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Cuba migrants flown from Costa Rica to Mexico-US border

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  • As Metuh is indicated to have  bought N500m house and  gave Kema Chikwe N5m – Witness

A group of vulnerable Cuban migrants have been flown by the Costa Rican authorities to a Mexican border town, from where they are expected to enter the US.

The 113, including children and pregnant women, landed in Nuevo Laredo on Tuesday.

They were among thousands stranded in Costa Rica after neighbouring Nicaragua denied them passage north.

Cubans are allowed automatic residence when they set foot in the US.

But after the two counties normalised ties following years of animosity, the number of Cubans trying to reach the US surged amid fears the policy would be dropped.

Central American nations reached a deal last month allowing migrants stranded in Costa Rica to continue on to the US.

The first flight carrying about 180 flew from Costa Rica to El Salvador in January.

In the meantime, a detective with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Junaid Sa’id, told a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday that the $2m allegedly laundered by the spokesperson for the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, was part of the N10bn which the immediate past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), released for the party’s presidential convention in 2014.

The then President Goodluck Jonathan was adopted as the party’s sole candidate at the said convention.

Metuh and his company, Destra Investments Limited, are being prosecuted by the EFCC for allegedly receiving N400m in a fraudulent manner from the ONSA in November, 2014 and also on charges of money laundering of cash transaction involving $2m.

The EFCC had called as its first prosecution witness, Nneka Ararume, a former employee of Asset and Resource Management Company Limited, who narrated how Metuh handed her the $2m in $100 bills at his house in the Prince and Princess Estate, Abuja.

Sa’id testified as the eighth prosecution witness on Tuesday.

Under cross-examination by lead defence counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), Sa’id informed the court that Dasuki had withdrawn a sum of N10bn from the Central Bank of Nigeria and converted same to $47m.

He said the money was then given to aides of former President Jonathan for sharing to some PDP members.

Apart from the N400m paid directly to Metuh’s firm’s account from the ONSA’s account with the CBN, Sa’id testified that Metuh got the sum of $2m from the N10bn released by Dasuki.

The witness said under cross-examination, “In the course of investigation, it was revealed that the former NSA had withdrawn about N10bn from the CBN and converted same into dollars which amounted to around $47m.

“He gave the money to the then Aide de Camp to the then President and his Special Adviser, Domestic, to the then President, to share to some PDP party members for the PDP presidential convention.

“The $2m given by the 1st defendant to Nneka Ararume (first prosecution witness) was strongly linked to that disbursement of the $47m, which was converted in November, 2014 and shared out to some PDP members for its presidential convention.

“There is no document in respect of this transaction, because the money was shared in cash. The document is part of the charges being prepared against those involved. Investigation revealed that Ararume used to work with ARM Investment. During the course of this transaction, she worked with ARM Investment.”

Earlier in his evidence-in-chief, Sa’id, who was led by the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, gave details of how Metuh allegedly disbursed the N400m he received from the ONSA.

He said while Metuh retained N50m for himself, he gave part of the N400m to former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Tony Anenih; former Minster of Aviation, Kema Chikwe, among others.

The witness said, “Among the disbursements made were a total sum of N77.1m was paid to one Yomi Badejo Okusanya of CMC Connect to carry out campaign activities for the PDP.

“In similar vein, the sum of N25m was paid to Abbah Dabo to carry out campaign activities. Another N21,776,000 was paid to Chief Anthony Anenih; N5m was discovered to be paid to Chief Kema Chikwe,

“Another sum, N50m, was transferred to the joint account of the 1st defendant (Metuh) and his wife in the name of Olisa and Kanayo Metuh.”

He added that his investigation also revealed that “N500m was discovered to have been transferred to one Daniel Paul International Ltd. in two tranches of N200m and 300m for the purpose of purchasing a landed property at Banana Island in Lagos by the 1st defendant (Metuh).”

He also confirmed that Metuh used the money received from the NSA office for campaign activities of the PDP.

He said, “The interview and investigation carried out confirmed that money received by Badejo Okusanya of CMC Connect were used to carry out media campaign activities for the PDP on the instruction of the 1st defendant.

“In similar vein, the money received by Abbah Dabo was also used for media services for the PDP campaign. In the course of investigation, Alhaji Abbah Dabo, having learnt that the money he was paid came from the ONSA, then, refunded the money.

“Investigation revealed that N88.5m was transferred to Tiboro Nigeria Ltd., for the purpose of sourcing foreign exchange. It was able to only source 66,000 British pound, after which it returned the balance to Destra. The 66,000 pounds was paid into an account outside Nigeria as instructed by the first defendant.

“Investigation carried out by the commission with respect to funds paid out by the former NSA has led to two separate pending charges before the FCT High Court.”

The witness also narrated how Metuh allegedly tore part of the statement he made at the EFCC, while being interrogated.

Metuh was arraigned along with his company, Destra Investment Limited, on January 15 on seven counts of fraudulently receiving N400m from the NSA office in November 2014. He was also accused of laundering $2m cash.

The trial judge, Justice Abang adjourned till February 18.

BBC with additional 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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