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Okonjo-Iweala blasts Falana over linkage with $2.1bn arms scandal



  • As EFCC Witness tells court, How Dariye diverted Plateau’s N1.126b

Former Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has described as malicious attempts by Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), to link her with the $2.1 billion arms scandal.

Falana had written the International Criminal Court, ICC, asking it to investigate those allegedly involved in the arms deal, including the former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.)

Media Assistant to the former minister, Mr. Paul Nwabuiku, said in a statement yesterday:  ‘’The malicious attempt by Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana to mix Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala up in issues that have nothing to do with her in his letter to the International Criminal Court, ICC, is a desperate joke by an integrity-challenged charlatan.

‘’This misadventure shows that the so-called learned lawyer does not have any idea of what the mandate of the ICC is about.

‘’He has resorted to this action because his previous efforts to tarnish her image, through his discredited NGO, SERAP and petitions to the EFCC – failed because they were lacking in credibility.

‘’This latest effort to try to attach her name falsely confirms that Femi Falana is nothing but a tool of corrupt elements whose interests were hurt by the work Dr. Okonjo-Iweala did in fighting corruption while she was in office.

‘’These elements have now made a habit of making false allegations against Dr Okonjo-Iweala whenever she receives any national or international recognition for her work.

‘’The pattern is clear and Nigerians should be alert to it. But Dr Okonjo-Iweala will not be intimidated from going on with her life and performing her duties. She will not give in to cowardly and unmanly bullying.

‘’Falana’s latest attempt to implicate Dr Okonjo-Iweala falsely suggests that he is suffering from an ailment that may be described as Chronic Cerebral Amnesia (CCA) because he simply has no grasp of the facts.

‘’Contrary to Falana’s lies, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has absolutely nothing to do with the alleged misuse of $2.1billion by the office of the former National Security Adviser. Falana and his sponsors are simply trying to invent a connection where there is none.

‘’The January 20, 2015 memo in which Dr Okonjo-Iweala sought and received the approval of former President Jonathan for the release of part of the newly returned Abacha funds to the NSA for purchase of arms is totally separate from the $2.1 billion issue.

‘’The memo which is now in the public domain speaks for itself. The release of the resources was in response to an approval by the former President following a meeting chaired by him after a committee had considered the request.

‘’The memo clearly documented Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s insistence that the proper procedure be followed, subject to appropriation and according to financial regulations. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala went further to state that the former NSA should account for the funds to the former President since she is not a member of the Security Council.

‘’The attempt to link Okonjo-Iweala to the $2.1 billion issue is therefore dead on arrival.”

Meanwhile, about nine years after he was charged before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, former Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye’s trial for alleged money laundering opened yesterday.

The prosecution called its first witness, who told the court how Dariye allegedly diverted the state’s N1.126billion ecological funds. Dariye is being tried before Justice Adebukola Banjoko.

The witness, Musa Sunday (a detective with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission –EFCC), who was led in evidence by the lead prosecution lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said he was involved in the investigation into how Dariye as governor allegedly diverted Plateau State’s funds.

He told the court how Dariye allegedly applied for the ecological fund in the name of his state in 2001, but collected the money in person and diverted it.

Sunday said upon receiving the cheque for the N1.126b ecological fund, Dariye allegedly lodged it with his private banker, the Abuja branch manager of All States Trust Bank Plc (now defunct), with instruction on how it should be disbursed.

The witness said investigation by EFCC operatives revealed that the bank manager, allegedly acting on Dariye’s instruction, paid N100m in the name of “PDP South-west” which fund was later traced to a company – Marine Float Nigeria Limited – allegedly owned by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. He said efforts to make Atiku refund the money failed.

Sunday said Dariye instructed the payment of N178.8m to an unregistered company – Ebenezer Retnan Venture Limited, which was later discovered to belong to the ex-governor.

He said Dariye ordered the payment of N80m from the ecological fund to Kingsley Nkumeh, a Permanent Secretary in the Ecological Fund Office.

The witness said although the EFCC later recovered the N80m  from Nkumeh, he ran out of the country on learning that he was to be prosecuted, and has since not returned.

Sunday also said Dariye paid N250m to a firm – Pinacle Communications – owned by a contractor to the state government.

He told the court that the decision to investigate Dariye was informed by a request by the London Metropolitan Police for Nigeria’s assistance in investigating some parties and companies linked with the former governor.

Dariye, who is representing Plateau Central was dressed in a brown kaftan. He looked unruffled as the witness spoke. When the proceeding was briefly suspended owing to power outage, Dariye smiled broadly as he went around shaking hands with some of his supporters who besieged the court.

When the proceeding resumed, Sunday said: “Based on the request, we moved to the mentioned banks. We first went to All States Trust Bank, Abuja, where we met with the branch manager, who made available to us information about the account of Ebenezer Retnan Ventures limited.

