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Jonathan meets security chiefs over seized $9.3m



Pastor Oritsejafor confirms link with aircraft

President Goodluck Jonathan met yesterday with some security chiefs over the $9.3m arms deal that went away in South Africa, a source said.

Jonathan reportedly demanded “full briefing” on how South African security agents impounded the cash from two Nigerian and an Israeli in Pretoria after it was flown in by a private jet.

The Nigerians and the Israeli were said to have told security agents that the money was meant for some arms purchase.

Security chiefs, it was learnt, defended the arms deal as “legitimate”.

Also yesterday, the Federal Government and South African authorities appeared to have struck some understanding on the matter.

Based on diplomatic understanding, the aircraft, a Challenger, and the crew have been released.

But a top intelligence official yesterday claimed that the transaction was “legitimate” and the facts had been made available to the South African government.

He said the arms order was based on “urgent security” concerns in Nigeria.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that South Africa raised the alarm because of alleged abuse of protocol.

A highly-placed source said: “For more than five hours, the President met with some intelligence and security chiefs on the arms deal.

“The security chiefs took time to explain that urgent security issues warranted the direct purchase of the arms.

“The President opted for full briefing to avoid any backlash on his administration. It will also assist the government to come up with a clear position to the public. Now that the Presidency has the details, it is left to the government to clarify things.

“When the government speaks, you will get the details of what transpired on the $9.3million arms deal.”

South African police said yesterday that it investigating the cash haul – because the money was more than the amount travellers can bring into the country.  The cash was found stashed in the luggage of the two Nigerians and the Israeli, Eyal Mesika.

South African Customs officials said it confiscated the cash from the three passengers who landed on a private jet that flew in from Abuja at Johannesburg’s Lanseria airport.

Their bags were searched “after customs officials detected irregularities in the luggage,” said South African Revenue Authority spokeswoman Marika Muller.

The cash, packed in 90 blocks of $100,000 each, was discovered on September 5 in two black plastic suitcases, prosecutors said.

Mesika, had the combination lock code for the suitcases. Some cash was also found in Mesika’s hand luggage.

“The money was detained as it was undisclosed, undeclared and above the prescribed legal limit for bringing cash into the country,” said Muller.

The maximum cash allowance per traveller in South Africa is the equivalent of $2,285.

“Although various explanations about the money were given… these explanations were flawed and riddled with discrepancies,” said South Africa’s prosecution authority spokesman Nathi Mncube.

Police said no arrests had been made.

“We are still investigating,” police spokesman Solomon Makgale told French News Agency AFP.

Mncube said investigations had shown that a South African company, Tier One Services, had issued Cyprus-based ESD International Group Ltd an invoice for the “purchase of various armaments and helicopters”.

South African media claimed that the invoice had been found on one of the passengers.

“The goods were intended to be used in Nigeria,” said Mncube.

Prosecutors said the normal procedure for the procurement of equipment was not followed and that Tier One does not have permission to sell or lease military gear.

On its website, the company says it offers aviation, logistics, security and risk management support.

The government has begun diplomatic talks with South Africa on the case.

Another source said “the Federal Government has explained that the transaction was a product of legitimate and clean business.”

“All relevant documents relating to the transaction have been made available to the South African Government at the diplomatic level.”

“Security agencies of the two countries have also been exchanging notes on the case. The deal borders on serious security issues which cannot be released to the public,” he said.

A third security source gave background to the case at hand and why South Africa joined issues with the government.

The source added: “South Africa intercepted the cash because of non-declaration of the items at the airport. If the team had completed all formalities, no one would have heard of it.

“So, alleged breach of protocol by those on errands for the intelligence service in the country caused thus upset.”

Responding to a question, the source said: “The team went to South Africa with the huge sum because of urgent security concerns.

“Whether in the UK, USA or any other country, you make direct purchase of arms in a crisis situation like the ones we are in Nigeria.

“The same scenario is obtainable in Syria, Iraq and even in Gaza but no one talks of it.”

The source said: “We are streamlining the process, the cash will surely be made available to the relevant agents or firms in South Africa.

“The $9.3million was not a slush cash or smuggled for questionable pursuits in South Africa.”—The Nation

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners



…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



The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured



…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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