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EFCC recovers N46b from oil marketers

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  • As Nine banks’ return fails to lift up naira

Oil marketers have refunded N46 billion in a probe of massive fraud in the sector, The Nation has learnt.

It is all part of the ongoing probe of the rot in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) source said yesterday.

The marketers, who are not named because “the investigation is yet to be concluded”, lifted products without paying a dime to the defunct Petroleum Products and Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the NNPC now known as the National Petroleum Marketing Company(NPMC).

The anti-graft agency busted the fraud after going through the company’s records.

A top source in EFCC, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, claimed that some of the marketers conspired with some staff of PPMC and NNPC to perpetrate the fraud.

The source said: “When we conducted our investigation, we discovered that the affected marketers sourced products from NNPC through PPMC  without paying for them.

“In some instances, these marketers got two or three supplies and paid for one. Through connivance, they cooked the books.

“We discovered that products worth about N100billion were lifted and unpaid for by marketers leading to the invitation and interaction with some of them.

“So far, we have been able to recover N46billion out of the N100billion which the nation had purportedly lost.”

The source expressed concern that the some forces within and outside NNPC and PPMC behind the syndicate almost frustrated the EFCC team probing the “fraud”.

“The cartel wielded enormous influence in the sector and it almost frustrated the investigation and the recovery. As a matter of fact, some forces in NNPC and PPMC did not want us to go this far.

In spite of the liberalisation of the process of obtaining foreign exchange, most marketers still rely on the NNPC for their supplies.

Our correspondent’s was unsuccessful in getting the response of the Managing Director of NPMC( former PPMC), Mr. Farouk Ahmed, to the recovery made by EFCC.

Apart from calls, a text message was sent to Ahmed.

He did not acknowledge  the calls and the  text message.

The EFCC in April quizzed a former Managing Director of PPMC over  some transactions and alleged purchase of houses  valued at N1.3 billion off Amazon in Maitama, Asokoro and Wuse districts in Abuja.

The petitioners alleged that the ex-MD acquired the houses in less than six months in office.

An ex-Officio member of the Kaduna chapter of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association (IPMAN),  Bako Abdullahi Yelwa, had in February alleged that a cabal had been at work in PPMC.

He said:   ”PPMC members of staff are frustrating Independent Marketers. Why will they ask for a percentage of our profit before giving us allocation? And when we refuse, they frustrate the process of getting our allocation. They only give product allocation to marketers that have given them a share of their profit upfront.

“For example, an Independent marketer gets an average of two allocations of Petrol (PMS) monthly and the profit from each truck is 80 thousand Naira. How can 160 thousand naira pay all my staff, service and maintain the stations and still keep me in business?”

In the meantime, the naira struggled throughout last week against the dollar despite expectations that Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) decision to re-admit suspended banks into the interbank market would lift the currency.

Nine banks were last month suspended from the forex market for failing to remit Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) dollars back to the CBN.

The action drove the naira way above N400 to one dollar. The banks have all been readmitted into the market after a most disruptive week.

Despite the re-admission of the banks, the expected convergence of exchange rates at the interbank and parallel markets currently remains far-fetched as the liquidity crisis in the currency market persists. The naira has lost nearly 60 per cent of its value this year despite the introduction of the flexible foreign exchange policy by the CBN.

At the parallel market, the naira last week traded between N423 to dollar and N425 to dollar from Monday to Thursday before eventually closing the week at N424 to dollar on Friday. Activity level at the interbank or official market waned compared to the previous week as the naira/dollar spot rate traded at a tight band of N314.20 to dollar and N314.92 to dollar between Monday and midweek, before appreciating to N308 to dollar on Thursday.

Managing Director Afrinvest West Africa Limited, Ike Chioke said the CBN intervened with dollar supply to the interbank market on most trading days of the week as autonomous suppliers remain scarce.

“In the futures market, despite the August 16 2017 Futures contract trading at N241 to dollar, the 1-Year forwards rate hovered between N352 to dollar and N354.70 to dollar during the week (save for Tuesday when it appreciated to N314 to dollar), implying a weaker expectation for future price of the naira.

In the week ahead (this week), we expect activity level at the interbank to stay soft on the back of the general holidays declared by the federal government. We also opine that the apex bank may continue to intervene at the interbank in the interim in order to clear up rising forex demands,” he said.

Managing Director, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Bismarck Rewane said the CBN may conduct stress tests as well as routine examinations on banks in light of growing non-performing loans and deteriorating asset quality due to naira weakness.

He said there is apprehension on the state of Nigerian banks and that the last released financial stability report was May 2016 for – December 2015 showed the lenders’ asset quality decline. He puts the industry ratio of non-performing loans (net of provisions) to capital increased to 7.4 per cent from 5.5 per cent.

These, Rewane attributed to unfavourable macroeconomic environment and exposure to the oil and gas sector adding that the naira weakness in the forex market and the abuse is a ticking political time bomb.

The country has been grappling with currency crisis since crude oil prices dropped by about 43 per cent from an average of $100.35 throughout 2014 to an average of $57.20 for the first six months of last year. It closed at $49.29 per barrel at the weekend.

Specifically, the drastic fall in the price of crude oil, which constitutes the largest component of Nigeria’s forex reserves has cut dollar earnings from about $3.2 billion monthly to about a billion dollar for the same period. This has negatively impacted on the value of the naira.

Some of the measures put in place by the CBN to end the crisis include the first Naira-Settled Over-the-Counter (OTC) Forex Futures Market (FFM) launched on June 27 with FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange and the introduction of flexible forex policy.

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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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