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Fresh arms scandal: 18 Generals to appear before EFCC Monday

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Eighteen military chiefs that President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to probe will start appearing before the commission on Monday.

Saturday PUNCH learnt that the commission had sent invitations to some of the Generals and the companies, whose names featured in the report submitted to the President.

A source in the commission stated, “We have sent invitations to many of them and as from Monday, they will start coming.”

President Buhari had on Friday directed the EFCC to carry out further investigation into the alleged misconduct established against some retired and serving officers of the Nigerian Air Force and Nigerian Army.

Those affected in the order include embattled former National Security Adviser, Col. ​Sambo Dasuki (retd.); former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd.); and two former Chiefs of Air Staff, Air Marshal MD Umar (retd.) and Air Marshal Adesola Amosun (retd.).

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, disclosed the President’s directive in a statement made available to journalists on Friday.

Shehu said the directive was based on the recommendation of the committee established to audit the procurement of arms and equipment in the Armed Forces and Defence sector from 2007 to 2015.

The total budget for procuring arms for the military within the period according to the Federal Government, is N1.67trn.

In its first interim report, the Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment established that the sum N643bn and $2.1bn interventions were received for procurements by DHQ and the services between 2007 and 2015.

He listed others that the President asked the EFCC to probe to include Maj.-​Gen. ​E.R ​Chioba (retd.); AVM​​ I.A​ Balogun (retd.); AVM ​A.G​ Tsakr (retd.); AVM​​ A.G​ Idowu (retd.);AVM ​A.M ​Mamu; AVM ​O.T ​Oguntoyinbo; AVM ​T. ​Omenyi; AVM ​J.B ​Adigun; AVM​​ R.A ​Ojuawo; AVM ​​J.A ​Kayode-Beckley; Air Cdre ​SA ​Yushau (retd.); Air Cdre ​A.O ​Ogunjobi; Air Cdre​ G.M.D ​Gwani; Air Cdre S.O ​Makinde; Air Cdre A.Y ​Lassa​; ​and Col. N ​Ashinze.

Shehu added that following the submission of the audit committee’s second interim report, the President had also directed the EFCC to investigate the roles of the officers as well as some companies and their directors in fundamental breaches associated with the procurements by the Office of the National Security Adviser and the Nigerian Air Force.

He gave the names of those affected to include ​Messrs Societe D’ Equipment Internationaux; Himma Aboubakar; Aeronautical Engineering and Technical Services Limited; Messrs Syrius Technologies; Dr. Theresa A. Ittu; Sky Experts Nig Ltd.; Omenyi Ifeanyi Tony; Huzee Nig. Ltd.; GAT Techno Dynamics Ltd.; Gbujie Peter Obie and Onuri Samuel Ugochukwu.

Others are ​Spacewebs Interservices Ltd.; Oguntoyinbo Tayo; Oguntoyinbo Funmi; Delfina Oil and Gas Ltd.; Chief Jacobs Bola; Mono Marine Corporation Nig. Ltd.; Geonel Intergrated Services Ltd.; Sachi Felicia; Mudaki Polycarp and Wolfgang Reinl.

The presidential spokesman said the breaches identified by the audit committee included 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.

He said, “Furthermore, the procurement processes were arbitrarily carried out and generally characterised by irregularities and fraud.

“In many cases, the procured items failed to meet the purposes they were procured for, especially the counter insurgency efforts in the North-East.

“​A major procurement activity undertaken by ONSA for NAF was that concerning the contracts awarded to Societe D’ Equipment Internationaux (SEI) Nig Ltd.

“Between January 2014 and February 2015, NAF awarded 10 contracts totalling nine hundred and thirty million, five hundred thousand, six hundred and ninety US Dollars ($930,500,690.00) to SEI Nigeria Limited.

“Letters of award and End User Certificates for all the contracts issued by NAF and ONSA respectively did not reflect the contract sums. Rather, these were only found in the vendor’s invoices, all dated 19 March, 2015.

“Additionally, some of the award letters contained misleading delivery dates suggesting fraudulent intent in the award process. The observed discrepancies are in clear contravention of extant procurement regulations.

“The SEI contracts included procurement of two used Mi-24V helicopters instead of the recommended Mi-35M series at the cost of one hundred and thirty six million, nine hundred and forty four thousand US Dollars ($136,944,000.00).

“However, it was confirmed that the helicopters were excessively priced and not operationally air worthy at the time of delivery. A brand new unit of such helicopters goes for about thirty million US Dollars ($30m). Furthermore, the helicopters were delivered without rotor blades and upgrade accessories.”

