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EFCC quizzes Jonathan’s cousin over $40m ONSA cash

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  • May probe Nigerians named in Panama Papers

President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Azibaola Roberts, remains in detention over a $40million (N12.7b) contract obtained from the Office of the National Security Adviser(ONSA) to ‘pacify’ militants in the Niger Delta.

Roberts, who was arrested alongside colleague Dakoru Atukpa, is the Managing Director of Kakatar Construction and Engineering Company Limited and One-Plus Holdings.

Gordy Uche (SAN), accused the EFCC of embarking on a vendetta mission against the ex-President.

He said Roberts is being persecuted because of his blood link with Jonathan.

The EFCC arrested Roberts and Dakoru on March 23 as part of the ongoing probe of 300 companies involved in phantom contracts at the ONSA.

It was gathered that as at last night, the suspects, who could not meet their bail terms, were still with the EFCC.

A source in the commission said: “The suspects were arrested in respect of payment of $40million by ONSA for a contract which was tagged as purchase of tactical equipment for Special Forces.

“When they interacted with our investigators, they could not  explain what the contract was meant for. They said they used the money to pacify militants in the Niger Delta.

“Even though we wanted to accept their claim, there is no documentary evidence to show how the $40m contract was awarded, how it was disbursed and the list of beneficiaries.

“The case is not about being a blood relation of a former President or not. Is he the only relation of the ex-President?

“We are looking into payments made by ONSA and $40miilion was advanced without any record of how the contract or how it was awarded or done.”

The Head of Media and Publicity at the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, who confirmed the investigation of Jonathan’s cousin and Dakoru, said the agency had been fair in investigating the $40million.

He said: “It is true that they are being held and investigation is still ongoing.

“But two days after their arrest, they were offered administrative bail with two sureties who must be of the rank of director in the civil service. The sureties were expected to provide evidence of tax payment and N250million bank guarantee.

“  But the suspects  failed to produce any surety, which made the commission to legally approach a court for an order to detain them.”

The suspects’  lawyer, Gordy Uche (SAN), in a statement in Abuja, accused the EFCC of embarking on a vendetta mission against former President Goodluck Jonathan.

He said the Federal Government is still owing his client $4million being balance of the contract sum for “successfully securing oil pipelines which saw Nigeria reap billions of US dollars from increased oil production”.

He asked the commission to “either charge my clients to court or release them on bail.”

Uche said: “My  client(Roberts) is being persecuted and punished because of his DNA, as a relative of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

“My clients(Roberts and Dakoru)  are innocent until proven guilty, according to the laws of Nigeria. So, their continuous detention is a breach of their fundamental human rights as free citizens of Nigeria. The appropriate thing for the EFCC to do in this circumstance is to release them now or charge them to court.”

Uche accused the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) of shirking its responsibility for the payment of the outstanding $4m due to his client as honorarium for an assignment which he said his client helped the Federal Government execute and for which the government reaped billions of dollars in return.

“It is impunity and breach of their fundamental human rights. We have a civil dispute and then you turn around to lock up the party with whom you have a dispute. Then, you go ahead to give him impossible bail conditions.

“Two federal serving directors each with properties in Maitama or Asokoro and the original of their Certificate of Occupancy; the four directors are also required to present bail bonds of N250m each from reputable banks. Robert and Atukpa are also required to deposit their international passports.

“Which serving director in Nigeria today has property in Asokoro or Maitama district, and can boast of N250million? It’s like saying bring the bones of your grandmother alive before we grant you bail.

“The annoying thing is that while we were working to fulfill the bail conditions, the EFCC went to court and obtained a remand order, which means that the commission never intended to grant them bail in the first place.

”If the NSA has a civil complaint against our client for ‘breach of contract’ and wants refund of money, the best thing to do is to file a civil complaint and allow an impartial judge to determine the case on merit.

“The EFCC is insisting that Oneplus Holdings should show proof of work done, including receipts of payments made to third parties from the proceeds of the said contract, or in the alternative refund the $40m to government coffers. It is for this reason that Robert and Atukpa have been held captive and locked up incommunicado by the EFCC for over two weeks.

“On assumption of office, President Muhammadu Buhari set up a presidential panel to investigate all contracts awarded by the Jonathan administration from 2011 to 2015.

“ The committee investigated contracts of 300 firms and individuals and made far-reaching recommendations, which include refund of money, further investigation, etc.

“Oneplus Holdings was recommended for further investigation, which meant the committee had reservations on the execution of the contract, even when it was clear the company appeared before the presidential committee and provided all the information it requested.

“However, of great concern is why Oneplus Holdings was  singled out of the 300 companies and individuals for its immediate action.

“ “If you look at that list (of the presidential committee), Oneplus is neither number one nor the last on it. So, why pick on Oneplus Holdings first?”

Meanwhile, there were strong indications yesterday that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may probe Nigerians associated with secret offshore companies.

Apart from Senate President Bukola Saraki, others mentioned in the secret leak that has been generating worldwide ripples are: Former Senate President David Mark, Saraki’s wife, Toyin, former Delta State Governor James Ibori, Mr. Laolu Saraki, Mr. Obi Asika and Mr. Olufela Ibidapo.

Yesterday, former Defence Minister Gen. Yakubu Danjuma’s name was linked with some firms.

According to a top EFCC source, the EFCC has already obtained a copy of the Panama Papers, which its operatives are studying.

The source said: “We are studying all the documents and definitely we will investigate the allegations against all the Nigerians implicated in the Panama Papers.

“These allegations may lead to further clues on whether or not public funds were used in acquiring some of these secret assets.

The Panamanian law firm, reputed as one of the most secretive companies in the world, had helped clients to register offshore entities, some of which are then used to launder money, evade tax and dodge sanctions.

Gen. Danjuma, the wealthy philanthropist and one-time Defence minister, according to the Mossac Fonseca files, floated Eastcoast Investments, which he incorporated in Nassau, Bahamas, on March 25, 1997.

At inception, Gen.  Danjuma and a certain Colin Marcel Dixon were directors of the company.

According to Premium Times, Gen. Danjuma formed the company to enable him do business with Scancem International of Norway when the latter decided to expand its business frontiers to Nigeria.

But the company became embroiled in a bribery scandal, with Scancem, according to court papers, later buying out Eastcoast Investment from the project on December 1, 2003.

Gen. Danjuma reportedly resigned as director of the company.

He is also reported to have used other offshore entities.

The database, Opencorporates, indicate that the ex-minister. served as director and vice-president of Cross Group Holdings International, which was registered in Panama on October 15, 1976.

Gen. Danjuma was also director of Zara Logistics, a company registered in Cyprus on September 2, 1993.

He could not be reached for comment yesterday. Sources close to him said he is out of the country.

Also, Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss attorney hired by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to track missing Abacha loot in Swiss banks is himself operating over 178 companies in offshore tax havens.

Mr. Monfrini was hired in 2000 by the government to help establish the existence of and repatriate over $4 billion allegedly looted by the former military dictator.

The documents showed that Mr. Monfrini, an influential legal practitioner in Switzerland, is director of 178 companies scattered around Panama and the British Virgin Islands.

Although the documents did not directly implicate Mr. Monfrini as having committed any crime, still, the revelation points to the hypocrisy of a man widely revered for his remarkable ability to dismantle tax evaders and looters across jurisdictions.

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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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