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Okonjo-Iweala under probe for €3.6m vehicles deal

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  • As Court refuses Dasuki’s application to stop criminal charges

Another round of investigations into the $2.1billion arms deals is to begin tomorrow, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) sources said yesterday.

Top on the agenda is how the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan Administration bought €3,654,121million vehicles for the Republic of Niger in October 2013 and April 2014.

The cash was withdrawn from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) account in two installments of €1, 401,869 and €2,252,252.25,

The commission is also seeking to verify whether or not the vehicles were bought and under diplomatic or bilateral security cooperation.

The EFCC is to find out from the Republic of Niger if there was such assistance from Nigeria.

The agency plans to quiz some more public figures, including former Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, some former Service Chiefs and serving military officers in connection with the $2.1billion arms deals.

Some suspects may be taken into custody, it was learnt.

The EFCC,it was gathered, is through with the first phase of the probe, which led to the arraignment of ex-National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki and 10 others.

The interrogation of the likes of Dasuki and the others now facing trial or about to be arraigned seems to have convinced the agency of the need to dig deeper than originally planned.

A top source said: “We are beginning the second phase of the ongoing investigation of the $2.1b arms deals on Monday. From the preliminary findings, the scandal is mind-boggling.

“We are going to question more high-profile serving and former public officers, including a former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on the release of some funds.

“We want the ex-Minister to shed more light on how about $322million was disbursed to the Office of the National Security Adviser(ONSA).

“Some serving and former military chiefs will have to respond to issues which we have already isolated for clarification.”

The source said investigators had already obtained the list of military equipment which were bought and the inventory by the Armed Forces.

“This explains why some serving and former military chiefs will need to come and assist our investigators,”he said.

“Some of the companies which supplied these equipment have been contacted too.”

On the purchase of security vehicles for Niger Republic,the EFCC is said to have established that the money was withdrawn from the ONSA account in two installments of €1, 401,869 and €2,252,252.25,

The commission is keen to confirm whether or not the vehicles were bought and under what diplomatic or bilateral security cooperation.

It was gathered that it will require finding out from the Republic of Niger if there was such assistance from Nigeria.

The initial cash of €1, 401,869 was drawn from the Central Bank in an October 2013 through ONSA memo ACCT/87/VOL.1/384.

The second tranche of €2,252,252.25 was got from the CBN in an April 1, 2014 via a memo ACCT/87/VOL.1/60

The first memo to the CBN Governor, “Transfer of foreign exchange”, said: “You are please requested to transfer the sum of €1, 401,869.00 only in favour of SEI Societe d’equipments Internanaux-Niamey-Niger BP 11737 as payment for the supply of security vehicles to Republic of Niger. The wire transfer details are as follows: Banque: SONIBANK (Republique du Niger-Niamey). Compete N025111123981/22. Code Banque:80064. Code Guichrt: 01001.

“The amount should be charged to National Security Adviser Account no. 0020172241019 with the Central Bank of Nigeris Abuja and all charges thereto.

“Please accept the assurances of the National Security Adviser.”

Magu, earlier in the day told the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes that Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke and one of her associates, Mr, Kola Aluko, are being investigated.

He also told the committee, why defending the EFCC’s 2016 Budget, that the agency should be supported to hire additional 750 employees in different cadres.

Magu also sought the backing of the committee to consider and approve “additional N500,000 million to assist in our operational activities as more sectors of the economy may likely come under investigative activities during the year.”

Magu said the agency’s estimate is made up ofN11, 422, 991, 540.00 for capital, and N2,999,245,761.00 as the overhead component of the recurrent. He requested that “the National Assembly should graciously support a planned recruitment of additional 750 employees of different cadres in 2016.”

A second memo said: “You are please requested to transfer the sum of €2, 252, 252.25 only in favour of SEI Societe d’equipments Internanaux-Niamey-Niger BP 11737 as payment for the supply of security vehicles to Republic of Niger. The wire transfer details are as follows: Banque: SONIBANK (Republique du Niger-Niamey). Compete N025111123981/22. Code Banque: 80064. Code Guichrt: 01001.

“The amount should be charged to National Security Adviser Account no. 0020172241019 with the Central Bank of Nigeria,Abuja and all charges thereto.

“Please accept the assurances of the National Security Adviser.”

In the meantime, Justice Hussein Baba- Yusuf of the High Court of Federal Capital Territory, yesterday, refused an application filed by embattled former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, seeking to discharge him from criminal charges brought against him by the Federal Government. Justice Baba-Yusuf, while delivering ruling on Dasuki’s request, held that the action of one government agency could not be attributed to the other.

He said agencies were a creation of the constitution but with different laws guiding their operations and functions. “The argument of counsel to the 1st defendant that the Federal Government should be held liable for the actions of its agencies does not interest me. “The two agencies (EFCC and DSS) have separate identities and personalities vested in them.

“Having come to the conclusion that the complainant in this case (Federal Government) is not in contempt of my order of December 18, 2015, it is my view that this application filed on behalf of the 1st defendant (Dasuki) does not have any merit and I hereby dismiss it,” Justice Baba-Yusuf declared. It would be recalled that Dasuki, in an application brought before the court by his counsel, Joseph Daudu, SAN, had urged Justice Baba-Yusuf to prohibit the Federal Government from further prosecuting him or further seeking any indulgence from the court until his bail was allowed to be enjoyed.

Daudu had premised his arguments on the fact that Justice Baba- Yusuf had on December 18 last year, granted Dasuki bail and that after perfecting the bail conditions on December 29, he was re-arrested on the order of the Federal Government and taken to the custody of the Department of the State Service, DSS. The defence counsel also asked Justice Baba- Yusuf to discharge Dasuki of all the offences contained in the charge against him on the ground that he could not be lawfully prosecuted by the Federal Government, having been in contempt of court.

He said since Dasuki was re-arrested on December 29, he had since been kept away from his lawyers and family members. The counsel therefore urged the court to compel the Federal Government to obey the bail conditions granted Dasuki and allow him to enjoy the liberty of freedom in line with the law that presumed him innocent until contrary was proved.

While opposing the motion, counsel to the Federal Government, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, informed the judge that the motion was an abuse of court process because there was no evidence to the effect that the accused was re-arrested by EFCC. Rotimi, who is representing EFCC in the instant case, disclosed that it was the DSS, another arm of the security agencies of government that re-arrested Dasuki on the ground that they were investigating him on other offences. He advised Dasuki to evoke section 46 of the constitution and institute a civil action to challenge his arrest and enforce his fundamental right to liberty.

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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