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“I won’t Come”, says Judge summoned by Senators over Saraki’s trial

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  • As Nigeria seeks consensus on oil production freeze

Senators may have set the stage for a major confrontation between them and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over Senate President Bukola Saraki’s trial for alleged falsification of assets.

The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions yesterday summoned CCT Chairman Justice Danladi Umar over allegations of corruption against him. The invitation, coming on a day Justice Umar said Saraki’s trial will run daily,  appeared a new twist to the matter.

In a letter signed yesterday by the Clerk of the Committee, Freedom Odolo,the Senate asked Justice Umar to appear unfailingly by 2pm on Thursday. But Justice Umar replied the committee that he has a court sitting on Thursday and throughout the week. He said he would not be available until after the court sittings, which is on Saraki’s trial.

The invitation letter was delivered to the CCT chairman shortly after he ruled that the tribunal will be sitting daily from 9am to 6pm. The committee said: “Your letter with reference number CCT/HQ/ 126/S/ 111/ 515 dated 1st April, 2016 in which you requested for more time to enable you attend the hearing was received.

“After due consideration of your request, the Committee rescheduled the hearing to give you at least two weeks from the 4th of April when you should have appeared. “Accordingly, you are now required to appear unfailingly as follows: Thursday, 21st April, 2016, Meeting Room 120 New Senate Building, National Assembly Complex. Time: 2pm “Please, remember to come personally along with 12 copies of any written submission you may wish to present.”

A source said: “The battle line is drawn between the Senate and the CCT chairman. Some Senators are angry over his decision to allow the tribunal to sit from 9am to 6pm. “They saw the CCT Chairman’s decision as a plot to deny Saraki any opportunity to preside over the Senate plenary throughout his trial. “Now, these Senators have also launched a counter-attack against the CCT chairman by revisiting the outstanding petition against the judge.

“Shortly after the CCT chairman decided to be sitting daily till 6pm,  a letter came from the Senate Committee inviting Justice Umar on the outstanding petition against him.” But a source in CCT said: “The judge has asked the Registrar of the tribunal to write the Senate committee that he has a court sitting on Thursday and throughout the week and won’t be able to honour the summons. “The CCT Chairman’s letter was sent last night to the committee.

In the meantime, Nigeria has urged Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members to find a consensus on a freeze on oil production after talks among producers collapsed in Qatar on Sunday, the oil ministry said on Monday.

A deal to freeze oil output by OPEC and non-OPEC producers fell apart on Sunday after Saudi Arabia demanded that Iran to join in despite calls on Riyadh to save the agreement and help prop up crude prices, Reuters reported.

“We are just going to work on it,” Reuters quoted Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, as saying in a statement issued by his ministry.

“It is a supply and demand issue and we need to consult and bring everybody into the circle and thank God that a committee is now in place to try and work towards getting everybody on board,” he said.

Nigeria has been in the forefront of trying to get a consensus among producers to freeze output as a slump in oil revenues has hit its public finances and currency.

 The Nation with additional report from Upshot

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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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