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Fashion Designer: Blame Government For NIMASA Looting- Stakeholders

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  • As EFCC gives Obaigbena two-week ultimatum to refund N670m

Nigerian Maritime Stakeholders may not only be sad that the last Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director General, Ziakede Akpobolokemi’s team laundered out over N570m through a fashion designer, they are also convinced that Government’s act of putting square pegs in round holes, caused it.

A fashion designer, last week, while offering evidence on behalf of the EFCC, said Akpobolokemi’s team miraculously paid into her bank account, a whopping sum of N570m, as part of a bid, to pilfer money, out of NIMASA coffer.

“It is saddening that money meant for cabotage ship repairs was so recklessly mismanaged, but to scratch beyond the surface, we must blame the Government”, observed a member of the Nigerian Ship-owners Association (NISA), who spoke on conditions of anonymity.

“A whopping N570m was dished into a fashion designer, at a time when several registered cabotage vessels were becoming unsea-worthy, over stipends!

“It is the fault of the Government. What do you expect, when you put square pegs, in round holes? Don’t we have better hands within the Nigerian maritime industry?

“What was the Government expecting to happen, when it foisted on NIMASA, a University teacher, whose major credential was that he came from a riverine State?”, he asked, noting that aside from highly capable industry gurus who could do Nigeria proud; even the agency, as at that time, had better hands than the former Director General.

Speaking in the same vein, an industry watcher, Anthony Emeordi noted the insincerity of successive Governments in Nigeria, both in terms of policy implementation and information presentation.

“Take a good look on the explanations behind the quashing of Okerenkoko university of Maritime, and you would see several unexplained loose ends.
Why should a government doing the right thing fail, in giving adequate explanations, for its actions?” Emeordi asked, urging Government on the need to put professionals on professional seats.

It would be recalled that Akpobolokemi was a university teacher, on commercial subjects, lacking all maritime exposures, when he was appointed to head the agency.

Meanwhile, as the ongoing probe of $2.1billion arms deals continues, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday gave “ThisDay” publisher  Prince Nduka Obaigbena a two-week ultimatum to refund N670million allegedly collected for unexecuted contracts.

Obaigbena told investigators that he never  benefitted from slush funds from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

He said the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan paid the said sums to “ThisDay” and the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) as compensation for the bombing of the newspaper house by Boko Haram  and the seizure of copies of many newspapers by the military.

He said there was a presidential proclamation by former President Jonathan that “ThisDay” will be compensated for the loss to Boko Haram.

He said Jonathan made the pledge after an inspection visit to the newspaper.

Obaigbena was quizzed for two days on the activities of General Hydrocarbons and  inflow into the company’s account from ONSA.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “What we are investigating is General Hydrocarbons. Records from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) indicated that Nduka Obaigbena is a director of the company.

“ONSA reported that General Hydrocarbons was one of the companies that received payments purportedly for contracts without contract documents or approval.

“Between December 8, 2014 and May 23, 2015, Obaigbena received N670million from ONSA. The reasons stated on the payment mandates are as follows: First tranche of N150million(environmental security project) and the remaining tranches(payment for  energy consultancy)

“Obaigbena said he was paid compensation of N550 million for the bombing of “ThisDay” office in Abuja but there is no nexus between this payment and the money he collected for contracts. None of the sums shows that what he got from ONSA was compensation.

“The complaint before us is that the company was given money without contractual agreement.

“By all records, Obaigbena was paid for unexecuted contracts. It is government’s funds and he has to refund the N670million, “ an EFCC official said last night.

Another source privy to the investigation said: “The EFCC has given Obaigbena a maximum of two weeks to refund the amount he collected from ONSA.

“Obaigbena has signed an undertaking to refund the money in question. The anti-graft commission has  also granted him an administrative bail.”

On the payment made to NPAN, the source simply  said: “Investigation is still in progress.”

The source added that EFCC operatives were courteous and Obaigbena was friendly and unperturbed during the investigation.

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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