Shehu added that the helicopters were undergoing upgrade while being deployed for operation in the North-East without proper documentation.

He said it was further established that as at date, only one of the helicopters is in service while the other crashed and claimed the lives of two NAF personnel.

The presidential spokesman also said the committee established that ONSA also funded the procurement of four used Alpha-Jets for the NAF at the cost of seven million, one hundred and eighty thousand US Dollars ($7,180,000.00).

However, according of him, it was confirmed that only two of the Alpha-Jet aircraft were ferried to Nigeria after cannibalisation of engines from NAF fleet.

This, he added, was contrary to the written Amosu’s assertion to the former NSA that all the four procured Alpha-Jets aircraft were delivered to the NAF.

He said the non-militarisation of the Alpha-Jets made them unsuitable for deployment to the North-East and they are currently deployed only for training at NAF Kainji.

He added, “Furthermore, the procurement of the Alpha-Jets was contrary to the recommendation of the assessment team. The committee found that the conduct of Air Marshal Amosu was deliberately misleading and unpatriotic.

“The contract for the procurement of 36D6 Low Level Air Defence Radar for the NAF was awarded to GAT Techno Dynamics Ltd in April 2014 at the cost of thirty three million US Dollars ($33m) and was funded by ONSA.

“The committee established that the radars were excessively priced as a complete set of such radars (comprising six radars including the Control Centre) goes for six million US Dollars ($6m) averagely.

“The committee observed that the radars were delivered without the vital component of Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) that distinguishes between own and adversary aircraft, which has significantly degraded the operational capabilities of the NAF in the North-East.

“It was further observed that the sum of three million, three hundred thousand US Dollars ($3.3m) was fraudulently included in the contract agreement as VAT and withholding tax and subsequently paid into the bank accounts of Spacewebs Interservices Limited and Delfina Oil and Gas Limited.

“The committee further established that two million US Dollars ($2m) from the proceeds was transferred to Mono Marine Corporation Nigeria Limited, which is jointly owned by principal characters in this deal. The committee opined that the infractions of extant regulations by these companies were clearly intended to defraud.

“It was established that between September 2009 and May 2015, the NAF expended about fifteen billion Naira (N15bn) on the maintenance of its Alpha-Jets, C-130H aircraft and Mi-24V/35P helicopters.

“Of this amount, four billion, four hundred and two million, six hundred and eighty seven thousand, five hundred and sixty nine Naira, forty one Kobo (N4,402,687,569.41) was paid out for contracts not executed.

“It was also observed that in carrying out these maintenance activities, contracts worth over two billion, five hundred million Naira (N2.5bn) were awarded to Syrius Technologies, a Ukrainian company that was not registered in Nigeria.

“Regrettably, in spite of these expenditures, the status of NAF fleet remained operationally appalling as only three Alpha-Jets, two C-130H and one each of Mi-24V and Mi-35P were serviceable as of 28 May, 2015.”

Shehu also disclosed that in October 2013, NAF awarded contracts to DICON for the supply of weapons and ammunition at the cost of five hundred and ninety nine million, one hundred and eighteen thousand Naira (N599, 118,000.00).

He said only two of the seven items contracted were delivered to NAF while the outstanding five items remained undelivered despite repeated requests to DICON.

He said the committee also found that the delivered ammunition was about 40 years old, thereby casting doubts on their shelf life.

The failure of DICON to fully execute the contract and the delivery of aged ammunition, he explained, diminished the capacity of the NAF in North-East operation.

“The committee uncovered insider dealings by military officers in procurement activities undertaken by ONSA and the NAF. The officers were found to have misused or abused their offices for personal gains by influencing award of contracts to private companies in which they have substantial interests.

“For instance, an officer serving in the ONSA used his office to secure two contracts for his company, Geonel Integrated Services Limited for the protection of 20 Dams and Presidential Air Fleet security at the cost of six billion, two hundred and fifty million Naira (N6,250,000,000.00) and five million US Dollars ($5m) respectively.

“Furthermore, some NAF officers used their companies to collect VAT and Withholding Tax that were never remitted to FIRS while another officer was found to have cross transferred about Five Hundred Million Naira (N500m) between a NAF company, Aeronautical Engineering and Technical Services Limited, SkyExperts Nigeria Limited and Huzee Nigeria Limited, companies in which he had personal interests.

“In continuation of its assignment, the Committee has so far established that the nation spent about twenty nine billion Naira (N29bn) and two billion US Dollars ($2bn) on NAF procurement activities alone,” Shehu said.

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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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