“From the mandate form of the account, we found that the signatory to the account was Haruna Dariye. The signature to the account was by the defendant (Dariye). The Account Officer, Awe Obesa, who marketed the account to the defendant, told us this.

“He was arrested to confirm to us who Haruna Dariye was. He could not identify who Haruna Dariye was and we found that the circumstance surrounding the opening of the account was suspicious. We also found that there was no picture in the mandate card.

“When we went further in our investigation, we confirmed, through Obesa that a waiver was given to the defendant not to use photograph. That led us to recover the mandate card from the bank and other account opening documents.

“The mandate card and account opening documents were obtained for further investigation – to ascertain who the signatory was. We sent the documents to the forensic unit, which confirmed that the signature belonged to the defendant.

“After realising that it was the bank that gave waiver for the defendant not to use photograph in his mandate card, the banker –Obesa – and his bank – All States Trust Bank – and one other were charged before Federal High Court, Kaduna.The bank and banker were convicted by the court.

“In the course of our investigation in the bank, through the statements of account given to us on the Ebenezer Retnan Venture’s account, we saw a lot of financial in-flows of money from Plateau State Government account. Such in-flows include an amount of money coming from the Ecological Fund.

“We approached the All State Trust Bank manager. She availed us with a handwritten document, where the defendant split about N1.162billion. We recovered a photocopy of the document from her.

“On interview about where the money came from, because the money was not from Platuea State Government, she (the bank manager) then made available to us a Central Bank of Nigeria cheque covering the said amount of about N1.126b.

“The CBN cheque and hand written disbursement were recovered and additional type-written disbursement letter by the defendant to the bank’s branch manager was recovered.

“When we recovered those documents and cheques from CBN, we traced it to where it came from. Investigation led us to the Ecological Fund Unit under the Presidency. At the Ecological Fund Unit, we interviewed one Mr. Adewusi, who told us that there was a time the Plateau State Government applied for Ecological Fund for ecological problem in the state, and approval was given for N1.126b.

“And that before the cheque was prepared, a payment voucher covering the said amount, which has other documents attached to it, were prepared and audited, at the end of which payment was made.

“When the cheque was ready for collection, the defendant and his orderly, one Inspector Victor, went to the Ecological Fund office and, upon instruction by the defendant, the aide signed for the cheque and the defendant took the cheque to All States Trust Bank, Abuja.

“Investigation revealed that in the office of the bank manager, the defendant instructed how the money should be disbursed to some individuals and companies. The bank’s branch manager complied with the defendant’s instruction.

“Instead of the money to be paid into any of the Plateau State Government accounts, the bank used their own bank accounts to clear the cheque and disbursed to individuals and companies instructed by the defendant.

Copies of his instructions, both type written and hand written, were made available to us during investigation.

“We invited Pinacle Communications; the representative of the company. He actually confirmed collecting the N250m, but told us he is a contractor of the Plateau State government.

“We found that the N500m actually went to the state government. The N80 paid to Union Homes turned out to have been paid to a Perm Secretary, Ecological Funds Office, Kingsley Nkumeh.

“When interviewed, he said that was his share for facilitating the payment of the Ecological Fund to the state. The said amount was recovered by the EFCC from the Permanent Secretary, Minister of Ecological Funds.

“Charges were later prepared for him to be charged to court in Lagos. He was granted administrative bail. He resigned and left the country. Our investigation at Union Homes revealed that the cheque was cleared into an account owned by the Perm Secretary, Nkumeh.

“The bank gave us the mandate card of the Permanent Secretary, whose account the N80m was paid into. The N176 million was traced to Ebenezer Retnan Venture’s account domiciled at All States Trust Bank. From investigation at CAC, we found it was not registered. There was no record of the company’s existence.

“The N100m paid to PDP Southwest was traced to Marine Float Limited and, in the course of our investigation, revealed that Marine Float Nigeria Limited. The mandate we received from the bank showed that Marine Float is owned by a former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Effort to recover this money has been going on. We did not succeed in recovering it,” Sunday said.

He is expected to resume his testimony today at 10am.

The EFCC, in 2007, obtained the leave of an FCT High Court to prefer charges against Dariye and filed a 23-count charge against him. He was also accused of diverting the state’s funds estimated at billions of naira while in office.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge, following which the trial judge, Justice Banjoko, fixed November 13, 2007 for the commencement of his trial.

Before that date, however, Dariye filed an application, challenging the competence of the charge and the jurisdiction of the court. He argued that he ought to be tried at a Plateau State High Court and not the FCT High Court.

On December 13, 2007, the trial judge dismissed Dariye’s application for lacking in merit, a decision he appealed to the Court of Appeal, Abuja and subsequently to the Supreme Court. The apex court, on February 27, 2015, dismissed Dariye’s appeal and ordered him to submit himself for trial.

Vanguard with additional report from Nation


WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners



…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



The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured



…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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