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EFCC raids Obanikoro’s home, freezes Tompolo’s N3bn account

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Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Tuesday stormed the Ikoyi, Lagos home of a former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro.

The operatives seized some vital documents, vehicles and other valuables.

Sources in the anti-graft agency told one of our correspondents that the raid was connected with several allegations of fraud levelled against Obanikoro and his two sons – Babajide and Gbolahan.

It was learnt that the operatives stormed the house, located at Layi Ajayi Bembe Street in Parkview Estate, Ikoyi, where they searched the entire premises.

The commission had said it traced N4.75bn to a company, Sylvan McNamara Limited, in which Obanikoro’s sons allegedly have interest.

The money was allegedly paid in several tranches into the company’s account number 0026223714 with Diamond Bank from the Office of the National Security Adviser account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

According to the EFCC, all the transfers were made between June and December 2014, a period that coincided with the preparation for and the conduct of the Ekiti State governorship election, which was won by Governor Ayodele Fayose.

Giving a breakdown of how the money was paid, an EFCC source said N200m was transferred into Sylvan McNamara’s account on June 5, 2014, while N2bn was also wired into the account from the CBN/ Imprest main account on June 16, 2014.

Another transfer of N700m hit the account on July 7, 2014, while N1bn was credited to the account on July 30, 2014.

Other transfers included N160m on August 8, 2014; N225m on August 22, 2014; N200m on November 14, 2014 and N200m on December 5, 2014.

Both Gbolahan and Babajide Obanikoro, sources disclosed, as directors of the company, were also signatories to its account until 2014 when one Olalekan Ogunseye was made the sole signatory to the account.

EFCC sources disclosed that the payments to the company from the office of the NSA, Sambo Dasuki, were made without any contract.

A detective at the EFCC said, “It is true that we searched the house of Obanikoro. It was part of investigations into the N4.7bn paid into his sons’ account.”

The EFCC has since March been making attempts to extradite Obanikoro and his sons who have been in the United States since last year.

However, the media aide to the ex-minister, Mr. Jonathan Eze, alleged that the officials of the EFCC harassed innocent kids, daughters-in-law and other extended family members in the house.

He added that they took away cars, wristwatches and other valuables from the house during the raid.

Eze, in a statement on Tuesday, said, ‘‘This is against the fact that the anti- graft agency has never invited the ex-minister or any of his sons for questioning beyond the tirade and allegations its operatives have been propagating in the media space.”

He further said the vehicles driven away were cars and trucks bought since 2006 when Obanikoro served as an ambassador.

Also the EFCC has frozen a bank account allegedly belonging to a wanted ex-militant, Government Ekemupolo, otherwise known as Tompolo.

It was learnt on Tuesday that the anti-graft agency found N3bn in the account and had frozen it pending the outcome of court processes.

An operative of the anti-graft agency, who spoke to one of  our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said, “During investigations into the fraud at NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency), we traced about N3bn to a bank account, which is owned by Tompolo.

“The account has since been frozen in accordance with Section 34 (1) of the EFCC Act 2004 which empowers the commission to freeze any account suspected of being used for financial crimes.”

The source explained that the section stipulates that the chairman of the commission or any officer authorised by him might, if satisfied that the money in the account of a person was made through the commission of an offence under the Act or any enactment specified under Section 6(2) (a)-(f) of the Act, apply for the court exparte for power to issue or instruct a bank examiner or such other appropriate authority to freeze the account.

Tompolo, who has been on the run since February, was arraigned in absentia alongside a former Director-General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, and the latter’s six brothers on April 18, 2016, for an alleged N47.7bn fraud.

The anti-graft agency had arraigned the suspects before a Federal High Court in Lagos on 22 counts bordering on fraud, conversion of money and forgery.

The EFCC, in charge number FHC/L/C/31c/2016, alleged that the accused persons had sometime in 2014, within the jurisdiction of the court, with an intent to defraud, conspired among themselves and obtained the total sum of N47,683,464,822 from the Federal Government.

The accused persons were also alleged to have, between May 6, 2014, and December 2, 2014, forged and uttered a Certificate of Customary Rights of Occupancy of the old Bendel State of Nigeria, and purportedly issued same to NIMASA, claiming that it was issued by the Warri South Local Government Area, Delta State, to the prejudice of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

They were also alleged to have received sum of N11,900,000,000 from the Federal Government, by falsely pretending that all the land and its appurtenances lying and situated at Mieka Diva Training Institute, Kurutie, Warri South LGA, Delta State, be acquired by the NIMASA, for the temporary campus of Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Warri South.

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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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