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Contempt: Bank Asks Court to Jail DMO’s DG

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Ecobank Nigeria Limited has accused the Director General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Mr. Abraham Nwankwo, for frustrating its move to recover a huge debt allegedly owed it by an oil marketing firm, First Deepwater Discovery Limited.

The bank’s lawyer, Mr. Kunle Ogunba (SAN), appeared on Tuesday before a Federal High Court in Lagos asking the court to imprison Nwankwo over alleged disobedience and contempt of court.

The bank also sued the DMO’s officer directly in charge of processing fuel subsidy claims by oil marketers, Mr. Umaru Abubakar, for contempt of court.

The DMO is the agency of the federal government which processes fuel subsidy claims by oil marketers or issuing them with what is called sovereign debt notes.

According to the court papers made available to THISDAY, Ecobank had on February 25, 2015, secured an interim order of Justice Mohammed Yunusa directing DMO to transfer the outstanding fuel subsidy sum due to Deepwater Discovery Limited into the company’s account with Ecobank.
The bank had claimed that Deepwater Discovery Limited had a cumulative fuel subsidy claim of about N1.8billion with DMO, out of which it claimed that N845million plus was due for payment.

Yunusa had in the said order directed DMO to transfer with dispatch the sum of N845million plus due to Deepwater into its account with Ecobank to offset part of the alleged debt the oil marketing firm allegedly owed the bank.

The judge had also directed DMO to “communicate the PEF/Admin Charges on the balance sum of N1,020, 451,733.22 to the plaintiff/applicant via the receiver/manager and to pay forthwith, remit or otherwise transfer the entire sum to the first defendant’s account with the plaintiff/applicant.”

But Ogunba claimed that though the agency, through its principal officers, were served with the enroled order of the court since February 27, 2015, they had yet to take the necessary steps to transfer the said funds, thereby frustrating the bank’s effort at recovering its customers’ savings allegedly held by Deepwater.

In the affidavit filed in support of Forms 48 and 49, which Ogunba said were already served on Nwankwo and Abubakar, the deponent, one Ajibola Ajiboye, alleged that in spite of serving the alleged contemnors with the papers for contempt proceedings they had refused to bother.
While urging Yunusa to take a decisive action and commit Nwankwo and Abubakar to jail, Ajiboye said: “Contempt of court, being a deliberate disobedience of a court order, is a serious offence, which every court should not allow to go unpunished.

“This is because treating such an act with levity could lead to total destruction of the entire judicial system and all that the administration of justice stands for.”

But Nwankwo and Abubakar have, through their counsel, S.E. Omoraghon, urged the court to refuse the bank’s prayer for committal order against them.

In a counter-affidavit filed in opposition to Ecobank’s committal proceedings, the Principal Operations Officer of DMO, Sandra Ipigansi, maintained that the alleged contemnors were never served with the papers for contempt proceedings in personal capacities.

Besides, Ipigansi said the issue of disobedience to court order did not arise, because DMO could not have transferred the fund as directed by the court as the agency was never in custody of any subsidy claims by marketers.

According to Ipigansi, the role of DMO in subsidy claims is more or less administrative, while the money is usually kept and claimed from the Central Bank of Nigeria by the concerned oil marketers.

She claimed, “Physical custody of the funds used for the payment of subsidy claims by oil marketers are, at all material times, kept and domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“The 2nd defendant and its officers, by their mandate, do not keep custody of funds and do not directly touch funds meant for the subsidy claims payment and therefore lack the capacity to transfer funds to any account as directed by the court, as they do not have custody of the said funds.

“The duty of the 2nd defendant is more or less administrative and limited to the issuance of sovereign debt notes to oil marketers on the advice of the Petroleum Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), after due diligence and other necessary payment procedure.”
Ipigansi added that it was strange that a court would order DMO to remit the subsidy sum due to an oil marketer into the bank account of a judgment creditor.

Yunusa has adjourned till May 13 to entertain the committal proceedings and to probably make a decision.

ThisDay

 

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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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