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NLC: Fuel Scarcity May be Ploy to Remove Subsidy

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has said the disagreement by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and oil marketers over the actual subsidy amount points to a conspiracy that the ongoing fuel scarcity may be caused by those pushing for removal of subsidy.

It also described the disagreement as an embarrassment the tirade, which has worsened the painful experience of Nigerians who continue to struggle to get petroleum products.

In a statement by its President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, yesterday, the NLC expressed worry at the sustained scarcity in almost all parts of the country, particularly Abuja and Lagos for several weeks now without successful intervention by the government.

“Our position on this has not changed as we remain opposed to the removal of petroleum subsidy. If government is truly owing marketers, they should pay them immediately as the long queues at fuel stations have led to loss of lots of productive hours since workers are either unable to get to work or spend long hours searching for fuel,” the statement read.

It continued “the scarcity has also led to sharp practices with workers paying between N120 to N130 per litre at some filling stations.  For those commuting by public transport, they now pay more to get to work even when there are no increases in salaries,” NLC said.

The congress insisted that the government owes Nigerians the responsibility of arresting the situation immediately as it is fully responsible for the management of the petroleum industry.

“We do not expect to experience any scarcity in any part of Nigeria because one of the reasons government gave for the increase in the price of petroleum products in 2012 was that it will ensure regular supply of the products. We will not be blackmailed into accepting the current scarcity as reason for another increase,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, indications have emerged that the agonising fuel scarcity across the country, which started last week, may ease off by weekend, as major petroleum marketers including Total, Oando, Mobil Forte Oil and Conoil, work round the clock to ensure adequate supply of petrol to all their outlets nationwide.

Visit to the Apapa hub of fuel depots operated by the nation’s major oil marketers showed increased activities as tankers formed long queues to load fuel.

At the Conoil depot for instance, it was a beehive of activities as all the loading arms in the company’s gantry were seen busy loading fuel into waiting trucks.

The long queue of trucks waiting to be loaded at the company’s Apapa Depot, though orderly, stretched beyond its premises with its operation staff ensuring that the trucks were loaded and dispatched in good times.

A company official, who craved anonymity, confirmed that the company was working round the clock to ensure that all its stations in Lagos and across the country were fully stocked by this weekend with the determination that the agony being experienced by Nigerians since the crisis started was brought under control as soon as practicable.

THISDAY  recalls that reprieve from the lingering crisis emerged after a protracted meeting in Abuja on Monday between federal government officials led by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and those of the Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) led by its Executive Secretary, Mr. Obafemi Olawore.

The meeting resolved that outstanding subsidy would be paid even after a new government must have taken over power.

Also, Olawore gave an assurance that the fuel scarcity would end within the week.

He said: “The truck owners have been loading and the scarcity in Lagos is beginning to get better. Because of the distance from Lagos to Abuja, it will take some time before Abuja gets to it normal position; but in a couple of days, you will see that Abuja will also have the relief all know.”

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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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