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Meltdown: Lagos Channel Will Not Sack Workers- Fuchs

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  • As woman says: Metuh gave me $2m cash to invest

Lagos Channel Management (LCM) workers may have no cause to bate an eyelid over the effects of sliding oil prices, as its Managing Director, Danny Fuchs on Monday assured that no worker would be sacked, either on the basis of either sliding oil price or meltdown.

“The management will not sack any workers, on the basis of any adverse effects of global sliding oil prices, or its attendant meltdown”, Fuchs indicated, stressing that, the welfare of the LCM family which includes  the staff of Landfall and their dependants is of utmost importance, to the LCM management.

Fuchs who made the observation during a chat in Lagos, also pleaded with organizations contemplating or tinkering with ‘restructuring’ or ‘right-sizing’ options, to see it as last resort, stressing that Nigeria as a very strong and vibrant country would soon overcome all challenges, associated with global sliding oil prices and its possible attendant meltdown.

“We will not cut jobs. It is not one of our management’s options. I know what you are saying. At worst, we may start working six-days a week, (instead of the current 24/7). But, we are not cutting jobs”, he stated further.

Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday called two out of the 18 witnesses it lined up against the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olisa Metuh, with respect to the charges of money laundering involving the sum of N400m which he allegedly collected from the Office of the National Security Adviser in November 2014.

The trial commenced before a Federal High Court in Abuja after the presiding judge, Justice Okon Abang, overruled a request for an adjournment by Metuh’s lead counsel, Mr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), who had sought time to enable him and his team to have access to some documents and prepare better for the defence.

The ruling by Justice Abang, dismissing the request for adjournment, paved the way for the prosecution to call its first witness, Nneka Ararume, an employee of Asset and Resource Management Company Limited, who narrated how Metuh gave her $2m cash at his house in Prince and Princess Estate, Abuja.

Ararume, who described his position at ARM as Wealth Manager, said she collected the cash from Metuh on December 2, 2014, with an instruction to invest the money on behalf of the PDP spokesperson’s company, Destra Investments Limited.

She said ARM had been managing Destra’s funds before she joined the financial services company in April, 2013.

Before the trial commenced on Monday, Ikpeazu had informed the court that his client had “laboured” unsuccessfully to meet the bail conditions imposed by the court on January 19, and had applied for the variation of the terms.

The court ruled that the application could not be heard on Monday since it was only served on the prosecution in the open court on Monday morning.

Ikpeazu asked for an adjournment of the case on the grounds that he was only served in court with the prosecution’s additional proof of evidence containing the statement of the EFCC witness who investigated the case.

Citing the rights to fair hearing which an accused person was entitled to under Section 36 of the Constitution, he added that he needed time to meet with Metuh, whom he said was assumed would have been able to fulfil the bail conditions by Monday.

Ikpeazu stated that the defence needed time to get some documents, including the statement of account of the PDP spokesperson.

The lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, opposed the application for an adjournment, insisting that the accused had been given enough time to prepare for his defence since he had been served with the charges and other necessary documents since January 14.

The judge agreed with the prosecution but ruled that the prosecution must not call on Monday the witness whose statement was only served on the defence in court.

When the trial commenced, Ararume, who said she managed Destra Investments Limited’s funds with ARM, explained that she proceeded to change the $2m, which she collected from Metuh, to its naira equivalent through two bureau de change operators.

Ararume, who was led in evidence by Tahir, said on December 2, 2014, which was about 11 days after N400m was allegedly paid into Destra’s Diamond Bank account by the Office of the NSA on November 22, 2014, Metuh invited her to his home at Prince and Princess Estate in Abuja, asking her to come along with her companies brochure on different types of investments available.

She said, “Metuh gave me the sum of $2m in $100 bills. It was taken to bureau de change operators, who would then transfer the money to ARM. From there (Metuh’s house), I proceeded to Mr. Sie Iyenome’s office at Wuse 2, where I gave him the sum of $1m.

“I also invited Mr. Kabir Mohammed and I also gave him the sum of $1m to transfer the naira equivalent in favour of Destra Investment Limited.

“Later on the same day, December 2, 2014, Mr. Kabir and Mr. Sie Iyenome confirmed the receipt.”

The defence also sought an adjournment after Ararume completed her testimony.

But Justice Abang upheld the prosecution’s objection to the request for an adjournment, which was basically anchored on the same grounds earlier canvassed by the defence.

Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, Ararume said Destra, owned by Metuh, had been ARM’s client before she was employed by the financial services company in April 2013.

The witness answered negative when asked if she knew “how long it took the defendants to accumulate the money he gave you”.

The EFCC also called Iyenome, one of the bureau de change operators engaged by Ararume to change $1m out of the total $2m she received from Metuh to naira.

Iyenome said he never knew Metuh but only got to know of his company, Destra, on December 2, 2014, when Ararume forwarded the company’s account details to him for the payment of the naira equivalent of $1m he received from her.

Under cross-examination, the witness, who said he believed he was carrying out “a valid transaction”, also told the court that it was the practice in the foreign exchange business to ask for the purposes which funds, brought by customers, were meant for.

He said, “Most times the question for the purpose the money is meant is done verbally, just for due diligence.

“This was a brokering transaction. I’m not the one using the dollar. Even at that, I asked who was selling and Nneka said it was her client at ARM, which was as good as a bank was selling to you.”

Under re-examination by the prosecutor, Iyenome confirmed that there was a limit imposed by law as to how much cash a bureau de change operator could transact with.

He said, “I am aware of some, I can’t name all of them. I’m aware that to sell to an individual travelling outside the country, the limit is $4,000, and for a business, the limit is $5,000.”

Justice Abang adjourned further trial till Tuesday with an instruction to the prosecution that all the prosecution witnesses must be present in court.

He fixed Wednesday for the hearing of Metuh’s bail variation application.

Meanwhile, the National Legal Adviser of the PDP, Mr. Victor Kwon, said the party had nothing to do with the bail conditions set for Metuh, the party’s spokesman.

Kwom explained that friends, colleagues and associates of Metuh had intensified efforts to get sureties required by the court and secure Metuh’s release from prison.

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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