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FOU Lagos May Stop Waylaying Containers On Highways

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  • As EFCC seizes N5bn houses of ex-NAF chief, Amosu, others

The Federal Operations Unit, an anti – smuggling arm of the Nigerian Customs Service in Lagos may soon stop waylaying containers on the road,  for the purpose of checking the appropriateness of duty payment,  even as it raises the bars,  in compliance with the mandate of the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC),  Col. Hameed Ali.

On the other hand,  it’s operatives,  based on intelligence,  would now stop and query suspected containers,  at the point of exit,  but right inside the Port.

Comptroller Umar (L) and PRO of FOU ‘A’-DSC Uche Ejetsieme (R)

Comptroller Umar (L) and PRO of FOU ‘A’-DSC Uche Ejetsieme (R)

This was sequel to a courtesy / brainstorming session held during the visit of the Zonal Coordinator, West of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA),   Sir John Alfred DanKatsina Office,  who led a delegation of Western zone chapters executives to the newly appointed FOU,  Zone ‘A’ Comptroller, Dahiru Umar at Ikeja on Wednesday, 10th February, 2016.

Dahiru Uman,  a versatile Comptroller, revealed that, on resumption, he had actually appraised the operational strategy of his unit and decided to stop picking containers on the roads, in view of the dangers to innocent members of the public around.

He assured that while cooperating with the commands within his jurisdiction to stop the import of offensive or controversial cargoes from exiting the ports, he would work for a synergy that would anchor a collaboration of critical stakeholders,  including the ANLCA,  stressing the need for ANLCA to weed out miscreants from its fold, who may precipitate integrity problems for the association.

Comptroller Dahiru Umar reiterated the general view held by the generality of Customs that the service holds ANLCA in high esteem, and therefore would expect nothing less than a continuing rise in ANLCA’s profile and an enhanced professional capacity building.

In his response, Sir John Ofobike, assured the comptroller of maximum support and cooperation of ANLCA with the Unit, for it to achieve its mandate. The FOU presented a souvenir to the Zonal Coordinator, West, as a mark of appreciation for the visit.

In the meantime, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has seized houses and other properties belonging to the immediate past Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (retd.), and other senior military officers worth N5bn.

Our correspondent learnt on Wednesday that the properties, which were seized in the Ikoyi, Ikeja GRA and Badagry areas of Lagos State, allegedly belonged to Amosu; the immediate past Chief of Accounts and Budgeting of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal J.B. Adigun; and Air Commodore O. O. Gbadebo, who was the Director of Finance and Budget at NAF.

A senior EFCC official, who did not want his name in print, told our correspondent that the suspects and others were cooperating fully with the anti-graft agency.

The source, who spoke to The PUNCH on Wednesday, in Abuja, said, “We have sealed a block of 12 luxury flats, located on Agodogba Street, Park View Estate, Ikoyi, belonging to Adigun. It is worth over N1.7bn. The same Adigun also owns another block of luxury flats on Sinari Daranijo Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. It is worth N1.8bn.

“A parcel of land, located on Bourdillon Drive, Ikoyi, worth N908m, belonging to Adigun has also been seized by the EFCC operatives.”

The source added that six other properties had been traced to Adigun, including a set of four terrace houses on Agede Street, off Aminu Kano in the Wuse 2 area of Abuja.

He stated that the properties traced to Amosu were located in the Ikeja area of Lagos metropolis.

The operative said apart from the buildings, Amosu’s vehicles had also been confiscated by the anti-graft agency.

He added, “Amosu confessed to owning an ultra-modern hospital on Adeniyi Jones Avenue in Ikeja. The hospital, St Solomon Health Care Limited, which is worth about N85m, has been sealed off.

“A house located on Adeyemo Alakija Street, GRA Ikeja, near the Ghanaian High Commission, which belongs to Amosu has also been sealed. It is worth over N200m.

“Amosu, who is from Badagry, also built a house in the area. That house has also been sealed off. I cannot state the worth of the house for now.

“We have also seized a bulletproof Toyota Sports Utility Vehicle and a Toyota Avalon, belonging to Amosu. He is cooperating with us.”

The detective said six other properties had been traced to Amosu, including one in Harmony Estate in Abuja.

The EFCC source said a block of flats, belonging to Gbadebo, had also been seized.

“Gbadebo was the assistant to Adigun. He is also helping with investigation. He owns a block of eight two-bedroomed flats in a border town between Lagos and Ogun states. He also has a fish pond in the compound. The building has also been sealed off,” he said.

Our correspondent learnt that as of Wednesday afternoon, detectives were still tracing and sealing off other properties.

Amosu and over 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.

On Monday, 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.

The source explained that the EFCC had been given 30 days by the court to do a proper investigation.

“We have obtained court order and holding charge; we can detain them. It subsists for 30 days. Hopefully, we will be able to charge them to court very soon.

“We are sending a message to civil servants because the era of impunity is over,” the source stated.

All attempts to get an official confirmation from the EFCC proved abortive as the spokesperson for the agency, Wilson Uwujaren, neither responded to repeated telephone calls nor a text message sent to his mobile.

The PUNCH exclusively reported on February 3 that the EFCC had asked the former Chief of Air Staff to refund some money or contract sums traced to him.

Since his detention, Amosu had been quizzed over the procurement of two second-hand Mi-24V Helicopters instead of the recommended Mi-35M series at a cost of $136.9m.

The helicopters were alleged not to be operationally airworthy at the time of delivery while a brand new unit of such helicopters costs about $30m.

Additional report from Punch

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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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