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Dubai properties: Civil society groups demand Buratai’s sacking

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  • As Court remands Fani-Kayode, ex-minister Usman in prison over alleged N4.9bn fraud

The Conference of Nigerian Civil Rights Activists, on Tuesday, demanded the immediate removal of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, over his ownership of two properties in Dubai, the commercial nerve centre of the United Arab Emirates.

The CNCRA stated this in a statement by its Convener, Mr. Ifeanyi Odili, in Abuja.

It explained that the continued retention of Buratai in his position by President Muhammadu Buhari would rubbish the current anti-corruption crusade of the incumbent administration.

The group said Buhari should relieve the COAS of his position “as he is a square peg in a round hole.”

The statement stated, “The recent revelation of the procurement of properties in Dubai by the COAS as published by SaharaReporter on June 25, 2016, which was subsequently denied by the Army spokesman, is a dent on the integrity of the Buhari’s administration.

“The Buhari administration has been showcasing anti-graft posture and the massacre of hundreds of Nigerians in Zaria is in contrast to democratic ethos and norms.

“According to SaharaReporters, Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, and his two wives are joint owners of Dubai properties worth of $1.5m that was paid for in one transaction.

“The report indicated that the money for the purchase of the property might have come from a vehicle contract scam while Mr. Buratai was the Director of Procurement at the Army HQ.

“The allegation that General Buratai might have pilfered funds meant for the purchase of military vehicles has sparked outrage among soldiers and officers, especially those from the North-East of the country.”

The group asked Buhari to end indiscipline in the military through a process of ending impunity by its officers and men.

It said, “Discipline and preparedness of military officers and men should be a topmost priority in the system.  It must be strictly adhered to and the primary purpose of the Nigerian military, which is to defend the nation from external aggression.

“The realisation of this function primarily entails the preservation of the territory, people, culture and the national security as enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution of 1999.

“A democratic society requires a citizen army and the deviants; sadists and thugs within the armed forces should be identified, penalised and flushed out.”

The group asked the military authorities to promptly investigate complaints of rights violations instead of unnecessary denials in the face of facts.

It said, “It is therefore sad to note that Buratai, who is conversant with the above facts, negates the spirit of military profession and embarked on killing of harmless civilians in Zaria between December 12 and 14, 2015.

“Drawing from the above, the CNCRA called on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, relieve Buratai of his position and commence full scale investigation into the killings as mentioned above.

“It is only if the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission looks into corruption allegation levelled against him (Buratai) that the Buhari administration would want to have us believe in his change mantra and war against corruption and indiscipline in Nigeria.”

Also, a Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, has challenged Buhari to make good his threat to deal with corrupt people around him.

Mohammed said this in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Tuesday.

He noted that in other climes, Buratai would have stepped aside.

Mohammed added, “I want to remind General Buhari of what he said when he returned from the anti-corruption summit in Britain; he said he was going to deal with those people who had houses in Dubai and Abuja.

“First, what he said did not make sense; it was illogical because you can be corrupt and not own houses in Dubai and Abuja.

“Now that his Chief of Army Staff has been found to have properties in Dubai and Abuja, what is he going to do with him? This is my direct challenge to General Buhari.

“General Buratai should step aside for proper investigations to be carried out because his remaining in office will jeopardise investigations, especially at a time the army he heads has come out to defend him.”

Meanwhile, Buratai has described those behind the report of the acquisition of two properties by his family in Dubai as defeated Boko Haram terrorists, who have migrated to the cyberspace to continue their war.

Buratai said the cyberterrorists would be defeated the same way their counterparts on land were defeated by the Nigerian Army under his leadership in the North-East.

The Army chief, who stated this while speaking in Abuja on Tuesday, added that the Army was already developing its cyberwarriors to counter the nefarious intents of the terrorists on the Internet and online media.

He said the Federal Government had already made clarifications on the issue of the properties in Dubai through a statement by the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, on Monday.

The Defence minister had said the report on the properties was an attempt by some persons to distract the leadership of the Armed Forces from the successful prosecution of the heightened campaign against terrorism in the North-East.

Buratai stated that the Army would not be distracted by the antics of those behind the report in its efforts to ensure national security.

He added that the allegation that refurbished equipment was procured in the fight against the insurgents was part of the campaign of calumny masterminded by the cyberterrorists.

He said, “We want to assure them that these terrorists, the Boko Haram terrorists, who have migrated to the cyberspace, we will follow them to that cyberspace, and equally defeat them and clear their doubts.

“We are meeting all the terrorists in the cyberspace. We have defeated them on the battleground. We are developing our own cyber-warriors and we will defeat them as we have done in the North-East.

“The issue of the refurbished equipment is still part of campaign of calumny. I refer you to the theatre commander. We are doing internal audit, they know my position. We will continue to do that.”

The Army Chief said recent compulsory retirement of 38 officers for alleged corruption and election related-issues from the service followed due process.

He stated that it was a good thing that some of the affected officers had opted to go to court and had indeed written to the service and would be given the appropriate response.

In the meantime, a Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday ordered the prison remand of a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, and two others over an alleged fraud of N4.9bn.

Justice Suleiman Hassan gave the remand order shortly after Fani-Kayode, Nenadi Usman and Danjuma Yusuf were arraigned before him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The judge said the three accused persons were to remain in the prison custody pending the determination of their bail applications, the hearing of which has been fixed for Friday.

Joined with Fani-Kayode, Usman and Yusuf in the 17 counts filed by the EFCC was a company, Joint Trust Dimension Nigeria Limited.

The charges bordered on conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft and money laundering.

Fani-Kayode, who was the spokesperson for former President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential campaign organisation for the 2015 election, was accused of conspiring with others to directly and indirectly retain various sums, which the EFCC claimed they ought to have reasonably known were proceeds of theft.

The accused persons were said to have allegedly committed the offences between January 8, 2015 and March 25, 2015 in the build-up to the general elections.

In one of the counts, the EFCC alleged that Fani-Kayode, who it listed as the 2nd defendant in the charge sheet, and his co-defendants conspired among themselves to “indirectly  retain the sum of N1,500, 000,000.00, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing.”

The EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that the said conspiracy and indirect retention of the N1.5bn constituted an offence under Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012, and punishable under Section 15(3)( 4) of the same Act.

In another count, the EFCC alleged that Fani-Kayode “directly retained the sum of N350m,” which the anti-graft agency claimed that he ought to have “reasonably known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing.”

Fani-Kayode was accused of directly using parts of the money at various times, including a N250,650,000.00, which he allegedly used between March 20 and 25, 2015.

Fani-Kayode was also accused of making a cash transaction of N24m with one Olubode Oke, said to still be at large, on February 12, 2015 “to Paste Poster Co of 125, Lewis Street, Lagos Island.”

The duo were said to have made the transaction without going through any financial institution, an act the EFCC claimed was contrary to sections 1(a) and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012, and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.

But upon reading the charges to them on Tuesday, all the accused persons pleaded not guilty.

Counsel for Fani-Kayode, Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), and that of Usman, Mr. S. I. Ameh (SAN), subsequently informed the court that they had filed applications for the bail of their clients.

On his own part, Yusuf’s counsel, Mr. Fred Orbih, who also indicated his plan to apply for his client’s bail, however, said he had yet to do so.

In a short ruling, Justice Hassan adjourned the case till Friday for hearing of the three bail applications.

The judge, however, ordered the remand of the accused persons in prison till the hearing of the bail applications.

The EFCC listed 17 witnesses that will testify against the defendants when the trial commences.

Punch

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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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