Connect with us

Archives

OMATSEYE: OMORODION’S AUDIT REPORT MISSING IN EFCC FILES

Published

on

There is a strong indication that the Omorodion audit report, over which the former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Raymond Omatseye,  was purportedly indicted of N271 million is no longer within the custody of the court.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was believed to have based the arrest and subsequent trial of the former DG, on the court documents, now reportedly missing.

Mr. Temisan Omatseye

Mr. Raymond Omatseye

Also missing were documents which allegedly had to with final purchase approvals by the agency, when Omatseye was in charge.

This came to light on Wednesday May 20, 2015,  as the former DG who was suspended in December 2010, continued his ordeal before a Federal High Court in Lagos, presided over by Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia.

Led in evidence by his counsel, Edoka Onyeke, Omatseye explained that the first time he sighted the report prepared by an accounting firm called Omorodion and company was at the financial crimes commission’s office in Abuja.

“On glancing through it and seeing what was alleged, I told them that if they had shown the report to me long ago, it would have made our lives easier”, he told the court, noting that the report focused purely on the fact that he had split contracts to bring it within his threshold.

“All questions I was asked during my incarceration focused purely on contract splitting. At no time was there any question asked about me approving any contract above my threshold and if that had been done, I could have explained such in my statement to the commission tendered before the court as evidence by my prosecutor”, he stated further.

He maintained that immediately he was bailed from the EFCC custody and having been placed on suspension as the NIMASA DG, he paid a visit to Muhammed Bello Adoke, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice who told him that a petition against him was brought by Yusuf Suleiman, then Transport Minister, who allegedly posited that he, Omatseye had threatened to send him to jail.

“My Lord, he said he kept this all the time as the claims being made did not warrant the EFCC getting involved. But he immediately changed his mind the day I apparently told him to put the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) matter in writing and he saw me as arrogant and will keep this case in court till the end of this administration”, the former DG explained.

Omatseye had started his testimony on Tuesday May 19, 2015 by first craving the indulgence of the judge to allow him to go into background story, said the court could only appreciate his case if he was allowed to do so.

Though Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), EFCC prosecutor had raised an objection to that line of argument, the judge however, allowed Omatseye to proceed with his testimony.

The ex-NIMASA boss posited that he was actually being persecuted by the AGF for refusing to withdraw the NLNG case with NIMASA.

“In December 2010, I was approached by a gentleman, who at that time was the Executive Director of the Cabotage Service of NIMASA, in the name of Ibrahim Zailani. Zailani told me that he had been in a meeting with the Attorney General of the Federation, and that the AGF had directed him to tell me to withdraw a case between NIMASA and NLNG. I told him I was unable to withdraw the case because it was a board decision”, he stated, noting that on the issue of approving above his threshold, he only acted in line with a system he met, whereby procurement was carried out by petty cash; and thus, having noted the lapses of the system, as it enables the amount being signed to be on the high side; he gave a directive that every single item that must be purchased must be bided for; and the bid must be placed on the notice board to ensure that members of the public could participate.

Pointing out that the Bureau for Public Procurement(BPP) in a workshop held at the agency’s office in Kirikiri for parastatals under the ministry of transport stressed that the aim of the procurement process was to take away from the chief executive officer’s interference in bidding processes, by denying all CEOs who are the approving authority the sole priviledge of conducting the process.

“This, my Lord was in 2010, while the contract in question was awarded in 2009 when my approval limit was from N2.5 million to five million”, he added.

However, a twist was added in the testimony when he discovered that some pages in the files from the procurement were missing. The missing pages to the bewilderment of Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia, the preceding judge and indeed those present in the court included pages 1-76; 79; 81-88 and 89-90.

“My Lord, a file is supposed to tell the story of what the file is all about. But the file before me which the prosecutor is alleging that I signed does not tell any story about the contract being awarded or even services sorted for”, Omatseye pointed out, noting that he was not the person that prepared the files.

“As at the time of interrogation, nothing else was brought to me except the purported audit report. My Lord, there are discrepancies on why I was arrested in the first place; and why I was brought to court”, Omatseye insisted, stressing that the documents in court could not sufficiently form the basis for any contract approval in NIMASA; and that the letter of award provided in court was not the contractual document between the agency and the contractor as the one the prosecutor provided was a mere offer, for which the contractor was to accept, so as to enter into an agreement.

“In this agreement, which is signed by the legal adviser and the DG, it states clearly the terms of the contract and also attached to it is the scope of work when tell whether it is just supply or a supply and installation. Failure to bring the contract and the scope of work is a major flaw as it forms the basis of the agreement between the contractor and the agency and the work to be done. Without this, the contractor cannot be paid. Therefore, my Lord, some papers are missing here. The DG cannot sign four paper sheets. The budget department, procurement, and other necessary departments must comment before a file can be said to be completed and payment made. In all this, the DG must sign all”, he defended.

On the issue of the ‘generating set’, the ex director general told the court that the audit report put the market value of the Generator set as N89million only, “whereas I awarded it at the cost of N129 million. My Lord, as at the time, the so called report was put together in Abuja, no personnel of NIMASA was invited to present any paper, invoice or document. If they did, they would have known that the agency allows for five percent Value Added Tax (VAT); Five per cent withholding tax; 30 percent profit tax and another five percent interest tax, incase there is delay in payment. All amounting to 45 percent. My Lord, when added to the market value of the product in question, you will get N128million; that is what it was awarded for; and it was taken to the board which approved”, he explained further.

Omatseye posited that he never conluded or got involved in the bidding process as the director general and chairman of the parastatal tenders board (PTB). He told the judge that the process was infact conducted by the procurement department, that he never for once interfered in the process.

“If I did, I would not have cancelled the contract when the contractor was not forthcoming with the supply. In fact, the said generator was purchased by the NIMASA management that took over from me”,he said.

Having taken his testimony, in the session that lasted more than six hours, the trial judge then adjourned the case to the June 1 and 2, 2015 for the prosecutor to cross examine him.

It would be recalled that Omatseye had been charged with an amended 27 counts bordering on contract splitting and bid rigging to the tune of about N271 million. Two years later, these charges were amended to “approving above his threshold” as director-general of NIMASA.

This, according to him was based on the fact that his prosecutor could probably not prove that he got involved in the process of contract bidding in the agency.

Archives

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

Published

on

…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. 

Continue Reading

Archives

Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

Archives

Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

Published

on

…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

Continue Reading
ADEBAYO SARUMI: Doyen of Maritime Industry Marks 80th Anniversary, Saturday 

Editor’s Pick

Politics