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Ex-NAF finance chief returns N84m looted fund to EFCC

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  • As Sagay says there would likely be Soft landing for those returning the $2.1bn loot

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has recovered N84m from the immediate past Director of Finance and Budget of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore O. O. Gbadebo, The PUNCH has learnt.

A reliable source in the EFCC told one of our correspondents on Sunday that investigations revealed that the money was diverted from the account of the Air Force.

The source said the money was part of the money budgeted for the procurement of weapons.

Last week, the commission seized houses belonging to Gbadebo; the immediate past Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (retd.); and the Chief of Accounts and Budgeting of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal J.B. Adigun, all worth about N5bn.

The source revealed that after sealing off the houses, the EFCC continued to trace the money with a view to recovering the sums.

The source added, “After we sealed some properties last week, we continued to grill the three officers. Gbadebo finally confessed to diverting N84m into his company account. The money was swiftly recovered.

“We have also seized a large fish processing company belonging to Adigun. He also manufactures fish feeds, which he sells to end users.”

The source debunked reports making the rounds that the anti-graft agency recovered $1m from Amosu’s Badagry home when it was searched.

He explained that about $117,000 was recovered from the home of the ex-NAF boss.

The source added, “There have been reports that $1m was recovered from a soak away in Amosu’s Badagry home. This is not true.

“The actual amount recovered was about $117,000 and it was kept in a safe in the house and not in a soak away. The money is currently in our exhibit room. We also recovered N200, 000 in cash from the house.”

Explaining the modus operandi of the suspects, the EFCC detective explained that the suspects usually used their wives to carry out the shady deals.

He said before transferring money, the Air Force officers would use third parties to set up companies and bank accounts, to which their wives would be signatories.

It was learnt that the military officers would then make phantom transactions and transfer money into the bank accounts of the companies while their wives would take possession of the sums.

“Amosu’s wife, Omolara, was arrested when she came to see her husband in detention. She cooperated with us and we have also recovered money from the company. Adigun’s wife, Helen, also did the same.

“They have both been released,” the source stated.

About 11 Air Force officers are currently under investigation by the commission.

The source said Adigun had been released by the EFCC but did not say whether the NAF chief was released on bail or if he had returned any money to the anti-graft agency.

However, the spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, was unable to confirm the recoveries when one of our correspondents contacted him on the telephone on Sunday.

“The investigation into the arms scandal is still ongoing and I am not able to comment on specific recoveries,” he said.

Amosu and 10 senior officers are being probed by the EFCC as part of investigations into the $2.1bn arms scam, especially in relation to the 10 contracts of the NAF, said to be worth $930,500,690.00.

Last week, the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd.), was detained by the anti-graft agency.

Both Badeh and Amosu are answering questions on the non-specification of procurement costs, absence of contract agreements, award of contracts beyond authorised thresholds, transfer of public funds for unidentified purposes and general non-adherence to provisions of the Public Procurement Act.

Meanwhile, there were indications on Sunday that the EFCC reached a dead end on Saturday in its interrogation of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s ex-Aide-de-Camp, Col. Ojogbane Adegbe.

The PUNCH reliably learnt that the former ADC insisted on the presence of his lawyers during the interrogation by the operatives of the commission.

It was also gathered that Adegbe, as he did last week, refused to name the beneficiaries of N10bn he allegedly got from the Office of the National Security Adviser.

The money was said to have been diverted by the ONSA, under the stewardship of Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), from the Signature Bonus Account in the Central Bank of Nigeria.

An operative of the EFCC, who was part of the interrogating team, said, “We have not made any progress. The man is insisting that he can only make statements in the presence of his lawyers. He has also refused to name the Peoples Democratic Party chieftains who benefited from the N10bn.”

Another source explained that the EFCC decided to detain Adegbe and two other personnel of the Army since no lawyer was available to be part of the investigation.

The source added, “The man, I mean the former ADC to Jonathan, is still being detained by the men investigating the $2.1bn arms deal.

“The operatives are asking him to mention how much he received from the former NSA and to provide a list of politicians who received the funds from him but he has not done so. He is with two others.

“He requested that he could only make his own statements in the presence of his lawyers.

“So, the operatives investigating the case, decided to keep them (suspects) over the weekend.’’

In the meantime, Constitutional lawyer and  Presidential Anti-corruption Advisory Committee Chairman Prof. Itse Sagay has hinted of a possible soft landing for treasury looters and corrupt politicians, who return their shares of the $2.1 billion arms procurement and other loot traced to them.

Sagay, in an interview with The Nation in Warri, Delta State at the weekend, confirmed that some members of the past administration and other beneficiaries of the looted arms money were secretly making refunds.

He would, however, not disclose names of those making the refunds or how much has been recovered, saying: “If I knew (how much), I can’t tell you.”

The lawyer affirmed that “a lot of money has been recovered and the result of that is that such people are likely to be given soft landing”.

Sagay, who was in the oil city for his inauguration as a member of the Olu Advisory Council of Warri Kingdom, added: ”The President is much on course in the struggle, not only against corruption, but in the fight to stabilise this country and repair it for the march ahead towards development. I support what he is doing, because he is doing the right thing.”

He flayed those who accused President Muhammadu Buhari of making the fight against corruption his sole agenda.

His words:  “This is a fallacy that I hear all the time. In fact, Buhari is not personally involved in the anti-corruption war. Is he Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Code of Conduct? He is not the head of these agencies.

“There are ministers of Health, Education and others working round the clock so that the totality of governance is being covered and it is being promoted by these ministers and ministries.

“So many good things are happening and nobody is talking about those. In the next four years, we are going to have a modern and technologically high and scientifically involved society.

“So many people are working in different areas and he is not involved in the corruption battle. Many of us hardly see him because he is not directly involved, but we know what to do. He has put us, people in position; EFCC people and everybody is involved. That the EFCC is doing an excellent job does not mean that is the only thing going on.”

On the alleged “padding” of the 2016 Budget, Sagay blamed it on the civil servants, stressing that the Presidency had nothing to do with it. He also traced the problem to the migration from the previous budgeting method to the zero system.

“These allegations of padding came from the Civil Service, not from the Presidency. And from what I gathered, the President is upset and is determined to punish those responsible.

“We have been using envelop system for a long time and suddenly the zero sum system was introduced and they are not quite familiar with it. There is some confusion and not all the inconsistencies and disparities were deliberate.

“It has nothing to do with the President and you should know that he is a man who stands for the truth and whose integrity is known worldwide and he would not do anything that would become an embarrassment to the country,” he said.

Punch with additional report from Nation

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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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