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POF: Don’t Worsen Masses Purchasing Power- Stakeholders Tell Amaechi

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  • As Dangote bemoans: We lost N50b to ‘flexible exchange’ policy

Maritime industry watchers would be greatly disappointed should the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi adopt Government fiat, to compel the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to embark on any collection of the controversial Practitioners Operating Fees (POF), on behalf of the Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (CRFFN), presently in financial comatose.

Their reactions was against the backdrop of reports that Amaechi, according to the President of Association of Registered Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (AREFFN); Dr Frank Ukor, (Shipping Position) has mandated the NPA to embark on POF collection, on behalf of the CRFFN, with a fraction of it distributed to freight forwarders, as subventions, because the NPA could perform the task, through its terminal operators.

Rotimi Amaechi

Rotimi Amaechi

“It would be a clear case of robbing Peter to pay Paul”, Anthony Emeordi told the Maritime First, stressing that he expects the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) to protest the gesture.

“That blanket arrangement would not work. It would amount to forcefully merging the Customs brokers with Freight forwarders, for the cosmetic sake of redistribution of resources, forcefully collected”, he indicated further.

But, another industry watcher, speaking on condition of anonymity warned that Government should not embark on any new collection likely to raise the cost of doing business in the nation’s ports.

“Nigerians’ spending or purchasing power is already at its lowest ebb; and Amaechi should not do anything to exacerbate it. Whatever the Government compels the NPA to collect from association in the ports now would be directly passed on to the final consumers, the poor masses. This was not the change Nigerians asked for. Amaechi, a Catholic like me, should not, for God sake add to the poor people’s burden”, he said, stressing his conviction that the Minister would not do it.

NPA Managing Director, Malam Habib Abdullahi

NPA Managing Director, Malam Habib Abdullahi

When the ANLCA National President, Prince Olayiwola Shittu’s attention was called, he did not only take the time to first indicate the difference between the registered Customs brokers and the freight forwarders, before assuring stakeholders of his group’s preparedness, to protect importers and the Nigerian masses from over payments, he also revealed some of the stiff challenges ANLCA members face, to do their job, creditably.

“Of course, the difference between a Customs brokers and the freight forwarder is very great. The demarcation is not made here in Nigeria, because everybody wants to gain access to the pot- so that they can make money. But the first question any discerning person should ask is: if FIATA is the headship of freight forwarders all over the world, who is the head of FIATA? They are a member of the PSG- Policy and Strategic Group of the WCO. But who is the Chairperson of the PSG?”, Shittu asked; and when we said “DHL”, he exclaimed “That shows the relevance of the Customs brokers!”

Taking a hard look at the challenges in their job, he explained further.

“For all circulars from Customs, it is a must, that Customs Agents must have it. But in Nigeria, they hoard it. They would bring a circular that is supposed to enlighten you; and they would hide it from you; and them when your jobs get to them, they will now tell you ‘we have a circular’.

“They would now search under their tables; why, would you be a Customs agent and yet you don’t know the bench-mark for a vehicle? And if an importer tells you I want to bring in a Mercedes Benz 300 of 2011; you would say ‘ok’;  and go to Customs officers  to ask, ‘please, what is the new price now?’

“And that is something that should actually be forwarded to everybody to see. The man who is bringing in the cargo should know how much he is to pay; He should know, before he brings it in. He should also be able to pay that money; and walk away.

“But how can the procedure be simplified when somebody somewhere is waiting for somebody from the Federal Operations to waylay and hold cargo on the road! Of course, they need such information hoarding, to prove allegations that the importers didn’t pay correct duty.

“Those are the changes we actually expect the new Comptroller General to help us to achieve; those are the kind of changes that could immediately uplift the cargo facilitation job in Nigeria.

“It would end the growing waves of accusations that agents and Customs officers are sharing money! If the importer already knows how much he is supposed to pay; won’t he just pay it, collect his goods and walk away?! But why is it that such very a simple thing cannot be done?

