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Indian Hemp: Customs, Police Intercepts N200m Worth In Lagos, Kaduna

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  • As Naira plunges to record low of 345/dollar

The month of February may leave Indian hemp sellers dry,  as the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Western Marine Command, Lagos, intercepted a consignment of Indian hemp weighing 4,500kg with a market value of N150M Illinois.

The seizure which was recorded on February 9 and handed over to the NDLEA at the weekend was recorded at Igbo-Ojanla near Badagry.

But while seizure was being celebrated by the Customs in Lagos,  the Kaduna State Police Command was assembling to showcase 33 bags of Indian hemp and 34 baskets of hard drugs in Kaduna,  with a street value of about N50m.

The WMC Area Controller,  Yusuf Umar, noted that the seizure was made at the risk life and limbs of his officer,  noting that some of them actually got arrived office with deep matched cuts on their hands and backs.

Assuring that the Command would continue to live up to expectations,  he highlighted the Command recorded last year,  a total of 41 seizures of various items with a duty paid value (DPV) of over N72million, which was an increase of 78% in revenue, compared with the total number of 32 seizures with a duty paid value of N28,8million,  recorded  in 2014.

He subsequently handover the hemp to the Lagos State National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Commander, Alhaji Sule Aliquippa.

However in Kaduna,  the Commissioner of Police, Umar Shehu, who displayed the drugs, said police arrested over 150 suspects, who would be duly prosecuted in courts.

The commissioner added that the police also recovered 10 bags of Indian hemp in ‘Bagco bags’, 10 cartons of hard drugs and 17 jerry cans of liquid toxicant acid. Shehu, who thanked Governor Nasir el-Rufai for steering the campaign against illicit drugs said: “As you can see, we recorded this achievement in Kaduna town.

We will continue to do our best in containing this menace in view of the negative consequences of drugs in the society. “Hard drugs are a strong motivation to crime, rape and other vices and we will continue to do our best.

“As you know, the government of Kaduna State, under the leadership of Governor el-Rufai, has been supportive and we are grateful.”

Shehu added that the command would hand over the intercepted drugs to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA.

Governor El-Rufai’s spokesperson, Samuel Aruwan, who represented the state government, said: “Kaduna State government, under the leadership of Governor El-Rufai, will continue to support security agencies in the campaign against hard drugs and other acts undermining law and order in the state.”

In the meantime, the naira tumbled to a record low of 345 against the dollar at the parallel market on Monday, extending its depreciation from nine to 11 per cent in less than two weeks.

The naira had hit a record low of 338 against the greenback on Friday, a day after the Bankers’ Committee announced plans to stop providing foreign exchange for school fees and medical bills payment.

The naira, which has been on a free fall in the past few weeks, fell steadily from 310 last week Monday to 335 on Thursday at the parallel market.

The CBN has left the official exchange rate unchanged at N197 to the dollar on its official interbank window.

Foreign exchange linked the continued depreciation of the naira against the greenback and other major currencies at the parallel market to rising demand for forex by importers who have debt obligations overseas.

But experts and some forex dealers said the rising demand for the greenback in the past few days was speculative, adding that most people wanted to hold the dollar for fear that the naira might depreciate further.

The acting President, Association of Bureau De Change Operators, Aminu Gwadabe, said “We have legitimate demand from importers. However, people are also hoarding forex because they feel it may go beyond 400. Except there is a deliberate act to curb the activities of speculators, things may get worse.

“The current naira-dollar exchange rate is artificial; it is as a result of the negative perception about the naira, and the fear the naira may be devalued.”

Tumbling global oil prices have battered Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy, with the external reserves down to an 11-year low at $27.89bn on February 9, according to Reuters.

President Muhammadu Buhari is concerned that further depreciation of the currency will hurt poor Nigerians, but the CBN’s refusal to revise the pegged exchange rate has widened a chasm between the official rate and the parallel market rate.

Last month, the central bank halted dollar sales to the BDC operators and allowed commercial banks to accept dollar deposits in an effort to shore up dwindling foreign reserves.

Around 90 per cent of the nation’s foreign exchange earnings come from crude oil exports, but mismanagement of the refineries means the country must also import expensive refined fuel.

The Chief Executive Officer, Economic Associates, Dr. Ayo Teriba, said there were several ways the Federal Government could attract forex into the country to stabilise the naira, stressing that the currency needed not be allowed to depreciate to the current level.

Teriba had in January said rather than the government borrowing to fund critical infrastructure and hold on to its monopoly in sectors like rail, huge amount of forex could be attracted into the country if the sectors were opened up to local and foreign private investors.

The economist told our correspondent on Monday that there were deliberate actions the government could take to attract forex in the long and short terms.

The Managing Director, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, said it was high time the CBN came up with a policy that would address the forex crisis confronting the nation.

In an economic note released on Thursday, Rewane said, “Nigerians are perplexed at the endless slide of their currency, which is now trading at N325/$, the lowest point ever.

“This is happening even when the oil price is up at $31 per barrel. The debate on whether to devalue the naira is not the real issue. The discourse should be whether we need an exchange rate policy or not. The absence of a policy is a recipe for economic anarchy and a race to the bottom.

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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