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Ex-PDP BoT chair Haliru, son got N300m from ONSA without executing any contract – EFCC

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  • As Dasuki cries out: I’m not ready for trial

A Federal High Court in Abuja heard yesterday how former Chairman, Board of Trustee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Haliru Bello and his son, Abba Bello were paid N300m by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) without evidence of any contract executed.

The court was told that Bello allegedly received the money, using his son’s company – BAM Project Limited – through which the funds were later distributed to individuals for PDP’s last electioneering activities.
A female operative with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rouqayya Ibrahim, who disclosed this why testifying in the trial of Bello, his son and BAM Project, said she was involved in the investigation of the case against the three defendants.

Rouqayya, who was the 1st prosecution witness, said although, Abba initially denied knowledge of the lodgment of the N300m into his company’s account from the ONSA, he later admitted upon calling his father.
Led in evidence by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the witness gave details of how the money was later distributed, through Abba’s company’s account with Sterling Bank.

“After the analyses of the BAM Project’s account, we visited the office of BAM Project in Wuse Zone 4 , Abuja, with the purpose of finding out the purpose of the payment from ONSA. When we got there, Abbah Bello, the owner of the company was not around. We called him on the phone through his brother. He came and met us in his office. After which we invited him to our office for interview.

“He was arrested and thereafter, I recorded his statement after administering words of caution.
In the course of our interview with him, initially, he denied knowledge of the N300m that was paid into his account.
“After he spoke with his father, who was away then, he admitted that he gave his father the name of his company and that the payment was made on the instruction of his father for the PDP election 2015.

“We also confronted him with the disbursement of the funds from his account and he stated that the disbursement was made on the instruction of his father for the purpose of the election. He also stated that the three companies -Kumu Gomo, Northpole and Hijrah Textiles – were given to him by his father and transfers made to the companies were on his instructions

“From forensic analyses of Abbah Bello’s telephone, text messages between him and his father confirmed the instructions given to him by his father for payment of monies to the companies. During the course of interview with Abbah Bello, I specifically asked him if he or his company (BAM Project) had done any contract for the Office of the National Security Adviser so as to confirm why his company was paid by ONSA. And he said his company did not carry out any contract for ONSA,” she said.

Rouqayya, a Forensic Analyst with the EFCC, said investigation revealed how the 1st and 2nd defendants (Bello and his son) allegedly distributed the money, using BAM Project’s account.
“Our analysis reveals that on March 17, 2015, N300m was creditted into Bam Project and Properties Limited with Sterling Bank.

“The payment was paid as a result of Mr. Haliru Bello (third defendant) supplying the name of the company to Mr. Bashir Yuguda, former Minister of State for Finance for the purpose of payment for the PDP 2015 elections. During the course of investigation, the N300m from ONSA was paid on March 17, 2015
“On the March 18, 2015, out of the N300m, about N137m was disbursed to Kumu Gumo Limited of about N137m. And on the same date (March 18), North Pole Limited received a little over N178m. Then on March 23, 2015, Hijrah Textiles Limited was paid a little over N163m.

“Then on March 26, 2015, Abba Bello (1st defendant) the owner of the company (BAM Project) and the sole signatory to the accounts made a cash withdrawal of N20m in two tranches of N10m each.“
“On May 28, 2015, he (Abba Bello) made a transfer of N50m into another of his account. On the same day, he made another transfer of N50m in five tranches of N10m each on the same day, paid to Abuja Geographical Information System for the purpose of mass housing development.

“Then on the same day, another transaction of N2m was made to Julius Berger Plc for the purpose of supplying furniture for his (Aba Bello’s) client. Another payment of N5m in May 2015, was made to Archi Plus for services rendered to Abba Bello and his company,”
The trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed admitted as exhibits the statement and other documents of Sterling Bank Plc relating to the account of BAM Project and Properties Limited after overruling objections by defence lawyers to the admissibility of the documents.

Rouqayya is expected to resume her testimony on March 23. Meanwhile Bello, who was always attending court in wheelchair, came in yesterday without a wheelchair. He had with him a walking stick and was supported by his doctor.

In the meantime, former National Security Adviser, NSA, Sambo Dasuki,  has said he was not ready for trial until the Federal Government complied with an order of the Federal High Court granting him bail.

Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.): Former NSA In November 2015, Justice Adeniyi Ademola had granted Dasuki bail but the Department of State Services, DSS, rearrested him immediately after his release from Kuje prison.

Counsel to the DSS, Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), announced to the court, yesterday, that the prosecution was ready for trial to commence.

But Joseph Daudu, counsel to Dasuki, said the defence counsel was not ready to proceed with the trial because the Federal Government was still keeping the accused person in detention, despite an order of the court granting him bail.

He said: “We cannot be ready for trial until the defendant enjoys his constitutional rights.  We apply that we should be given time to prepare the defence.

The conduct of the prosecution has not enabled him to enjoy his constitutional rights. The worst thing is that for about seven weeks we have had no idea of his whereabouts.”

However, Okpeseyi argued that the prosecution was not stopping Dasuki from enjoying his freedom, saying the accused person was not allegedly held for the charges before the court.

He, therefore, asked the court to reject the request for adjournment and to commence trial. But the court adjourned till March 3 for the hearing on a motion to discharge Dasuki.

Upshot with additional report from Vanguard

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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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