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N260bn NDDC budget tears Reps apart

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  • Begins probe of Reps’ ‘sex misconduct’ in U.S.

Members of the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission on Tuesday expressed disgust over the sitting of most of the agency’s projects in the constituency of the Chairman of the committee, Mr. Nicholas Mutu.

The commmision’s Acting Managing Director, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, had presented a 2016 budget based on a projected revenue of N260bn to the committee for approval.

The figure was short of the 2015 projection of N300.1bn by 15.4 per cent.

It was a session where Semenitari also complained that due to funding challenges, work had yet to start on 788 out of the 867 projects awarded in different sectors in the region.

“Different reasons could be adduced for this setback, but a possible reason may be that contractors are not too sure of payments as the commission has some financial challenges.

“However, 46 of the projects are ongoing, out of which 35 have been completed and commissioned,” the former Commissioner for Information in Rivers State, told the committee.

Semenitari stated that all the 2015 projects were “rolled over” to 2016.

She added that the 2015 projects brought the total stock of NDDC’s projects to “over 7,000.”

But, drama started when lawmakers picked quarrels that most projects were domiciled in Mutu’s Bomadi and Patani Constituency in Delta State.

They also criticised the crowding of projects in the Isoko Constituency  of the Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Leo Ogor, in Delta State,  to the exclusion of other communities.

One embittered member from Ugheli-West/North, Mr. Solomon Awhinawhin, pointedly accused Mutu of influencing the projects to his area.

He fumed, “We cannot pass this budget. I hope we are not saying that the budget will pass today? It is full of fraud.

“The Chairman has up to 90 per cent of the projects; the Minority Leader too has his own share of many projects.

“Ugheli-West/North produces the largest gas resources in the whole of Africa if not the entire world. There is no single project in this budget for them.

“Let me tell you, this neglect of Ugheli was why Niger Delta Avengers emerged. We are not passing the budget today because we have to represent all the communities in the Niger Delta adequately.”

Another member from Ondo State, Mr. Akinjo Victor, also protested that his Ileja area was not adequately captured in the N71bn voted for regional projects.

He observed that while projects were duplicated in other areas of the Niger Delta, his own community had no projects.

“There is so much duplication of projects, which makes the whole exercise fraudulent,” he stated.

Mutu kept mute and never addressed any of the allegations.

The Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, Mr. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, cited a particular road in Abia State, where he alleged that it had been duplicated in the sum of N1.7bn.

“They did this road and the asphalt overlay; I have seen another N1.7bn, it is for the same portion on the same road by another contractor,”  Nkem-Abonta added.

In the meantime, the House of Representatives yesterday commenced a probe into the allegations of sex misconduct leveled against three of its members during a visit to the United States.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara while instituting the Investigation, mandated the House Committees on Ethic and Privileges and Foreign Affairs to ensure a detailed investigation into the issue to allow the House make an informed decision.

The Speaker however said Nigeria expects from America the Standard investigations it’s known for and the adherence to the Principle of fair hearing in which an accused is adjudged innocent until proven guilty.

“The standard in the US is that an accused person is adjudged innocent until proven guilty. The standard in the US is the standard in Nigeria,” he said.

The three lawmakers, Hon. Mohammed Garba Gololo (APC, Bauchi), Hon. Samuel Ikon (PDP, Akwa Ibom) and Hon. Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue) were part of 10 legislators invited by the U.S. government for the International Visitor Leadership Programme held between April 7 and 13, in Cleveland, Ohio.

The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James F. Entwistle had via a letter dated June 9, 2016, to the Speaker of the House accused the three lawmakers of sexual impropriety while in the U.S.

The three members have consistently denied the allegations.

Punch with additional report from Nation

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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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