain their claims may have been forged. All these, the experts will screen and help the lawyers with information that may help the defence team.”

It was also gathered that the CCT had listed some of the witnesses in the suit to include Michael Wetcas, Nura Ali Bako, Mustapha Abubakar Musa, Nwachukwu Amasu, Samuel Madojemin, Adamu Garba and  Bayo Dauda ( a staff of a new generation bank).

Many of the witnesses were said to have been drawn from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In the meantime, the Federal Government has said it is keenly aware of the difficulties that Nigerians are currently facing over the lingering fuel scarcity and poor power supply, and that it is working round the clock to provide the relief for the citizenry.

“As a government that was propelled into office by the power of the people, we cannot but feel the pains of our compatriots, and we deeply empathize with them,” the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said in Abuja on Wednesday. “Our message to our compatriots is that this Administration, under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, is working round the clock to ease the pains of Nigerians, and that very soon, the efforts of the government will begin to yield fruits for the benefit of Nigerians,” he said during a visit to the corporate headquarters of Daily Trust newspaper, as part of his tour to media establishments in the country.

Mohammed said the Government is aware that Nigerians have started questioning the genuiness of its Change Agenda, adding that, “We understand the skepticism of Nigerians in questioning whether this indeed is the change they voted for. I can tell Nigerians that our Change Agenda is real, and that indeed Nigerians will get the change they voted for.” On the fuel situation, the Minister said immediate measures are being taken to end the scarcity while medium and long term solutions are being worked out to prevent a recurrence.

“Petroleum supply and distribution have been ramped up across the country by the NNPC to ensure product availability in the country, but repeated trips to filling stations and the backlog are making it impossible to immediate feel the impact “Monitoring has also been intensified to ensure full compliance with approved prices. Violations of approved prices and hoarding of petroleum products attract severe penalties, including ‎giving out of petroleum products free to the public, sealing off of fuel stations found to be hoarding petroleum products, payment of fine as well as withdrawal of Marketer’s License,” he said.

Mohammed said that in the medium term, the supply constraints due to foreign exchange challenges are being resolved through collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria on innovative ways of closing the gaps in accessing foreign exchange. He also announced the willingness of the International Upstream Oil Companies to support major oil marketing companies with some of the required foreign exchange, thus complementing the efforts of the NNPC which has been solely importing the refined products, in addition to the fact that the Corporation is pursuing an improved model for ‘crude oil for refined product’ exchange to eliminate inefficiencies.

The ultimate is to ensure self sufficiency in refined products supply by ramping up our local Refining capacity. All local Refineries will be made to run at a minimum 70% capacity utilization in the weeks ahead. This is in addition to the initiative of increasing the combined capacity of the domestic refineries through co-locating smaller but cost efficient modular refineries within the existing refineries premises,” the Minister said.

On the power situation, which he blamed largely on lack of gas supply to the power generating stations, he said the NNPC is seeking alternative sources of gas supply after the attack on the Forcados Export Pipeline forced the cut off of gas supplies to the stations. Mohammed said even the gas supply that was cut off following the attacks on the Forcados Pipeline would soon be restored as Shell, the operators of the pipeline, has awarded the contract to repair it.

In addition, he said, work is nearing completion on the transmission projects in five states in the South-East and South-South that will ensure that the power stations in those regions are able to work at full capacity, thus adding another 800MW to the national grid “While we give no excuses for the challenges currently being faced by Nigerians, because they voted for us specifically to address those challenges, we appeal to them to bear with us as we strive to provide the much-needed relief in the days ahead,” the Minister said.

Tribune with additional report from The News.

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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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