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National Assembly to Buhari: drop N500b intervention fund from Budget 2016

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  • As U.S. Team is Deployed to Aid Ethiopia’s Worst Drought in 50 Years

The National Assembly yesterday raised concern about the implementation of the N500 billion special intervention fund, a cardinal programme of the Buhari administration.

The lawmakers were categorical that though the plan by the Federal Government to spend N500 billion on vulnerable Nigerians is laudable, its implementation will pose problems.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje, who raised the issue suggested the suspension the plan in this year’s budget.

Goje spoke at a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation meeting with Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun and top officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Goje noted that the meeting became necessary because members of the National Assembly had given March 17th deadline to pass the budget.

He said Udo-Udoma, Adeosun and others were invited to get their final input before the budget is passed.

He also the lawmakers want to pass an implementable budget.

He said the N500 billion special intervention fund’s implementation is not clearly stated in the budget.

Goje, an APC senator from Gombe and a former governor of the state on Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) platform, said how would the beneficiaries of the programme be selected.

He added that there was no doubt that it would turn into a political jamboree for political office holders.

Goje who noted that market women were listed as part of those who would benefit from the fund wondered how market women would be selected.

He said that in his home state of Gombe, there are no market women but market men.

The lawmaker also declared the school feeding initiative planned by the government as un-implementable.

Insisting that school feeding programme is largely unsustainable, he wondered how billions of naira would be spent on feeding pupils when most of them study under trees due to lack of class rooms.

The government, he said, should take a second look at the programmes, fine tune them and leave the implementation for the 2017 fiscal year.

ButUdo- Udoma said the programmes were political promises that should be implemented in the interest of the people.

The minister added that he would take back the concerns raised by the lawmakers to the government.

He said the programmes were commitments that must be done.

On recovered funds, Udoma said only established recovered funds could be put in the budget.

He denied knowledge of a circular directing MDAs to implement only the budget as presented by President Muhammadu Buhari saying “I don’t think that the National Assembly will give us back the budget the way it came.”

Udo-Udoma also insisted that the template of the 2016 budget is zero budgeting.

He added however that “zero budgeting does not mean that we don’t have a limit.”

The minister admitted that the implementation of the budget would be difficult especially with falling oil price in the international market.

He noted that though the price of oil is dwindling, the cost of production remained the same, describing the development as a major challenge.

Udoma told the lawmakers not to increase the size of the budget in order not to make its implementation more difficult.

On the sources of funding the budget, he said the government planned to borrow N1.8 trillion half of which would be foreign loan.

He said the government was now being forced to look inward to raise funds to implement the budget.

The minister said the government is expecting more revenue from non oil sector of the economy including broadening the tax base.

On oil benchmark of $38 pb, he said that benchmark will still be retained despite falling oil price.

The benchmark, he said, was arrived at after wide consultation.

He said that the personnel cost component of the budget is another major challenge for the government.

He noted that though government does not plan to retrench workers, “Government is trying to use technology to ensure that salaries actually go to people who are working.

Mrs Adeosun spoke on how to fund the budget.

The minister told the lawmakers that independently-generated revenue would largely be used to fund the budget.

She noted that cost-saving would be another means to fund the budget.

The lawmakers also drew Udo-Udoma’s attention to the concern of some Civil Society Organisations of about N668 billion frivolous provisions in the budget.

In the meantime, the United States will deploy a team of some 20 experts to Ethiopia as part of an emergency response to the country’s worst drought in 50 years.

More than 10 million people are at risk of hunger in the country, and more than 400,000 children facing acute malnutrition, as crops wither and livestock dies after the failure of two rainy seasons in a row.

The U.S. development agency USAID announced Thursday it would deploy the team to Ethiopia to provide technical support to the government and other agencies on the ground.

USAID Administrator Gayle Smith said: “We are challenging the world not just to respond to human suffering but to respond quickly enough to prevent something worse.”

These specialist teams been sent out to help out in the world’s biggest emergencies, including the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.

The U.N. says $1.4 billion in funding is needed for the emergency response in Ethiopia — making it the third-biggest humanitarian appeal after Syria and Yemen.

International donors, so far, have only provided about half that amount.

There is a risk food supplies will run out by the end of next month, Ethiopia’s Disaster Management chief Mitiku Kassa told NBC News.

“The difficult stage will come after May 1,” he said, “We have to have additional resources to respond to the 10.2 million beneficiaries.”

While the drought brings to mind images of the “We Are the World” famine that killed hundreds of thousands in Ethiopia in the 1980s, the country is much is much better placed now to confront the crisis.

Ethiopia has experienced rapid economic development in the last 30 years and has invested heavily in development. The government has putting in $380 million of its own money in emergency aid.

There may be more hope on the horizon as the new rainy season is just beginning in Ethiopia. Though Mitiku says at this point it is too early to tell whether the rains will be sufficient.

The drought has been blamed on the intense El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific ocean. Its effect is being felt far beyond Ethiopia. Droughts across much of southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, Malawi and parts of South Africa are putting millions more at risk of hunger.

Nation with additional report from NBC

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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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