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High cost of food items: Buhari orders release of 10,000 tonnes of grains

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IN a bid to counter food price increase and the intolerably high exploitation of common people by the trader-class, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered for national distribution, the release of 10,000 tonnes of grains from the national strategic grains reserves.

He also directed the Minister of Agriculture to ensure that all the able-bodied men and women in internally displaced people (IDP) camps be assisted to return to farming immediately.
Nigerian Tribune had, last Monday, reported a market survey depicting escalating food prices across the country.

According to a statement issued in Abuja, on Sunday, by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, this was coming as a reaction to calls for government measures to ease hardship associated with  hike in food prices.

The Presidency deflected blame that the current hardship was caused by the change agenda of the administration, saying that “the devastation of the economy was caused by the Boko Haram insurgency, corruption and the lack of planning by the past administrations and one that should not be blamed on the change agenda of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.”

The statement added that: “The Presidency firmly rejects the insinuations that poverty and lack are products of the Change mantra. This should be dismissed as an erroneous and misplaced opposition criticism.

“The President understands the pain and the cries of the citizens of this country and he is spending sleepless nights over how he can make life better for everyone.

“Contrary to assertions by a faction of the opposition Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), the president’s energy and focus are on changing the life of Nigerians, with a view to making it better than he met it.

“Change is a process. Change does not happen overnight. Change can be inconvenient. Change sometimes comes with pain. Over the past years, the government has been working night and day to deliver on its promise of change to Nigerians and the painful process is still ongoing.

“This is work in progress. As life gradually returns to normal in most parts of the country and the North-East in particular, agriculture will resume and traders from neighbouring African countries will once again feel safe to do business with us – yet another boost for our economy.

“But it is only when we appreciate where we are coming from that we will grasp the full meaning and essence of what the ongoing journey entails.

“It is estimated, for instance, that three North-East states alone have so far lost about N3 trillion ($9 billion) to the Boko Haram insurgency. The previous administration at the centre said Federal Government’s losses amounted to about $18 billion.

“It would have been a miracle for our country’s economy not to feel the effects of this. And, in addition to the thousands of lives lost to the insurgency, thousands have also lost their means of livelihood. The North-East region of Nigeria is a mostly agrarian society, which means Nigeria has lost billions of naira in agricultural produce.

“Many communities, which have had their yearly planting and harvesting cycle disrupted by Boko Haram attacks or occupation are still yet to return to their farms. In many of these communities, there has not been planting and consequent harvest for between two to five years.

“At the time the Buhari government came to power, about N600 billion was owed fuel marketers in subsidy payments. Strategic fuel reserves were depleted and local refineries were not functioning.
“One of the president’s first steps was to pay off the marketers, leaving an outstanding of about N150 billion which is captured in the 2016 budget. The Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries are being brought back to life. In a matter of time, Nigeria will resume refining its own fuel rather than depending on imports.

“As part of the permanent solution of recurring cycle of petroleum products shortages, government is working on a plan to ensure that some of the newly-licensed independent refineries start coming on stream from 2018.

“Government is also turning its attention to the sabotage of the oil and gas infrastructure that has taken so much away from the generation and distribution of electricity.

“Other ongoing plans for change include those for social investment. For example, one million poor and vulnerable Nigerians will soon receive monthly payments of N5,000 each to allow them live decently.
“This programme is designed to recognise the need for ordinary, poor Nigerians to also benefit from the resources of the country. President Buhari believes that the resources of our country should be spent also on the vast majority of our people who are poor and vulnerable and not squandered by government officials or the elite.

“This social investment plan is already provided for in the 2016 Budget. The World Bank has begun conducting a social register on poor and vulnerable people in Nigeria, by going to the four poorest local government areas and then the four poorest communities in those poorest local government areas.
“About seven to eight states have been completed already. Now the Presidency is working with the World Bank and the Bill Gates Foundation on how to identify the people to be paid the N5,000 and how they will be paid.

“This is the first time that the Federal Government of this country will be spending this much on social welfare for poor, bearing in mind that the money will go directly to the beneficiaries.

“Another programme, also included in the 2016 budget and also targeted at the poor, is the provision of soft loans to one million traders, market men, artisans, etc.

“These are not the kind of loans that require collaterals that the people can’t afford or provide. No. The loans will come through the Bank of Industry, but this has also been included in the budget.

“In addition to all these, 500,000 unemployed graduates will be directly employed as volunteer teachers but paid by the Federal Government to teach in their communities while they search for better jobs in their areas of expertise. 370,000 unemployed youths will also be trained in skills acquisition and paid while doing so.

“These are just some aspects of the change that Nigerians voted for, a change that is happening and which will soon be felt by Nigerians in every nook and cranny of our country,” the statement read.

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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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