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FG holds 2-day economic summit from Monday

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  • As Data cleansing delaying budget – National Assembly

An economic retreat convened by the present administration to offer solutions to the current economic challenges facing Nigeria will hold on Monday and Tuesday next week. The retreat, being put together by the National Economic Council, which has the 36 state governors as members and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo as chairman, will hold in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

According to a statement on Thursday by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, President Muhammadu Buhari will deliver the keynote address during the retreat’s opening session on Monday. Akande said Osinbajo, being the chairman of NEC, which is an advisory body to the President, would preside over the retreat with governors from the 36 states of the federation attending.

Others expected at the meeting, according to the statement, are the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele; and the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, among other top government functionaries. The statement reads, “The objective of the NEC retreat is to provide a forum for in-depth discussions by NEC members of the policy actions that the states and the Federal Government can consider in order to stimulate local production, cut costs and enhance public revenues among other measures to stimulate the economy.

“Contrary to suggestions, the retreat is not an emergency national economic conference. “The idea was mooted at the last regular NEC meeting in January, where members requested an intensive session to review economic trends and evolve strategies to cope.”

The retreat, which was earlier fixed for March 10 and 11, was later put off to allow for more preparations on the part of the organisers. Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, had called on the President to summon an emergency economic meeting to chart a course to save the country from further drift. Soyinka, who made the call when he visited the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in Abuja, had said experts and consumers should be invited to the meeting.

“The President should call an emergency economic conference, with experts to be invited; consumers, producers, labour unions, university experts, professors, etc. I think we really need an emergency economic conference, a rescue operation, bringing as many heads as possible together to plot the way forward,” Soyinka had said.

Meanwhile, Buhari said the current economic crisis, plaguing the nation, was a blessing in disguise. Buhari said this at the opening ceremony of the International Islamic Conference on Peace and Nation Building in Abuja on Thursday. The President said through the hardship, Nigerians would be able to come up with ideas that would in turn lead to development.

He said, “The global economic challenges the world is grappling with today might well turn out to be a blessing for us in Nigeria, because it will stimulate the latent economic opportunities that we have left untapped for decades. “Poverty breeds disaffection, which in turn leads to crime and lawlessness, including confrontation against the state. To checkmate this, we must work hard to lift our economy, engage our youths and rebuild infrastructure.’’

Buhari lamented the level of official corruption in the nation, adding that it led to many years of hardship for Nigerians. He, however, promised to do everything possible to curb the menace. While declaring the conference open, the President commended the Jama’atu Izalatil Bid’a Wa Iqamatis Sunna and the Muslim World League for the event at a time when the nation was grappling with insecurity.

Buhari, who described Boko Haram as a mindless terrorist organisation, said the Federal Government was winning the fight against insurgency. He said once the war was over, the government would commission a sociological study to determine the origin, the remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, its international connections if any, to ensure that measures were taken to prevent a resurgence.

The President added, “The tragic paradox of the global insurgency situation is that most of the atrocities committed by various insurgents all over the world today are being carried out mainly by people who pretend to be Muslims, yet most of the victims and casualties are equally Muslims.

“No religion approves of such heinous crimes against humanity; definitely not Islam or Christianity, the two to which most Nigerians belong. “Religious leaders must intensify their efforts to send out the real teachings of their religion in order to counter the diabolical ideology that motivates the insurgent elements.”

In the meantime, the National Assembly again on Thursday failed to lay the report of the 2016 budget, saying it was still engaging in “data cleansing.” On Wednesday, the Joint Committee of the Senate/House of Representatives on Appropriation had also failed to keep its promise to produce the report, a prerequisite for passing the N6.07trillon budget.

Jointly addressing journalists on the development after a plenary on Thursday, the spokesperson for the Senate, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, and his counterpart for the House, Abdulrazaq Namdas, said the document was not ready for submission because the committee members were still engaging in ‘data cleansing.’

The spokespersons addressed journalists, just at The PUNCH learnt on Thursday that the Senate had produced a booklet containing the paddling and errors in the budget. They also said that the readiness of the budget next week depended on God and hope. Abdullahi and his colleague, however, assured Nigerians that the budget would be laid and passed on Tuesday next week because the National Assembly would not pass a budget that would be full of errors.

Abdullahi said, “As far as we are concerned, we have not failed. What is happening is the seriousness with which we take the 2016 appropriation. It’s such that we cannot also afford to make errors that will become very costly to this nation.

“We have finished all the necessary work within the context of the various committees. But remember when you do the paperwork, you have to also get the people who will sit down and check; what we call data cleansing and integration.” He added that the two appropriation committees (of both chambers) must integrate their reports, adding that the process was technical and tedious because the budget was a voluminous document.

Abdullahi added, “You will recall that we promised Nigerians that by today March 17, we will be able to pass the 2016 appropriation. Yesterday, (Wednesday) I also confirmed to you that today (Thursday), that same appropriation bill would be laid, barring any last minute technical hitches or otherwise.

“We are here to let you know that as of today, we are unable to lay the 2016 appropriation bill and thus we are hoping that by next week, the process will be completed. When I briefed you, I recalled you were asking if the passage would be completed by next week. And we said yes.

“When you lay the budget report, the next thing is for you to discuss it and get it passed. The two activities will be carried out next week God willing. And let me pre-empt you because I know you will say we have failed to keep to our promise.” The senator said that the lawmakers would not rush the passage of budget in an attempt to keep the promise, adding that what they owed Nigerians was a budget that would be implementable.

He added, “It’s a budget that will help to create jobs and stimulate our economic rebirth. So, that is what we have seen as a key objective and I want to assure you that for those of you who know statistics, in everything you do, you must give freedom for a degree of error.

“We are still working on the figures and we hope by the grace of God that the budget will be ready next week. “I am a Muslim, I say by God’s grace because He must play a role in anything we do. Hope because we are humans; we give chances for human errors,” he stated.

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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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