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Presidential Polls: The untold story of the peacemakers

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THE picture of President Goodluck Jonathan relaxing with General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, John Cardinal Onayiekan was one that gripped the attention of some inquisitive Nigerians as results of the presidential elections were churned out.

What could have brought these men with varied exposure to public limelight together continuously? That Dangote with his multiple business interests across the continent could be pinned down to Abuja was a wonder for some.

As the results of the 2015 presidential elections showed the incumbent president losing to his challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, the men alongside a few others worked the clock to mellow the tension that had gripped the polity.

Nigerians who watched the television picture of the statesmen parley with the president would have picked up the irony through the personae of General Abubakar. Even though, he spent only 11 months in office as Nigeria’s ruler, the former head of state has arguably become the most sought after former Nigerian leader for international peace shooting engagements.

Peace shooting engagements

Whether Abubakar whispered the fact that it is not how long but the exit mode that paves, the way to international statesmanship to President Jonathan remains in the realm of imagination.

•President Goodluck Jonathan, former Military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd), former Chief of General Staff, Ebitu Ukiwe; business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and John Cardinal Onaiyekan during a meeting of Peace Committee members at the presidential villa in Abuja.

However, what is increasingly coming to the fore is the fact that the Abubakar led committee played a significant role in bringing down the tension that gripped the polity prior to and after the presidential election.

– See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/04/presidential-polls-the-untold-story-of-the-peacemakers/#sthash.bLIc9kyU.dpuf

The committee’s major achievements may have been well unreported. Even so is the membership of the committee that went beyond the men and women that were seen on television parleying with the president and his main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari.

Besides Abubakar, Dangote, Ukiwe, Onaiyekan and Sultan Abubakar– who were seen in public projecting the decisions of the larger body, other members of the committee were Bishop Matthew Kukah, Alhaji Muhammad Musdafa, Lamido Adamawa; Primate of Anglican Church, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh; President, Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor and Justice Rose Ukeje.

Others are Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi; Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Sam Pemu-Amuka, Prof. Ameze Guobadia, Prof. Zainab Alkali; and a former President of Nigerian Bar Association, Dame Priscilla Kuye.

The concept of a peace committee arose from fears from concerned stakeholders including some international organisations about the possibilities of uncontrollable violence during and after the elections. In the last general elections in 2011 as many as 600 persons were said to have died on account of the violence that followed the declaration of the results of the presidential elections.

Ahead of the 2015 elections two separate government bodies, the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs and that of the National Security Adviser had been working separately on how to avoid a repeat of the 2011 bedlam.

Institutional stakeholders

Eventually, the two bodies converged with other institutional stakeholders including the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP and European peacebuilding organisations to work out a framework to douse tension.

The convergence of ideas led to the General Election Sensitization Workshop on Non-Violence which took place in Abuja on January 14 at the end of which 11 presidential candidates including Jonathan for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Buhari for the All Progressives Congress, APC agreed to adhere to a set of conduct that disowned vicious campaigns and violence.

Though there were 11 signatories, eyes were focussed on the two leading candidates and their parties, Buhari and Jonathan.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku who according to sources was one of the early canvassers of the accord chaired the final ceremony during which he read out the five cardinal points of the accord signed by the candidates.

The accord read thus:

  • To run issue-based campaigns at national states and local government levels. In this, we pledge to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious sentiment, ethnic or tribal profiling, both by ourselves and all agents acting in our name.
  • To refrain from making or causing to make in our names or that of our parties any public statement, pronouncement, declaration or speeches that have the capacity to incite any form of violence before, during and after the elections.
  • To forcefully and publicly speak out against provocative utterances and oppose all act of electoral violence whether perpetuated by our supporters and or opponents.

Respected statesmen

 

  • To commit ourselves and political parties to the monitoring of the adherence of this accord if necessary, by a national peace committee made up of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders.
  • All the institutions of government including INEC and security agencies must act and be seen to act with impartiality.

Erstwhile United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan was the special guest of honour at the workshop and his presence seemed to bring the moral weight of the international community on the candidates.

The declarations as agreed by the candidates were subsequently framed as the Abuja Accord which the candidates vowed to abide by.

The accord also provided for the creation of a National Peace Committee that would serve as a platform for the implementation, monitoring of the accord and also as a platform for mediation on issues that may arise between the signatories.

Following this, Bishop Kukah was now asked to help convene the committee and his brief was to get, according to a source, “people who have credibility, people who have cross-national appeal and are not obviously partisan.”

