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Controversy over budget’s whereabouts

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… As death toll on Lassa fever rises to 41 from 93 suspected cases —Minister

What is the fate of Budget 2016? Contrary to the promise by the National Assembly that it will make its consideration a priority on resumption from the Christmas/New Year break, it was not discussed yesterday.

Both chambers yesterday returned from recess. The House shifted work on the budget till next week. Instead, it gave priority to its bills.

The Senate held a stormy session over alleged “disappearance” of the hard copies of the budget proposal submitted to a joint session of the National Assembly on December 22, last year.

The senators were said to have been “troubled” that the fiscal document presented suddenly developed wings and “disappeared”.

The “missing document” was said to have been the subject of a closed session summoned by Senate President Bukola Saraki, shortly after the lawmakers reconvened from their break.

Copies of the budget proposal were not distributed to the lawmakers before they vacated went on break.

The disappearance of the hard copies of the document was said to have been disclosed by Senate leader Ali Ndume during a closed session that lasted over one hour, 30 minutes.

Reporters were not briefed after the session but Ndume roundly dismissed insinuations that the fiscal document was missing.

Ndume wondered how anybody could say that the budget proposal was missing when the document is not money.

The alleged disappearance of the document is coming a few days after news of the withdrawal of the budget estimates made the rounds.

In fact, an official in the Presidency also hinted of a likely retrieval of the document for some amendments.

But Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters Senator Ita Enang dismissed insinuations that the budget proposal was withdrawn.

Consideration of the fiscal document was, however, not listed in the Senate Order Paper yesterday.

It was gathered that senators at closed session mandated the Senate President to liaise with President Buhari on the missing document.

Senate President Saraki was at the Aso Villa for a brief meeting with President Buhari.

Saraki, who came out from the President’s office after about 30 minutes, declined to speak with reporters.

When asked by reporters about the document’s whereabouts, Saraki exclaimed: “Ha, ha, ha”, and jumped into his vehicle.

It was gathered that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators accused the Presidency of being behind the disappearance of the documents.

But All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers were said to have taken exception to the accusation as they considered it uncalled for.

Ndume said: “Budget cannot be missing. One copy can be laid; it is a symbolic copy. The budget will be in custody of both chambers; it cannot be stolen; it cannot be missing. Once the budget is laid in the National Assembly, it has become the property of the National Assembly.

“Saraki’s visit to Villa is for Senate to know the President’s priority. We want to see how we can fast-track the passage of the budget before the end of February. What is before the Senate is proposal. Once the President signs it, it cannot be amended. We can turn the budget upside down; it cannot be missing. If it is online, you can produce the budget; how can it be missing?”

Meanwhile, the Federal Government disclosed, yesterday, that Lassa fever has claimed 41 lives from 93 reported cases in 10 states of the country even as the Senate has summoned the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, over the outbreak of the disease.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Federal Government, last Friday, put the death toll at 40 out of 86 reported cases of Lassa fever outbreak in same 10 states. The number of the suspected cases also rose from 86 last week to 93.

Adewole, who confirmed this in Abuja, yesterday, at a joint ministerial news conference on the update of the outbreak of the disease, however, said there were no new confirmed cases or death in the last 48 hours.

He said: “In the last 48 hours, the government raised a four-man expert committee, chaired by Prof. Michael Asuzu, to visit Kano, Niger and Bauchi, the three most endemic states. The committee will embark on a fact-finding mission, assess the current situation, document response experiences, identify gaps and proffer recommendations on how to prevent future occurrences.”

The minister assured the public that the task of the committee was not to apportion blame but rather to document lessons learnt for better planning of an affective responsive.

According to Adewole, part of the long term response is to establish an inter-ministerial committee to deliver a final blow on Lassa fever and other related diseases.

The committee comprised the Ministers of Education, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Environment, Information and Culture as well as Health.

Adewole advised communities to improve on their hygiene, including food hygiene and food protection practices. He also urged the public to avoid contact with rodents and rats as well as food contaminated with rat’s secretions and excretions.

“Avoid drying food in the open and along roadsides, it is also important to cover all foods to prevent rodents contamination,” he said.

According to him, the affected states are Bauchi, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Plateau, Gombe and Oyo.

Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, blamed the Ministry of Health for not being proactive which led to  the outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria even as it summoned the minister to appear before it.

According to the Senate, the minister must appear before the Senators to explain the efforts put in place by the ministry to combat further spread of Lassa fever in the country, and urged Nigerians to be very conscious of the situation by adhering to rules of reasonable hygiene. It also urged non-affected states to be educated on preventive measures.

Nation with addditional report from Vanguard

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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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