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Problem Solving: Ukraine Appoints a Jewish Prime Minister

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  • As US Publishes Detailed, Damning Report on Nigeria 

But unlike most of them, Groysman, the former mayor of Vinnytsia, did not visit the synagogue as a political gesture. He was going in his private capacity as a member of his central Ukraine city’s Jewish community.

Ukraine’s parliament Thursday confirmed the appointment of Groysman as premier in a bid to end months of political gridlock and unlock vital aid to the war torn-state.

Lawmakers voted by 257 to 50 to approve the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk — condemned by President Petro Poroshenko for losing the public’s trust — and select Groysman in the first cabinet overhaul since Ukraine’s 2014 pro-EU revolt. He is the first openly Jewish person to hold the country’s second highest post and, at 38, the youngest person to have the job.

Groysman’s Jewishness is not very unusual, even for a mayor and senior politician in Ukraine, where 360,000 people of Jewish parentage live. But his openness about it was not customary in a country where anti-Semitism and decades of Communist repression once made it undesirable for politicians to be seen as too Jewish, said the local rabbi, Shaul Horowitz.

Last year, his reputation as an honest and effective administrator earned Groysman the title of speaker of the Ukrainian parliament.

Josef Zissels, a leader of the Vaad organization of Ukrainian Jews, pointed to Groysman’s ascent in politics as proof of the absence of serious anti-Semitism in Ukraine. Russia regularly points to the country’s alleged anti-Semitism to justify its conflict with Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea.

“Clearly, Groysman’s nomination shows the opposite,” Zissels said of the claims.

Groysman’s nomination Monday followed the resignation a day earlier of Yatsenyuk over his seeming failure to fight corruption and implement economic restructuring measures.

“I understand that we are in extremely difficult condition, that the government has a huge responsibility and the challenges it faces are simply enormous,” Groysman said Wednesday of Ukraine’s $17 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund, a financial crisis that has halved the national currency’s value against the dollar and the conflict with Russia. “I also know that with Ukrainian citizens’ support, we’ll strive to end the crisis.”

Horowitz is among those who believe Groysman will succeed where others have failed. The rabbi points to Groysman’s record as mayor in his native Vinnytsia.

“He’s a man of action who doesn’t talk too much but gets a lot done,” Horowitz said.

When Groysman, a lawyer with a background in business, became mayor in 2006 – at 28 he was the country’s youngest mayor ever — “the place looked like a Third World city,” Horowitz recalled.

“The roads were [in] disrepair, there were no street lights, fires broke out regularly,” he said.

But today, Vinnytsia, a sprawling city of 370,000, has a reliable tram system, one of Ukraine’s best-functioning train stations, street lights everywhere and three new hospitals.

‘He’s a man of action who doesn’t talk too much but gets a lot done’

Using international connections and attracting oligarchs to set up shop in the city, Groysman nearly doubled its budget from 500 million hryvna in 2007 (approximately $100 million) to nearly 1 billion hryvna in 2010.

“If Groysman does for Ukraine what he did for Vinnytsia, then he will have done something truly great for this nation,” said Koen Carlier, a Belgian national who lives in Vinnytsia, where he heads the operations of the local Christians for Israel group.

Endeavoring to jump-start his city’s economy, Groysman has made use of his ties in Israel. He has family in the city of Ashdod, which his 69-year-old father, Boris, visits regularly. In 2012, Groysman welcomed Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to Vinnytsia for the opening of a state-of-the-art medical diagnostic center that Israel built there.

That project demonstrated Groysman’s knack for using his broad network to meet the needs of his constituents and partners, according to one Ukrainian official who spoke to JTA under condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the media.

“With fears of growing international isolation, Israel was anxious to demonstrate that it has allies,” the official said. “Groysman knew this, and he also knew it was a country where politicians are accessible and act fast. So he worked out a symbiosis to benefit his own city.”

Groysman’s recent rise in Ukrainian politics owes a great deal not only to what but who he knew – especially Poroshenko, with whom he had had a close relationship long before Poroshenko became president. In 2012, Poroshenko, an oligarch who made his fortune from chocolates, opened Ukraine’s largest confectionery factory in Vinnytsia, adding thousands of jobs. Poroshenko, who became president in 2014, also was a partner in the construction of the Israeli diagnostic center.

Poroshenko asked Groysman to become speaker of the parliament shortly after assuming power following a revolution that ended with the ousting of his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych. That bloody insurrection began amid claims that Yanukovych was a corrupt Kremlin stooge.

In interviews with the Ukrainian media, Groysman spoke of his grandfather Isaac’s survival during the Holocaust, when he pretended to be dead after being dropped by Nazis into a mass grave.

On January 27, International Holocaust Memorial Day, when Groysman was the chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament, he asked other lawmakers to stand for a minute’s silence in honor of the victims of the Jewish genocide. It was the first time such a gesture took place in parliament.

“Unlike many who either try to hide their Judaism or just not talk about it, Groysman is a warm and open Jew because he’s part of a new generation in a new country,” Horowitz said.

In the meantime, the United States, Wednesday, released a detailed but damning report on Nigeria, reproving the government at all level of prejudice, cruelty, and inflicting pain on poor Nigerians.

The report which was made public by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the  United States Department accused the Nigerian Army, Police and DSS of gross abuse of power, which include citizens brutality, arbitrary detention, bribery among other scandals.

According to the report the government and its agents committed numerous arbitrary and unlawful killings. The national police, army, and other security services committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force to apprehend criminals and suspects as well as to disperse protesters. Authorities generally did not hold police, military, or other security force personnel accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. State and federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths did not make their findings public.

Security force use of excessive force, including live ammunition, to disperse demonstrators resulted in numerous killings during the year. For example, on December 12, army troops killed an undetermined number–possibly hundreds according to some credible reports–of members of the Shia group Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in Zaria, Kaduna State, following an altercation at a roadblock that disrupted the convoy of the chief of army staff. IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky remained in government custody, while institutions including the Kaduna State government, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the National Assembly, and the NA launched or pledged to launch inquiries into the incident.

Security forces were allegedly responsible for extrajudicial killings, often arbitrarily executing many individuals at one time. In May following the killing and mutilation of six soldiers by cattle rustlers, army troops killed dozens of civilians and razed scores of houses in Wase District, Plateau State. Community leaders accused the military of storming several villages at night and firing indiscriminately. They also alleged government forces had previously killed more than 80 persons in similar attacks. While acknowledging it had carried out an operation against militants, the military denied killing any civilians and promised to investigate. There were no reports of any investigations as of December.

There were reports of arbitrary and unlawful killings related to internal conflicts in the Northeast and other areas.

The report pointed out  that Nigerian police in various states, including the Special Anti-robbery Squad and the Criminal Investigation Division, had “torture chambers,” special rooms where suspects were tortured while being interrogated. Military and police reportedly used a wide range of torture methods, including beatings, shootings, nail and tooth extractions, rape, and other forms of sexual violence.

Police commonly used a technique called “parading” of arrestees. Parading involved walking arrestees through public spaces and subjecting them to public ridicule and abuse. Bystanders often taunted and hurled food and other objects at arrestees. Police defended the practice, claiming that public humiliation helped deter crime.

According to credible reports, security services committed rape and other forms of violence against women and girls, often with impunity. For example, on April 30, the police arrested a police corporal for allegedly raping a seven-year-old girl inside the Mangoron Mahauta Police Brigade Quarters in Kano State. There was no further information on the case as of December.

Times of Israel with additional report from Huhuonline 

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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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