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Otudeko loses 10-year-old land tussle against Dangote

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  • As Niger gov, Andy Uba, Gobir, 107 others are named in PanamaPapers reports

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday dismissed a suit filed 10 years ago by Honeywell Group and its chairman, Dr. Oba Otudeko, seeking to eject billionaire businessman, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and his companies, from a piece of land known as Fifth Apapa Wharf Extension in Lagos.

The said land, measuring over 10.841 square metres, is located at the Lagos Ports Complex.

Otudeko and his company had urged the court to sack Dangote and his companies from the land and to award $48m against the defendants in their favour.

But in a judgment delivered on Thursday, 10 years after the suit was filed, Justice Okon Abang decided that Otudeko’s suit lacked merit and thus dismissed it.

Apart from Dangote, the other defendants in the suit are the Nigeria Ports Authority, the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Dangote Industries Ltd, Dangote and Greenview Development Ltd.

The judge said contrary to the plaintiffs’ claim, he found no illegality in the manner Dangote acquired the land through an agent.

“It is my view that the second defendant lawfully granted the concession with the approval of the then head of state to the agent of Dangote,” Justice Abang held.

He declared that Otudeko failed to show any evidence that he suffered any loss to merit the $48m damages he was asking for.

He held, “As regards the monetary claims sought for by the plaintiff, My Lords, the plaintiff has not called evidence to justify the award of either special or general damages in this matter. I so hold.”

The judge, however, ordered Otudeko to pay a cost of N50,000 to each of the four defendants.

“The suit of the plaintiff lacks merit and is hereby dismissed with a cost of N50,000 awarded in favour of first and second defendant, and again the cost of N50,000 awarded in favour of the third to fifth defendant payable by the plaintiff,” the judge held.

Otudeko and his companies had, in their suit, claimed that NPA leased the land to them for five years for a bulk food handling facility at N2.168m per year. It said it paid the sum, as well as N290, 000 for land survey.

Honeywell said it took possession of the land to the defendants’ knowledge and conducted technical studies on the facility, spending millions of dollars in the process.

The plaintiff said despite being aware of its massive development plans on the land, the BPE suddenly suspended the pre-existing rights by concessioning NPA’s Apapa Ports Complex, including the Fifth Apapa Wharf Extension to Greenview, owned by Dangote.

In the meantime, at least 110 Nigerian individuals and companies, including Governor Abubakar Sadiq Bello of Niger State, Senators Andy Ubah and Ibrahim Gobir have so far been identified in the leaked PanamaPapers to operate offshore shell companies in tax havens.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and his predecessor, Senator David Mark, among several other Nigerians had earlier been identified in the document. The list, which also contained top business persons, politicians, and their family members, detailed names of companies, their owners and the particular tax havens the offshore firms are domiciled.

An online publication, Premium Times, which revealed the list, is the only Nigerian media organisation with exclusive access to the documents obtained by German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with over 80 media organisations around the world.

Since April 3, 2016, when the news of the unprecedented leak broke worldwide, the publication had published series of exclusive reports about the offshore assets of prominent Nigerians named in the database that is now globally referred to as #PanamaPapers. Some of them, who are public officer holders, held the assets in violation of Nigerian law, failing to declare them to the Code of Conduct Bureau.

The investigation revealed the assets of some of Nigeria’s most powerful individuals, including Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote; President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; the boss of Oando, Nigeria’s biggest indigenous oil firm, Wale Tinubu, in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, Panama, and Seychelles. The unprecedented year-long investigation involving 11.5 million secret documents, which stretch from 1977 to December 2015, exposed the hidden underground of the world economy, a network of banks, law firms and other middlemen that utilize shell companies, sometimes using them to hide illegal wealth.

The 2.6 TB files, involving 214,488 entities, also revealed hundreds of details about how former gun-runners, contractors and other members of the spy world use offshore companies for personal and private gain.

The investigation unveiled the cloak of secrecy provided by Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm that specializes in creating offshore companies, some of which had been used by con men and women to hide Ponzi schemes, predatory lending scams, and other financial frauds from their victims and from the authorities.

Contacted for his reactions, Gobir, who is Senate Committee on Senate Services,  was said to have travelled out to Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj. His Media Assistant, Bala Kassim, said his boss left the country yesterday, adding that there was no way he could be reached for responses to the allegation.

On his part, Vanguard sent text messages to the three lines of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Andy Uba, PDP (Anambra South) to comment on allegations, but there were no responses. Also, efforts made last night to reach Governor Bello and the two senators proved abortive as calls made to their mobile phones remained unanswered.

Upshot with additional report from Vanguard

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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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