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Omatseye: EFCC Boss, Magu’s Statement Hurts Maritime Stakeholders

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  • As Buhari shuns Rivers, pipelines attacked in Bayelsa

A remark credited to Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, listing ex-Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Temisan Omatseye as one of the 60 persons the EFCC has convicted for fraud this year, may have drawn the ire of maritime industry Stakeholders.

Paragraph two, page two of The Nation newspaper of Saturday May 28, 2016 quoted Magu as stating that “… former Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Temisan Raymond Omatseye who got five years for a N1.5 billion contract scam, are some of the 140 convictions the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it has secured in six months”.

The Maritime Advocacy Group, MAG, a coalition of Industry Journalists, Ship owners and Critical Stakeholders in a swift reaction however cautioned against misrepresentation of fact, stressing that at no point was Temisan found guilty of fraud.

The MAG in a statement issued by Ifeanyi Okolie and Kayode Animas haunted, President and General Secretary respectively expressed concern that while it totally supports the war against corruption, it would however insist on factual presentation of facts, as transpired at the Federal High Court, FHC, Ikoyi, Lagos.

“We expected the chairman of the nation ‘s anti graft agency to have called for the Judgement file or sort the opinion of his legal team on the judgement before coming out to misinform Nigerians, the media and the general public”, the group indicated noting that the case to its members appeared as something ‘that is more of a persecution than prosecution”.

“It is pertinent to note that nowhere in the judgement is Temisan Omatseye found guilty of any fraud. not to talk of misappropriation of funds. no where again was it mentioned that he was guilty of any criminal offence.

“As a matter of fact, MAG which had followed proceedings of the trial notes that the EFCC’S IPO in his statement and evidence stated that no fund belonging to NIMASA was traced to the embattled former DG’s bank accounts.

“For Record purposes, Justice Rita Ofilli-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi Lagos, found him guilty of approving contracts above his threshold. a matter already subject to appeal.

“MAG further notes that Temisan Omatseye had always stated in his statements and in court proceedings that the said threshold was never officially transmitted to him as at the time they said contracts were awarded.

“It is also pertinent to note that at no time was there any N1.5billion fraud. This figure, to MAG, is a figment of the imagination of his persecutors. AS a matter of fact the embattled former DG of Nigeria’s Maritime Regulatory body as at the time he was suspended from office left more than N52billion in NIMASA’s account. An amount he brewed from N20billion his predecessor left in the agency’s coffers.

 

“According to the evidences in the court and from the 27 count charge against him, the amount when computed comes to about n90million and not the N1.5bn the public is made to believe.

“Therefore, MAG, after having thoroughly followed the case to this point calls on Ibrahim Magu, hardworking chairman of the EFCC and indeed the general public to always get their facts right before issuing statements”, concluded MAG, stressing its commitment to objective and factual reportage, and zero tolerance to corruption in the Maritime industry.

In the meantime, President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday asked Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to perform the commencement of the clean-up of Ogoniland and other impacted communities in the Niger Delta region in Bodo, Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State.

This was against the popular expectation that the President would personally perform the ceremony to underscore the Federal Government’s determination to see through the clean-up.

A new militant group in the oil-rich region, the Niger Delta Avengers, had threatened to disrupt the ceremony, a development that had generated tension in the country.

It became clear on Thursday morning that Buhari had asked Osinbajo to represent him at the event.

At the ceremony, Buhari warned militants and oil thieves to stay away from the nation’s oil installations, saying his administration would not tolerate the ongoing oil theft and attacks on oil facilities.

The President also cautioned oil firms in the Niger Delta region to carry out their operations in line with international best practices by avoiding acts that would adversely affect the environment.

In his address, read by Osinbajo, Buhari stated, “Let me seize this opportunity to sound a note of warning that the current oil theft and illegal refining will not be tolerated. The regulators of the oil industry must live up to expectations.

“The report of oil pollution in the Nigerian environment shows that a significant percentage is lost due to sabotage and willful vandalism of oil companies’ facilities. The recent upsurge in the blasting of pipelines in the operation areas of several of the oil companies is a case in point.

“These incidents have brought about drastic reduction in our daily oil production as well as the quantum of gas that keeps power plants for electricity generation. Inadequate power supply has consequential implication on the economy and wealth creation.

“Given the current situation in the Niger Delta, it must be borne in mind that destroying the Niger Delta environment by oil companies, by militants or oil thieves has the same end results.’’

The President noted that the ecosystem in the Niger Delta, particularly in Ogoniland had been damaged as a result of six decades of oil exploration and production.

