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Presidency releases names of freed Chibok girls …denies swap deal with Boko Haram

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  • As Reps move to reduce President’s power to sack judges

The Federal Government has confirmed the release of 21 of the missing Chibok girls by Boko Haram insurgents. The released girls were among the over 200 schoolgirls, who were kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, 2014.

Most of the girls wept profusely when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo met them on Thursday in Abuja. The 21 girls were released after 913 days in captivity. A statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, stated that the girls were in the custody of the Department of State Services, DSS.

The statement added that the Director-General of the DSS, Malam Lawal Daura had briefed President Muhammadu Buhari on the matter. Shehu revealed that the release of the girls, in a limited number, was the outcome of negotiations between the administration and Boko Haram, brokered by the International Red Cross and the Swiss government.

“The negotiations will continue”, the federal government added. The Information Minister, Mr. Lai Mohammed, however disclosed that there was no swap deal with Boko Haram insurgents in the negotiation for the release of 21 Chibok girls.

The Minister who made the disclosure Thursday at a Press Conference in Abuja also said that government has assembled doctors,  nurses and paramedics to be with the girls for rehabilitation. “Medicals are being arranged for them,” he said.

However, there were strong indications on Thursday that the Federal Government freed some top Boko Haram commanders for the 21 Chibok girls, who were released by the insurgents at Banki, a border town between Nigeria and Cameroon. A security source said five Boko Haram commanders were released in exchange for the 21 Chibok girls.

The source stated, “Five top commanders of the Boko Haram were traded for the released Chibok girls. “Those released are not among those earlier released by the military in the North-East on October 1, 2016. These ones are confirmed Boko Haram commanders, who have been in the custody of the DSS.”

The source, who spoke to our correspondent on Thursday, said the 21 girls were discovered by troops of the 21 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, which supervises the military units in Banki, Borno State, while they were filing out of the forest. “I think it was a planned operation which involved the DSS. The released Boko Haram commanders were not in the custody of the military,” the source added.

The source explained that the insurgents released the girls and left them to wander into an area where they could be sighted by people and security personnel in the area. “The girls were released in the forest at Banki. Obviously, the abductors took them close to where they could be sighted and gave them direction and left them,” he stated.

It was learnt that the Nigerian Air Force Mi 17 Hercules helicopters were deployed in the area to airlift them out of the operational area to freedom. The helicopter “has capacity to airlift 15 people without difficulty.”

NAMES OF THE RELEASED 21 CHIBOK GIRLS:

  • Mary Usman Bulama
  • Jummai John
  • Blessing Abana
  • Luggwa Sanda
  • Comfort Habila
  • Maryam Basheer
  • Comfort Amos
  • Glory Mainta
  • Saratu Emmanuel
  • Deborah Ja’afaru (baby: Bukar Amos)
  • Rahab Ibrahim
  • Helen Musa
  • Maryamu Lawan
  • Rebecca Ibrahim
  • Asabe Goni
  • Deborah Andrawus
  • Agnes Gapani
  • Saratu Markus
  • Glory Dama
  • Pindah Nuhu
  • Rebecca Mallam

In the meantime, the House of Representatives yesterday moved to reduce the power of the President in the sack of judges. In this direction, the House has called for the involvement of National Judicial Council ,NJC, in the procedure for the removal of head of courts to avoid victimisation by the executive.

This was contained in a Bill, entitled An act to pursuant to Section 9(1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) to alter Section 292 (1) (A) and (i) (ii) to include the National Judicial Council in the procedure for the removal of heads of courts established by the Constitution under Section 6 (5), promoted by Garba Datti Muhammad, APC, Kaduna. Before now, the NJC can only recommend an erring judge to the President, but if the Bill is eventually passed, the body would be involved in the discipline or removal of any erring judge.

Leading the debate on the Bill, which passed second reading on the floor of the House yesterday, Datti said the principal purpose of the proposed amendment “is to ensure that judicial officers serving as heads of courts are not victimised through removal by executive fiat, acting in concert with the legislature without any established or verifiable evidence.”

He pointed out that the objective of the Bill was to “subject judicial personnel serving as heads of courts established under Section 6 (5) of the Constitution can be removed only upon the advice of National Judicial Council.

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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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