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Killer herdsmen may be Boko Haram affiliates –Buratai

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The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, has said some of the killer herdsmen, who had wreaked havoc in Benue, Enugu and Ekiti states among others, may have affiliation with the Boko Haram insurgents.

He said this on Thursday in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, when he paid a courtesy visit to the governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, at his Oke Mosan office.

Buratai, who was also visiting Army formations in the state, said this probability was already being investigated as the troops continued their onslaught on the insurgents in the North-East.

He, however, called on all Nigerians to be security conscious and report any suspicious movement of persons in their communities to security agents.

The Army chief added, “One may not be too far from the fact that some of these herdsmen that are attacking communities across the country may have some affiliation with the Boko Haram terrorists.

“This we are further investigating and also pursuing them so that we can address the situation.

“Let’s report quickly movement of suspicious persons carrying arms especially. If you suspect any individual within your community, we should be able to report immediately. Timely information is very important.

“We have our troops deployed in certain areas and I believe the Police are working with them to be able to tackle any challenge that comes in immediately.”

Buratai, who explained that the insurgents had been largely defeated, said there was no community in the North-East under the sect’s control.

He said, “Our troops are patrolling all those places and we are coordinating with the Multinational Joint Task Force to ensure that the borders are well secured and are blocked from any infiltration.”

Amosun, who called for the creation of a Nigerian Army Division in the state, said the population of the state had increased to over seven million just as the economy of the state had also expanded tremendously.

He commended the military for the successes recorded against the Boko Haram terrorists.

“Nigerians are now happy with the military. We are happy that normalcy has returned to the North-East region even to the point where Emirs, who had earlier had to run away from their domains, have now returned,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Benue State Government on Thursday raised the alarm that the “systematic” attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Agatu and other local government areas in the state were part of a plot by foreign insurgents to occupy Nigeria.

It called on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to nip the development in the bud before it spiralled into another B’Haram insurgency, which it pointed out could be “10 times the scale of what we witnessed in the North-East.”

The Benue Government told a panel of the House of Representatives that the aim of the “bigger agenda” was first to weaken the Middle Belt of Nigeria, particularly Benue State, before expanding to the South-East, South-South and the South-West.

The Deputy Governor of the state, Mr. Benson Abonu, who presented the position of the government to the committee in Abuja, disclosed that intelligence suggested that insurgents dislodged from Mali had moved into Nigeria with the mission of occupying communities.

“There is a national dimension to it, which indicates that they are headed for the South-East, South-South and they are already in the South-West in Ekiti State,” Abonu added.

He called on the Federal Government to treat the matter more seriously than the present approach that tended to situate it as mere clashes between herdsmen and farmers.

Abonu noted that if the government sought to maintain that it was mere clashes, the solution should be to restrict herdsmen to ranches as practised in other climes.

The deputy governor added, “Our stand is that the solution is ranches, ranches and ranches.

“Cattle breeding is a private, professional business that should be devoid of government involvement.

“It is a private affair of the cattle owners; so, they should seek permission from land owners to build their own ranches in their own localities.”

Some lawmakers from Benue State, including Mr. Dickson Tarkighir, Mr. Adamu Entonu and Mr. Terse Gbillah, also made presentations to the committee, recalling the sad experiences of the attacks on the Agatu, Buruku, Gwer-West/East, Makurdi, Katsina-Ala, Kwande and Logo local government areas.

For instance, the Spokesperson for the Benue Dialogue for Peace and Dialogue, Mr. David Ogbole, informed the committee that herdsmen had already occupied “15 out of the 23” local governments in the state.

“They kill, burn down houses, take over farm-lands and occupy”, Ogbole stated.

On its part, the Mdzough U Tiv, the umbrella body of the Tiv people of Benue State, demanded N100bn compensation from the Federal Government for the lives and property lost in parts of the state.

The President-General of the group, Chief Edward Ujege, who addressed the committee, also demanded the immediate eviction of the herdsmen from Benue State.

He disclosed that in 2014 alone, 883 persons were killed, while 23,324 persons were displaced.

According to Ujege, property worth N31.4bn was lost in 2014.

He added that between 2015 and this year, more than 170 lives were lost in Tiv land, besides the 500 hacked to death in Agatu in March.

He said, “The attackers are well trained in modern warfare and highly motivated. They use sophisticated weapons and are brutish in their attacks, killing all humans that are in sight, including women and children.”

The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, who also appeared before the committee, told the committee how he held strategy meetings with the governors of Benue and Nasarawa states as well as holding town hall meetings with Fulani herdsmen and farmers.

Arase claimed that due to his professional leaning, he needed to handle the issue more carefully with the sole aim of achieving peaceful resolutions.

But not satisfied with Arase’s position, the Haliru Jika-led committee sought to know why the police had hardly arrested and prosecuted any herdsmen for the atrocities they committed over the years.

The IG claimed that the police arrested 18 suspects in connection with the Agatu killings, but added that they were not prosecuted because the police could not get enough evidence.

“Eighteen suspects were arrested. But, I don’t have to go on air to malign them until there is sufficient evidence to prosecute them,” he added.

He also disagreed with the alarm raised by the Benue State Government that insurgents were plotting to overrun Nigeria.

“There is nowhere in security history, that hoodlums overrun a state and the Nigerian state cannot be an exception”, Arase argued.

No member of the Miyeti Allah Cattle Rearers Breeders, the umbrella body of the herdsmen, attended the session on Thursday.

Also, the Executive Director of Stefanos Foundation, Mr. Mark Lipdo, said on Thursday that the increase in the attacks on communities by Fulani herdsmen might dwarf the successes the Federal Government had recorded against the Boko Haram insurgents.

In a report prepared by the foundation, a copy of which was obtained by The PUNCH in Jos, Lipdo said there were 233 attacks with Boko Haram responsible for 149 and 84 attributed to Fulani herdsmen between 2014 and 2015.

He added that under the Muhammadu Buhari administration, the attacks stood at 198, in which Boko Haram carried out 94 while the attacks by Fulani herdsmen increased to 96.

Lipdo said 8,004 Nigerians died in 546 attacks during the last two years of former President Goodluck Jonathan administration, but 2,385 Nigerians had died in 233 attacks, mostly by Fulani herdsmen, in the one year of the Buhari administration.

Lipdo said, “The report indicates a significant terror decline between July and September 2015. Fulani terror attack indicates a significant drop in November 2015, but soon picked up in December 2015.

“Boko Haram terror attack was on progressive decline since October 2015.”

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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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