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N1.4 tr fine: MTN proposes N300b settlement deal

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  • As Guinness pays N11.4m fine, withdraws suit against NAFDAC

The Senate Committee on Communications yesterday took exception to the way and manner the out-of-court settlement arrangement between the Federal Government and MTN is being conducted regarding the N1.04 trillion fine imposed on MTN.

The committee also frowned at the alleged shutting out of the Ministry of Communications Technology and the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) from the deal.

The committee which conducted investigative hearing on the matter, expressed shock that an account in the name of “recovery account” was opened for the N50 billion fine paid by MTN as part of the settlement.

Committee Chairman, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, noted that members of his committee were worried that a proposal initiated by the MTN for the reduction of the fine to N300 billion had been accepted by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, without recourse to the Ministry of Justice and the NCC.

The committee said it has emerged that an initial 25 per cent reduction of the initial N1.04 trillion fine to N780 billion was on the order of the President Muhammadu Buhari.

The committee brandished a document which showed the proposal by MTN indicating to pay N300 billion made up of N150 billion instalmental payment.

The document further indicated that the N50 billion already paid by MTN is part of the settlement deal.

It said parties have agreed that the N50 billion paid in good faith and without prejudice by MTN Nigeria on the 24th of February, 2016, in order to commence settlement negotiations will form part of the monetary components of the settlement in five equal and annual instalments between the date of execution of this agreement and 31 December, 2020.

It said MTN Nigeria shall pay a total of N100 billion by electronic funds transfer to the Federal Recovery Account of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The payment, it said, will commence by 31 December, this year and will be made by 31 December of each subsequent year”

The proposal also stated that the MTN would buy N80 billion worth of Nigeria’s foreign bond.

The proposal which the committee said it got from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation was admitted by MTN.

Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, who defended himself on allegation of opening the recovery account, told the committee that he acted on the demand of the Attorney-General.

Idris insisted that he was not aware of what money was going to be lodged into the account.

A representative of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr, Dayo Akpata, who labored to convince the committee about the necessity of opening the account was rebuffed.

The committee insisted that the Attorney-General must appear in person before it within two weeks to explain the action.

In the meantime, Guinness Nigeria Plc has filed a notice to discontinue a suit it filed to challenge the N1bn fine imposed on it by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in November last year.

In a statement on Thursday, one Okey Nwachukwu  said Guinness had paid N11.4m to the agency as administrative and service charges after opting to withdraw its suit filed before Justice W. Animahun of a Lagos State High Court in Igbosere. Guinness had headed for the court seeking to enforce the violation of its right to fair hearing against NAFDAC following a November 9, 2015 notice of sanction issued on it by NAFDAC.

In the said notice, NAFDAC said it was imposing N1bn on Guinness as administrative charges “for various clandestine violations of NAFDAC rules, regulations and enactments over a long period of time.” The agency claimed that Guinness had been revalidating its expired products without the authorisation and supervision of NAFDAC.

Among other things, NAFDAC also accused Guinness of failing to secure the gate of its warehouse and claimed that “the raw materials used in the production of beer and non-alcoholic beverages by the brewer were permanently opened to intrusion and exposure to the elements and rodents, which invariably affect the integrity of the raw materials.”

But Guinness which, through its lawyer, Mr. Olasupo Shasore (SAN),  filed a fundamental right enforcement action, urged Justice Animahun to declare that its right to fair hearing under Section 36 (1) of the constitution was being violated by NAFDAC. Sued alongside NAFDAC is the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

Guinness urged the court to restrain the respondents, “whether by their agents, servants, officers and privies however from imposing any sanction on the applicant in any manner other than recognised by law and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”

The parties had earlier told the court that they were exploring the possibility of settling the matter out of court. The court had on February 8, 2016 adjourned till March 16, 2016 for further hearing. Nwachukwu, in a statement on Thursday, however, said he could confirm that Guinness had filed a notice to discontinue the fundamental rights action. According to him the discontinuance of the suit was pursuant to a “letter dated 15th February 2016 from NAFDAC to the company which was stated to supersede the decisions contained in the Agency’s letter dated 9th November 2015.”

“As part of the resolution, NAFDAC would be present during the destruction of the expired raw materials in its rented warehouse and both parties agreed that this would be the procedure for the exercise in future. “Guinness Nigeria also agreed to pay administrative and service charges to NAFDAC to cover the cost of the investigative inspection of raw materials carried out by the Agency as well as the supervision by NAFDAC of the destruction of the raw materials which would be carried out by Guinness Nigeria.

“The administrative and service charges of approximately N11.4m has since been paid to NAFDAC,” the statement read.

Nation with additional report from Citizen

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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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