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Infractions: More Heads To Roll, As Customs Dismisses 17

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  • As Lawyer sues Buhari, DSS, AGF, others for N50bn, over Arrested Judges

In furtherance of his determination to sanitize the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hammed Ibrahim Ali has approved the dismissal of 17 Customs officers.

Some Senior officers are similarly awaiting same fate, as Ali finally rouses up, to severely punish infractions at every level.

The Maritime First was told the dismissed officers’ offences, committed between January and September 2016, ranges from drug addiction, certificate forgery, theft and absence from duty.

Customs Service image maker, Deputy Comptroller Wale Adeniyi who confirmed this also noted that the appointment of two other Officers were equally terminated over absence from duty, without authorization, while one officer was actually retired, also over drug abuse.

“Investigations into offences committed by the Officers in the senior category are now being concluded”, the image maker indicated, stressing that Officers found guilty are expected to face similar stiff penalties.

“These disciplinary measures were taken after series of  investigations and deliberations by the disciplinary committee and recommendations were made to the Management”, he explained further, adding that the process is a continuation of the reform agenda the  Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) had promised  upon his assumption of office emphasizing discipline, good  conduct and transparency.

In the meantime, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, has filed a N50bn suit against President Muhammadu Buhari, the Department of State Services and its Director-General, Lawal Daura, along with others for allegedly violating the rights of judges whose houses were raided by the DSS operatives between October 8 and 9.

Others joined as defendants in the suit, with number FHC/ABJ/CS/809/16, are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN); the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris; and the National Judicial Council.

Ogungbeje filed the suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday, October 14.

He alleged that the arrest of the judges without recourse to the NJC was unlawful and amounted to humiliating them.

He said the DSS operations violated the rights of judges under sections 33, 34, 35, 36 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution.

The plaintiff sought 10 prayers, among which is an order awarding N50bn against the defendants as “general and exemplary damages.”

He also sought to be awarded N2m as the cost of the suit.

The lawyer also sought an order compelling the DSS to return to the judges the sums of money reportedly recovered from them.

He also sought a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from arresting, inviting, intimidating or harassing the judges with respect to the case.

The DSS had, between Friday and Saturday, arrested Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court; Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and Justice Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba’s residence was also searched but he was not arrested.

Others, who were arrested, had been placed on suspension by the NJC pending the time Buhari and the various state governors would approve its recommendation for the sacking of the affected judges.

They are a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Tsamiya; and the judge of the Kano State High Court, Justice Kabiru Auta.

The DSS said it recovered large sums of money in Nigerian and foreign currencies from three of the judges during the raids on the houses of the seven judiciary officers.

The seven of them had since been released on self recognition by the DSS.

But Ogungbeje’s suit is restricted to five of the arrested judges, who are still in active service – Justices Ngwuta, Okoro, Ademola, Pindiga and Dimgba.

The plaintiff contended in his suit that the raids on the residences of the judges and their arrest were unconstitutional.

He maintained that the arrest of the judges did not follow the law.

He stated in a 39-paragraph affidavit, which he deposed to in support of the suit,

“That the 6th respondent (NJC) is the only body empowered by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to discipline judges and judiciary officers in Nigeria.

“That the judiciary is an independent arm of government in Nigeria and separate from the executive and the legislature.

“That this illegal and unconstitutional action by the 1st (President Buhari), 2nd (DG of DSS), 3rd (DSS), 4th (AGF), and 5th (Inspector-General of Police) respondents have been roundly condemned by the Nigerian Bar Association.

“That the 2nd (DG of DSS), 3rd (DSS), and 5th (IGP) respondents carried out their action which brazenly infringed upon the rights of the affected five judges without lawful excuse or recourse to the 6th respondent.”

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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