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N3.1bn alleged fraud: Ex-minister travels out as EFCC closes in

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  • Dasuki drags FG to ECOWAS Court

A former minister has sneaked out of the country as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) closed in on the suspected architects of an alleged N3.145b fraud, The Nation learnt yesterday. Six chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Goodluck Support Group (GSG) have been named in the investigations.

The cash, meant for the funding of the campaign of former President Goodluck Jonathan  was drawn on the orders of the Presidential Villa and paid into a coded account tagged Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Library. The account was said to have been deployed by the Presidential Villa (allegedly on Dr. Jonathan’s instructions) and the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) for “strategic assignments”.

Some of the key suspects, including some bureaucrats, have offered to return the funds, even as the EFCC plans to invite some of those implicated for interrogation “any moment from now”. According to sources, the former minister left the country on Sunday, her destination unknown – as at press time.

A source, who spoke in confidence “in order not to jeaopardise the investigation”, said: “The EFCC has been on the case for some time and one or two of the suspects at a point came to make statements. But one of the former ministers who, was also connected with the matter has jetted out.

“The ex-minister left the country quietly on Sunday. No one can say her actual destination and whether or not it was a routine trip abroad or a self-imposed exile. “The reality is that there is no hiding place for any former public officer. Wherever a suspect is, the EFCC will repatriate such a person.” It was confirmed last night that the N3.145 billion was drawn from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) following directives from the Presidential Villa.

The cash was wired into the coded account. It was learnt that after the withdrawal of the cash from CBN, an account was provided by the Director of Finance of the PDP Presidential Campaign, former Minister Nenadi Usman, for disbursement to beneficiaries.

Another source added: “The CBN released the funds based on orders from the Presidential Villa. Some documents on the withdrawal have been obtained by the EFCC.

“From the preliminary investigation, MEA was a coded account used by the Presidential Villa and the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) for strategic assignments, including funding of the re-election campaign of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

“After the cash was moved to MEA account, it was moved into the account of Joint Trust Dimension Nigeria Limited, which was allegedly provided by ex-Minister Nenadi Usman. “In fact, some of the bureaucrats connected with the withdrawal of the funds from the CBN have not been comfortable. Some suspects have actually offered to return the cash quietly to EFCC.

“I am aware that some persons have made statement to the EFCC on what they knew about the deal. But most of the beneficiaries have not been quizzed. They will soon be invited by the EFCC for interrogation and how to return the money.”

The beneficiaries include a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode (N840m); a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and leader of the Social Democratic Party, Chief Olu Falae (N100m); a former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman(N36.9m); a former Imo State Governor, Chief Achike Udenwa and a former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Viola Onwuliri(N350m)  and Okey Ezenwa(N100m).

One of the beneficiaries, who spoke in strict confidence, said: “The cash was actually N2billion as reported to the campaign directorate. “When ex-Minister Nenadi Usman briefed us, some of us insisted on knowing the source(s) of the funds.

In fact, somebody asked repeatedly whether or not the cash was from public funds but she told us that the money came from some private individuals. She disclosed some names behind the so-called “donation.”

“Having heard that the cash was donated to the campaign, we decided to use it for that purpose. None of us knew that the money came from the CBN and it was also disbursed through a company’s account which Nenadi Usman said she had been using for her campaign.

“Now, we are just realizing that the N3.145billion was drawn from the CBN. It is just unfortunate. Some of us would have rejected the cash if we knew it came from the apex bank.”

In the meantime, the embattled immediate past National Security Adviser, NSA, Colonel Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd), has dragged the Federal Government before the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Court of Justice over his continued detention without trial since December 2015. Dasuki who was rearrested by the operatives of the Department of the State Security Service, DSS, shortly after perfecting the third bail granted him by the Nigerian Court, is asking the ECOWAS Court to enforce his fundamental rights as enshrined in the African Carter on the people and human rights and the Nigerian Constitution.

In the suit filed by his counsel Mr. Robert Emukpoeruo, the former NSA is asking the ECOWAS Court to declare his arrest since last year without a lawful court order as unlawful, unconstitutional and breach of his fundamental right. The applicant also prayed the court to declare as unlawful and violation of his right to dignity of human person, privacy and family life guaranteed and protected right under Section 34 and 37 of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right and Article 12 of the Universal of Human Right, the action of the Federal Government of Nigeria for keeping him in a dehumanising condition after he has been granted bail by courts of competent jurisdiction and after he had fulfilled bail conditions for his release.

He therefore prayed for an order of ECOWAS Court compelling the Federal Government or its agents to forthwith release him and also to order government to release to him all his unlawfully seized properties during the invasion of his houses.

Besides, Dasuki also prayed for an order of injunction restraining the Federal Government and its agents from further harassing, threatening, intimidating or infringing or interfering with his fundamental rights as guaranteed under relevant national and international laws on human rights protection. Apart from seeking for his release to face adequately charges in court, Dasuki also demanded a compensatory damages of N500 million against the government for its egregious violations of his rights as guaranteed under the law. However, at the hearing yesterday, the Federal Government through its counsel Mr. T. A. Gazalli objected to Dasuki’s case on the ground that he has already been charged to Nigerian courts for various alleged offences.

The counsel argued that the ECOWAS Court has no jurisdiction to enforce the bail conditions granted Dasuki because it cannot sit as an appellate court to the Nigerian courts. He therefore urged the court not to entertain the case.

In opposing the application, counsel to Dasuki, Mr. Wale Balogun, urged the court to dismiss the objection of the Federal Government for being misconceived and misplaced to the request of Dasuki before the Court. Balogun told a panel of three Justices of ECOWAS Court, led by Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke that what Dasuki was asking for is the enforcement of his fundamental rights to freedom, having being arrested and detained since December 2015 without trial or any lawful court order.

The Nation with additional report from National Mirror

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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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