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ISIS Accepts Boko Haram, FG Drafts Mercenaries to Fight Sect

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Senator Iroegbu in Abuja with agency reports
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has accepted a pledge of allegiance to the group made by Boko Haram, according to an audiotape purportedly released on Thursday from its spokesman.

“We announce to you to the good news of the expansion of the caliphate to West Africa because the caliph… has accepted the allegiance of  our brothers of the Sunni group for preaching and the jihad,” IS spokesman Mohammed al-Adnani said in the message, using the Arabic name of the Nigerian terror group.

ISIS has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria and declared an Islamic “caliphate” there, and has also drawn expressions of allegiance from jihadists in Egypt and Libya.

On Wednesday, President Goodluck Jonathan had said fighters from insurgent group Boko Haram had travelled to the Middle East for training with ISIS militants.

Jonathan declined to name the countries where the fighters were allegedly trained. But in an interview with VOA, he said he’s long suspected Boko Haram of having alliances with international extremist groups.

“So we know the links are there. But even now, we may not know the degree of linkages as to how much funds are coming in from them, the kind of volume of weapons coming in from them, the nationalities coming from them,” Jonathan said.

“Some of the Boko Haram members go to have their training in the ISIS camp and come back.”
ISIS’ acceptance of Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance, came on the heels of reports that the Nigerian government is believed to have brought in hundreds of mercenaries from South Africa and the former Soviet Union (possibly Ukrainian) to give its offensive against the Nigerian terror group a shot in the arm before the general election, according to regional security, defence and diplomatic sources.

According to Reuters, rumours about the use of foreign “soldiers of fortune” against the Islamist militant group gained substance this month when pictures surfaced on Twitter showing armoured vehicles rumbling along a street in what was said to be Maiduguri, the Borno State State capital.

In one photo that appeared on Twitter on March 6, a white man in a Khaki T-shirt and body armour was shown beside a heavy-calibre machine gun on top of one of the sand-coloured vehicles as the column drives through the streets at dusk.

A Reuters reporter with knowledge of Maiduguri was able to verify the location of the photo as the Bama road, leading southeast out of the city, near the University of Maiduguri.

Election campaign posters of Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima hanging from street lights indicate it was taken recently. The lights, notable for their ornate ironwork, were only installed last year.

In confirming the presence of hundreds of foreign military contractors on the ground, including recently in the city of Maiduguri, security and diplomatic sources put the total number much higher than the hundred or so previously reported.

National Information Centre (NIC) spokesman Mike Omeri declined to comment, referring questions to Defence Headquarters (DHQ) spokesman Chris Olukolade, who also declined to respond to multiple requests for comment.

In an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) late on Wednesday, President Goodluck Jonathan said two companies were providing “trainers and technicians” to help Nigerian forces. He did not name the firms, or the nationalities, or give numbers.

But a West African security source and a South African defence source said the foreign troops were linked to the bosses of former South African private military firm Executive Outcomes.

Executive Outcomes was best known for its involvement in Angola`s 1975-2002 civil war and against Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in an internal conflict in Sierra Leone in 1995. It was disbanded in 1998 under pressure from the post-apartheid government in Pretoria to curtail mercenary activities.

Executive Outcomes founder Eeben Barlow, a Lt-Colonel of the South African Defence Force, was in the 1990s linked to Tony Buckingham, a former British mercenary, Lafras Luitingh and Simon Mann, the one-time Scots Guard who subsequently gained notoriety for leading the Wonga Coup in the oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

The coup d’etat was targeted at overthrowing the country’s president, Teodoro Obiang, and installing opposition leader, Severo Moto, in exchange for unrestricted access to the country’s oil riches.

Today, Buckingham, through his company Heritage Oil and its local partner Shoreline Energy International, owned by a Nigerian Kola Karim, operate the prolific Oil Mining Lease (OML) 30, which they acquired from Shell in 2012 after business mogul Mike Adenuga failed to pay for the block.

The West African security source said several hundreds of foreigners were involved in running major offensive operations against Boko Haram, and were being paid around $400 a day in cash.

Their impact on the fighting so far could not be quantified, but the general run of the campaign has seen the tide turn somewhat against Boko Haram in recent weeks.

Separately, a South African defence contractor confirmed to Reuters that ex-Executive Outcomes leaders were involved in the deployment, which comes after the six-week postponement of elections in mid-February due to the threat from Boko Haram.

One Abuja-based diplomat said the South Africans were backed by soldiers and hardware from the former Soviet Union in an alliance against Boko Haram, which has killed thousands of people in its six-year campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria.

“It’s an incoherent mix of people, helicopters and random kit from all sorts of different sources, but there is an element of internal cohesion from the Nigerian army,” the diplomat said.

“It appears to be a desperate ploy to get some sort of tactical success up there in six weeks for the electoral boost,” the diplomat added. The numbers of soldiers involved were in the “low hundreds”, the diplomat added.