“Or do we need to first report to the WCO through our own International Federation of the Customs Brokers (IFCB), that the Nigeria Customs are creating such and such challenges for us? Must we first appeal to WCO to help us beg the NCS to assist us do the job better? For us, we feel we should not be exposing our ineptitude, we feel we should not expose ourselves. That is why we seek dialogue.

“But as I am speaking with you right now, I feel bold to say; that three letters have been written to the Comptroller General (Hammed Ali) soliciting for dialogue between the Customs agents and the CGC.  Only one was replied!  And it was to tell us that the man is busy, being preoccupied with the tours of formations under him; and once he is free, he would let us know!

“Are we the one to determine whether he has finished the tour or not? Who knows? But the rumours we heard was that some people had gone to tell him that we mislead the former CG, and we could do exactly the same thing if he grants us a listening ear!”

NB:  (TOMORROW; We begin to run our ’60 Minutes with Prince Shittu’!)

In the meantime, Dangote Group President Aliko Dangote said at the weekend that his company lost N50 billion to the flexible foreign exchange policy.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last week scrapped the dual exchange rate policy, creating a single window for the trade in naira.

Dangote spoke when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo toured the project sites of Dangote Fertiliser and Dangote Refinery in Lekki, Lagos.

Dangote said the $161 million his companies bought during that period from the CBN merely reflected the size of his business and did not represent preferential treatment.

“We have been badly affected like any other company,” he said, arguing that operational costs totalled $100 million each month due to recurring expenses, such as the purchase of parts for cement production and running a fleet of 9,000 trucks.

“When you are talking about 20 billion dollars worth of projects, what is 161 million? One-hundred-and-sixty-one million dollars is what I need in just six weeks,” he said.

“This week (last week), the Central Bank removed the peg that has held the naira at the official rate of 197 for the last 16 months, leading to a 30 per cent devaluation as the currency traded freely on the interbank market.”

Dangote said the decline had pushed up costs. “This devaluation alone, we have lost over 50 billion naira ($176 million),” he said.

“The gas, which is our main source of power, is priced in dollars. If there is 40 per cent devaluation, your price will go up by 40 per cent. Every single aspect of the production will go up by that percentage,” he said.

To Osinbajo, the Dangote Fertiliser and Petrochemical projects are capable of assisting in the government’s drive to reduce poverty through generation of foreign exchange.

He said it was also in line with the Federal Government’s immediate objective of diversifying the economic base of the country as a result of the plummeting of the price of oil, the country’s sole foreign exchange earner.

Osinbajo was accompanied during the working visit to the Dangote Refinery, Petrochemicals and fertilisers, reputed to be the biggest in Africa when completed, by Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Ministers of Finance (Mrs Kemi Adeosun); Power, Works and Housing (Babatunde Fashola); Solid Minerals Development (Kayode Fayemi) and others. He was amazed at the size of the projects and reiterated the government’s preparedness to provide an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.

Dangote said the diversification of Nigeria’s economy was long overdue and that one sector that the government can focuses on is agriculture.

He said his investment in fertilizer production was a sure way the diversification into agriculture could succeed because according to him, it will amount to little if focus is directed to agriculture and fertilisers would be imported.

“By the time we complete this project, there will be opportunity to take on agriculture and say bye to poverty, because there will be jobs, no sector has more job potential than agriculture,” Dangote added.

Dangote told the Vice-President that the $12 billion refinery would have a capacity of 650,000 barrels a day. According to him, there will be market for the refined products because only three African countries – South Africa, Egypt and Cote D Ivoire – have functioning refineries.

On the project, he said: “Mechanical completion will be end of 2018 but we will start producing in 2019.”

The refinery, petrochemicals and fertiliser in one spot according to Dangote, is the single largest stream in the world. “This site is the biggest site in the world, the refinery is the biggest single refinery in the world, the petrochemicals is 13 times bigger than Eleme petrochemicals while the fertiliser plant will be 10 times bigger than former National Fertiliser company. The project, with the  $2 billion fertiliser unit  was the funded through loans, export credit agencies and our own equity, Dangote said.

Additional report from Nation

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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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