Membership of the committee was essentially framed to represent different interest groups and only those who were seen not to be politically biased or compromised were selected. Dangote, for example, was there to represent the business committee, the religious leaders were also selected while the Lamido Adamawa was selected principally to represent the interest of the Northeast.

Bishop Kukah who runs the Kukah Centre was chosen as coordinator and provided his centre as the secretariat of the committee that was now styled as the National Peace Committee.

Former head of state, Gen. Abubakar then became chairman of the committee. His choice was primarily fitting. The former head of state had become a well sought United Nations cum African Union trouble shooter who etched himself as an international statesman after he implemented a smooth transfer to democratic rule after fate put the leadership of the country in his hands in June 1998.

Logistics support for the committee primarily came from the UNDP and a number of other international organisations including Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue which is based in Geneva, the same body which had earlier provided support for the dialogue that followed the post-election conflicts in Kenya and Liberia.

The committee members, however, did not demand or receive any financial rewards for their work from the UNDP as all of them primarily saw their engagement as a call to national duty.

Indeed, several of them even made sacrifices. The story was told of how one committee member needed for one of the strategic engagements was stranded in one of the northern states and another committee member learning of it had to arrange one of his private jets to ferry him.

Enthusiasm for the committee’s work even overflowed from non members. One airline operator who is not a member of the committee but who monitored the activities of the committee closely on learning that a committee member was stranded somewhere in the north had to arrange a plane to pick up the member whose presence was crucial in one of the critical sessions of the committee.

 

Critical sessions

 

However, optimism that the signing of the accord would immediately douse tension was, however, farfetched. While the presidential candidates stuck to the letters of the accord, their subordinates and associates were seemingly unbothered as they continued with the campaign of calumny and sometimes as in Rivers State, an orgy of violence.

While the politicians were on the rostrums, the committee was on its part working behind the scene in sessions with political actors and public officials in control of some institutions involved in the conduct of the elections.

Among those engaged were the Inspector General of Police, Abba Suleiman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Prof. Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and armed service chiefs.

In all the meetings, the focus of committee members was to win the support of the institutional heads towards ensuring that the principles of the Abuja Accord were adhered to. The committee’s only currency was the moral authority of the members of the committee which was brought to bear on both the candidates and the head of the institutions.

Remarkably, penultimate Wednesday, three days before the presidential election, the committee members again met with the president and again won his support for the Abuja Accord. Inherent in the accord was that the candidates would abide by the results of the election and cause their supporters to also do the same. Following the meeting with the president at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abubakar told State House correspondents:

“We have come as one to see Mr. President as the Commander-Chief of the country and to tell him what we have discussed with all the stakeholders and the role he as the Commander-In-Chief has to play and also what we expect him as a contestant in this race.

“We have briefed him and he has given us his assurance of conducting free, fair and violence-free elections. And this is what this committee is all about.”

Following the meeting with the president, the committee also met with Buhari early on Thursday morning after which the two men were brought together again to reaffirm their adherence to the Abuja Accord.

The work of the committee did not end there as after the elections they again continued contacts with the two major candidates as the results came out. The landmark role of the committee was laid in history by the fact that Abubakar first disclosed news of the telephone call from the president to Gen. Buhari during one of the shuttles between the two candidates.

Abubakar and some members of his committee were on a visit to the president to thank him for making sure that the election went on peacefully in most of the country when he also revealed that the president had conceded defeat in the election.

He said: “We were at the middle of a meeting with the international observers to try to see how we can still water the tension down, when gladly I called Gen. Buhari that we are going to see him, he told me that Mr. President had called him at about 5:15pm and congratulated him and conceded defeat.

 

Acceptance of result

 

“In the history of Nigeria, I think this is the first time a contestant has called his rival to congratulate him and through this point, President Jonathan maintained a point that his ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. “He has proved that he is a man of his word  because during our interaction on this peace committee he has always maintained that he is going to accept the result of the elections whichever way it is done. “And he has proved this.

As Abubakar said that Tuesday minutes after the president made the historic phone call to Buhari.

While stakeholders conversant with the altruistic role of the committee in averting post-election violence have lauded the role of committee members, Dr. Arthur-Martins Aginam, the head of the committee’s secretariat and who is also executive director of the Kukah Centre lauded the president for his unselfish commitment to the accord.

“Credit should go to the president and if he wanted not to be a statesman he could have chosen that path and it is not as if anybody put a gun on his head or prevailed on him and he had said all through the campaign that his ambition is not worth the life of any Nigerian and what he did was simply a reaffirmation of all that he had been saying.”

Besides the president, the IG, Jega and especially the committee members would be etched in history for their historical role in averting what possibly could have been a type of violence never seen in the country.

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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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