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Court okays seizure of Fayose’s assets

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  • Dozens ill after suspected chlorine attack in Syria

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja held yesterday that the temporary order of attachment granted in relation to some identified assets of Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose did not violate Section 308 of the constitution.

The judge said the intention of the immunity clause granted to some public office holders is not to shield them from investigation by security agencies for the purpose of obtaining evidence for future uses.

Justice Dimgba gave the ruling yesterday on an application by Fayose, whose lawyer Mike Ozekhome (SAN), had sought to vacate the order of interim attachment granted by the court on July 20 to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The order was in relation to the EFCC’s investigation of some activities of the governor and some of his associates.

The affected property to which the order relate, include four sets of four-bedroom apartments at Chalets 3, 4, 6 and 9, Plot 100, Tiaminu Savage, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Also affected are at 44 Osun Crescent, Maitama, Abuja and Plot 1504 Yedzeram Street, Maitama Abuja.

The EFCC had, while seeking the order, stated in an affidavit accompanying its motion ex-parte that the properties were acquired through proceeds of fraud, which Fayose allegedly got through kickbacks from contractors and other alleged fraud.

It stated that the funds used for the purchase of the properties were said to be drawn from the sum of N1, 219,490,000, which was said to be part of the N4, 745,000,000, allegedly stolen from the treasury of the Federal Government through the Office of the National Security Adviser.

In his application filed on notice on July 21, Ozekhome hinged his request for the court to set aside the order of interim forfeiture on 10 grounds.

He argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain and/or proceed to grant the interim order.

Ozekhome contended that in view of the immunity enjoyed by Fayose as sitting governor by virtue of the provision of Section 308 of the Constitution, he (Fayose) “cannot be proceeded against in a court of law”.

Justice Dimgba upheld the argument of EFCC lawyer Andrew Akoja, to the effect that the July 20 order was validly made.

“It is my considered opinion that the order of court, made on July 20, 2016 in respect of some property of the applicant, and within the limited scope and duration within which it was obtained, was duly procured and does not offend the provision of the Constitution referred to,” the judge said.

Justice Dimgba said although Section 308 of the Constitution serves to protect governors of states from the distraction of litigation and legal proceedings, to enable them to attend to official responsibilities, it should not be interpreted in such a way as to defeat the fight against corruption, to mean that the EFCC or other investigating agencies cannot take a peep into the assets or personal accounts of a serving governor in the execution of a strictly worded and mutually supervised interim attachment orders for the purposes of obtaining evidence for use in future when the immunity has lapsed.

“In the light of the above, I hold that the applicant is not entitle to the reliefs sought and are hereby refused.

“However, in the interest of justice and not to appear to make a mockery or nonsense of the immunity clause, I hold that the interim attachment order of July 20, 2016, granted by this court in favour of the respondent (EFCC) shall last for 45 days as the court had already ordered, within which the respondents must conclude their investigation in respect of those property, at the end of which every encumbrance on the property arising from the order of court, must abate.

“I order that in the event that the respondent may wish to renew the interim attachment order as they are entitled to, they must serve the motion to that effect on the applicant not later than five days to the expiration of that order, without which the order shall stand abated,” Justice Dimgba said.

In the meantime, more than two dozen people have been injured in a suspected chemical attack on a town in northern Syria, a doctor who treated the victims and aid workers said.

The attack, using a gas cylinder laced with chlorine, targeted the town of Saraqeb in Idlib province, which is under opposition control, and near where a Russian helicopter was shot down on Monday.

It came almost exactly a year after the UN security council adopted a resolution that set a 12 month-deadline to identify the perpetrators of chlorine attacks in Syria. The deadline expires next week.

Ibrahim al-Assaad, a doctor who treated the victims, said none of the 29 injured he saw exhibited physical wounds. “All of them had breathing and lung problems, spanning mild, moderate and severe symptoms, while coughing and having bloodshot eyes,” he said. “They smelled of chlorine, and the civil defence workers who rescued them said the site of the attack also smelled strongly of chlorine.”

“It is impossible to get used to this pain we see,” he added. “Impossible.”

The suspected chemical attack occurred against a backdrop of escalating warfare across Syria and particularly in the neighbouring province of Aleppo, where rebels have launched a wide-ranging offensive to break a weeks-long siege on the opposition-held east of the city.

Syria Civil Defense, a rescue service that operates in opposition-held areas, said it had transferred at least 30 victims with breathing problems to a hospital after what they described as an attack using a toxic gas that smelled like chlorine. The organisation published images and videos of the victims of the alleged attack, which it described as being intended to “spread fear and panic among civilians”.

Local people said a helicopter dropped cylinders from the sky on to the town – an approach that would fit the modus operandi of previous air raids that used chlorine and were blamed on the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Residents of Saraqeb said they heard the helicopter at 11.25pm on Monday, followed by the impact of two cylinders that caused muted explosions.

Much of Assad’s chemical weapons programme was dismantled under an agreement brokered in 2013 between the US and Russia, after the Obama administration threatened military strikes in retaliation for a sarin gas attack by on the suburbs of Damascus. Assad’s government was blamed for the attack, which killed 1,400 people and sparked worldwide condemnation, but he denied responsibility.

But chlorine is not banned under the terms of the treaty on the prohibition of chemical weapons, as it also has domestic and industrial uses such as water purification.

Last year, medical workers said they had documented as many as 35 attacks that deployed chlorine between mid-March and May alone in Idlib, causing more than 1,000 injuries and nine deaths, including wounding civil defence workers.

Assaad, the Saraqeb doctor, said recent airstrikes in the vicinity of his hospital had destroyed an extension built by aid groups that provided first aid treatment to chemical attack victims, disinfecting them before they entered the main hospital structure.

“We used to have a sort of ‘chemical tent’ to separate the victims of chemical attacks and purify them before taking them to the hospital,” he said. “But there were a lot of bombings and all the buildings around the hospital are either destroyed or damaged, and the tent is gone as well.”

Last week, the town’s local council said its blood bank and a first aid centre were both destroyed in airstrikes, the latest in what aid groups say is a systematic campaign against medical facilities.

On Monday, the Russian defence ministry said a helicopter carrying five service members was shot down near Saraqeb, hours before the suspected chlorine attack. The entire crew were killed, in what was the single deadliest incident for Moscow’s troops since they intervened to shore up the Assad regime last October.

In the neighbouring province of Aleppo, thousands of rebel fighters have launched a broad offensive that they said was aimed at breaking a siege imposed by the government and its allied militias on the eastern portion of the city, which is controlled by the opposition and has a quarter of a million civilians.

But the aims of the offensive appear now to be broader than simply breaking the siege, with rebel fighters apparently racing to sever government supply lines in an effort to cut off their territory in the suburbs from the city.

Moscow has continued to insist – in the face of international condemnation and US calls for restraint – that it has opened humanitarian corridors for civilians to flee the besieged eastern half of the city, but few residents appear to have taken advantage of the proposal in the midst of ongoing fighting.

A statement signed by 35 humanitarian and human rights NGOs said the proposal was “deeply flawed” and urged an end to “the use of brutal siege tactics and illegal attacks on civilians.”

Nation with additional report from 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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