John Stupart, editor of African Armed Forces magazine, identified the troop carriers as Reva III, manufactured by a Pretoria-based company called Integrated Convoy Protection.

After reports of South African military trainers first surfaced in the Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper in January, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapise-Nqakula made clear her displeasure, saying any deployment would be illegal under 1998 anti-mercenary laws.

“They are mercenaries, whether they are training, skilling the Nigerian defence force, or scouting for them. The point is they have no business to be there,” she was quoted as saying by the South African media this month.

South Africa bans its nationals from participating directly in hostilities for private gain. Georgia, seen as a major source of mercenaries, has laws before parliament criminalising participation in a broad range of foreign military activities.

Reuters was unable to reach the former bosses of Executive Outcomes through military contacts in South Africa.

The appearance of foreign private soldiers comes four months after Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States said Washington was not helping the struggle against Boko Haram, and had failed to share intelligence and sell Nigeria the weapons it needed.

The presence of mercenaries from South Africa and the former Soviet Union adds to the broad array of forces lining up against Boko Haram, which has emerged in the last few years as sub-Saharan Africa`s biggest security threat.

Chad, Niger, Cameroun and Benin have committed troops to an 8,700-strong regional force. This week, Chad and Niger launched a joint military offensive deep into Nigerian territory.

US and European special forces have just completed three weeks of war games with regional counterparts near Lake Chad, one of the boundaries of a Boko Haram sphere of influence thought at one time to be the size of Belgium.

However, as more information emerged on the involvement of South African mercenaries in the fight against Boko Haram, the country’s Defence Ministry said yesterday that they might face prosecution for violating the laws of South Africa.

According to Joy Peters, spokeswoman for the South African Ministry of Defence, “We don’t have deployment in Nigeria,”

“Any South African involved in the conflict in Nigeria are not under our authority as the South African National Defence Force. We refer to them as mercenaries. The National Prosecuting Authority and the police would have to investigate them,” she told Bloomberg on the phone yesterday.

Meanwhile, Leon Lotz, 59, a private security contractor with South African military experience, was killed with his Namibian manager and five Nigerian soldiers when they came under attack in Bama, Beeld newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing his wife Almari.

His wife also told Netwerk 24 in South Africa that her husband knew what his mission might entail.

“He went into it with eyes wide open. Luckily he died instantly, which every soldier would want, instead of suffering,” she reportedly said.

Lotz and five Nigerian soldiers were killed when they were fired at, at a roadblock near Maiduguri on Monday.

His commander from his days with counter-insurgency unit Koevoet during the border war with Namibia, identified only as “Nangombe”, was also reportedly killed.

Lotz is the second South African to die there after another man died of a heart attack six weeks ago.

His wife said he had resigned from work in Iraq to go to Nigeria. He was due home on Monday for a rest.

“I have peace in my mind that he did what was in his blood. Everything just feels so unreal,” she said.

She said their son Leon, 22, was proud of his father.

A member of the Civilian JTF in Maiduguri also disclosed that Lotz was killed by friendly fire during operations against Boko Haram in Bama.

The vigilante, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, said the man died on Wednesday as Nigerian Army soldiers fought to recapture the town of Bama, in Borno State.

“He was killed when a convoy he was travelling with was mistaken for that of Boko Haram insurgents, which prompted a military tank to open fire,” he added.

A military officer, who also requested anonymity, confirmed the account, describing the death as “friendly fire”.

At least 100 ex-South African soldiers are operating in Nigeria, the Johannesburg-based newspaper reported last month.

“We haven’t heard anything about these people,” Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said by phone from Pretoria.

South Africa sold six armed personnel carriers to Nigeria last year, the Pretoria-based National Conventional Arms Control Committee, which monitors the nation’s weapons sales, said in its annual report.

The involvement of foreign mercenaries came just as Nigeria’s armed forces killed more than 80 Islamist insurgents hiding in forests in Bauchi State.

A combined force of military and local hunter groups raided the Yuga forest at 5 pm on Wednesday, leading to the arrest of local militant leader Kabiru Gombe and seven others, Tijjani Mai Giwa, a hunter militia member who assisted in the ambush, said by phone to Bloomberg from Bauchi.

“The dead bodies we are able to count are 80, but there are more others that could have died from bullet wounds in the forest far away from the scene,” Giwa said.
Separately, Nigeria’s army said it cleared the Lame-Burra forest on Wednesday in Bauchi State.

Nigerian troops thursday also succeeded in clearing terrorists out of Madagali, which is the last place held by the terrorists in Adamawa State.

Olukolade, who has been on a tour mission in the North-east, disclosed that there were no casualties on the side of the Nigerian forces, which included the army, air force and other security agencies.

Mop up of the area was ongoing, DHQ said and promised that more details would be provided.

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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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