He said, “Today marks another milestone in the life of our administration. I recall that as a military Head of State, when I visited Bodo Town in Ogoniland. During that visit, I inaugurated a large fish pond and planted a tree as a sign for that government’s concern for the environment.

“The administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo engaged the United Nations Environment Programme to undertake a mission towards the clean-up of Ogoniland while recommendations were made for its (clean-up) implementation.

“The report was submitted to my predecessor in office in 2011, but the implementation was not accorded the necessary support it required. The people of Ogoniland continued to suffer from pollution of air, land and water.”

Earlier, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, lamented that Ogoniland and the Niger Delta in general had gone through pains as a result of years of environmental pollution, but commended Buhari for his efforts to restore the environment.

The governor described the UNEP Report as the best available document that would ensure the socio-economic transformation of Ogoniland.

The Minister of Environment, Mrs. Amina Muhammed, described the occasion as a promise that was being fulfilled by Buhari, noting that the exercise was a collective responsibility.

“It will require the trust that we have lost over the decades; it will require transparency and accountability and it will require proper representation of the people in what we are doing in investing in their future,” she stated.

Also, the UNEP Executive Director, Mr. Achim Steiner, expressed gratitude to Obasanjo for engaging the body, adding that the task was a great risk taken by the UNEP team.

Steiner pointed out that UNEP was committed to standing by the Federal Government and the people of Ogoniland on the clean-up process.

In his goodwill message, the former Governor of Rivers State and Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who recalled that Jonathan did not yield to his persuasion on the UNEP report, expressed gratitude to Buhari for ensuring the commencement of the clean-up.

“With $1bn that would be injected into this project, the economy of Ogoniland will improve,” Amaechi said.

The President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Mr. Legborsi Pyagbara, called on those involved in violent agitation in the region to embrace non-violent and peace advocacy in making their demands.

“We also urge our government to avoid acting in ways that tend to suggest that they listen only when there is violence,” Pyagbara said.

Meanwhile, no fewer than three soldiers and four civilian residents were reportedly killed on Wednesday evening in an attack on a houseboat around a creek close to Omadino/Idjere junction in the Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State.

It was gathered that the incident occurred between 6.30pm and 7pm on Wednesday.

Investigations revealed that the militants struck when some of the soldiers deployed to safeguard oil facilities in the area had gone on a routine patrol.

A military source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, said over 15 people were killed, including 10 soldiers, who claimed that some others jumped into the river for safety.

The gunmen, it was gathered, stormed the location in two speedboats and sank the houseboat after their operation.

Although no militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack, security sources believed it was carried out by the rampaging members of the Niger Delta Avengers.

One of the civilian casualties was identified as Tombra Iwoboibi, a caterer.

A relative of the victim, Richard Obiayaidou, who was at the Warri Central Hospital, where the corpses were deposited, lamented the incident.

Obiayaidou, who wailed profusely over the death of Iwoboibi, appealed to the Federal Government to expedite action towards ending the renewed militancy.

The Public Relations Officer, Warri Central Hospital, Mrs. Success Obere, confirmed that the hospital received seven corpses on Wednesday midnight after the attack.

She added that the corpses of three soldiers and four civilians, including two females, were brought to the hospital.

Confirming the attack, the Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, Capt Jonah Unuakhalu, said two soldiers and four civilians died in the attack while a soldier was missing.

In a statement on Thursday, Unuakhalu stated, “The suspected militants approached the houseboat in five speedboats, mounted with 250 horse power engines, and disguised as normal commuters.

“During the deliberate attack, two soldiers were killed, one wounded, one soldier missing while four civilian staff, attached to the houseboat were shot dead. The attack occurred when other members of the troops were on pipeline patrol.’’

In the meantime, residents of Gbaramatu cried out to the Federal Government on Thursday to withdraw soldiers from the communities, insisting that their people were not behind the militant group, Niger Delta Avengers.

Spokesperson for the Gbaramatu Traditional Council, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, said many of the indigenes had become refugees in the upland city of Warri as they had no place to stay.

Gbenekama added, “I’m surprised that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who rode on the back of Gbaramatu people to power, is sleeping in Asaba, while soldiers are bullying those that voted him to power.”

The NDA also on Thursday claimed to have blown up another oil facility in Bayelsa State.

“At about 2.00am today (Thursday) @NDAvengers blew up the Ogboinbiri to Tebidaba and Clough Creek to Tebidaba crude oil pipelines in Bayelsa State,” the group said on its Twitter handle.

“This is in line with our promise to all international oil companies and indigenous oil companies that Nigeria’s oil production will be zero,” the group added.

Additional report from Punch

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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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