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Queues disappear as knocks, kudos trail subsidy removal

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  • As Kachikwu says FOREX Issues Forced FG to Fix Petrol at N145 Per Litre

Less than 24 hours after the Federal Government announced a new price of N145 per litre for petrol, which signaled the end to the subsidy regime, queues have disappeared from filling stations in some parts of the country. This is even as more reactions trailed the new price regime with some Nigerians hailing the move, while others condemned the government action.

Across the country, the long queues that have been on for more than two months have disappeared. In Lagos and its environs, most filling stations are now dispensing to the public, lending credence to the argument that some of them were hoarding the product.

Most of the stations are however selling above the N145 cap. One of the stations on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Amoo Oil sold at N150 per litre. However, in some other states, the price still hovers between N250 and N300 per litre. In Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, most of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, mega stations that have not been selling in past few weeks opened for business yesterday, with their pump price adjusted to N145. Most independent marketers are selling at between N250 and N200, while motorists are already complaining that some of the stations are under dispensing, despite selling far above the new price. Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency, CESJET, applauded the president’s resolve to remove subsidy, describing it as a gift to Nigerians. CESJET’s Executive Secretary, Comrade Ikpa Isaac, in a statement in Abuja yesterday, said the removal of the subsidy will end the incessant fuel crises, which have put the nation and innocent citizens at the mercy of a certain cabal.

He said: “Different revelations have emerged of massive fraud in the fuel subsidy process; trillions of naira is alleged to have been fraudulently stolen from the government purse in the name of fuel subsidy payments. “It is heart wrenching to discover that the country is being bled on the side, despite its already anemic financial status.” Ikpa said the removal of subsidy will not only break the cabal, but also encourage those who have had approved refining licenses several years ago to go ahead to build their refineries. Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, University of Ibadan chapter, Dr Deji Omole, called on Nigerians to resist the increment. Omole, while speaking with journalists in Ibadan yesterday, described the present government as that of propaganda and impunity. While flaying the news of the increment as an insult to the sensibilities of Nigerians, Omole said all that has to be celebrated under the Buhari government is one year of poverty through increment in electricity tariff and many other anti-poor policies.

He insisted that the government thrives on propaganda, wondering why the All Progressives Congress, APC, which campaigned that there was no subsidy under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, is now talking about subsidy. The ASUU boss noted that it is sad that since 2009, no single kobo has been added to the ‘poverty wage’ being paid to workers, stating that the cost of living within the same period has quadrupled. Omole called for mass resistance to what he called the ‘callous’ policy. Legal icon and founder, Afe Babalola University, Aare Afe Babalola, in his reaction described the increment as a sad story. He said it was because the increment would cause more hardship for many Nigerians, majority of who live below the poverty line of two dollar a day. Aare Babalola made the observation in an exclusive interview with National Mirror in Ado-Ekiti. He said he foresaw the increment coming because it was just impossible to sustain fuel importation on subsidy. He however added that it was unfortunate and painful, the adverse effect of the increment on ordinary Nigerians.

“I never believe in subsidising imported fuel and since I am not in government and also not among the policy makers, there is little or nothing I can do in that regard,” he said. He however urged Nigerians to cooperate with and support the current government in every area and with every mean possible to be able to move the country forward. House of Representatives Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the increase was necessary but untimely. Gbajabiamila, who spoke to newsmen in Abuja, however, insisted that in the light of the increase, government must accede to the demand by labour to pay a new minimum wage of N56,000.

The lawmaker said he has always opposed the removal of subsidy, but now, as a key leader of the ruling APC, he was in a dilemma. He pointed out that the only justification for any such increase now would be the wage increase, as there was the need for a review of the minimum wage to cushion the effects of the deregulation. Meanwhile, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, said the new pump price of N145 would help to sustain supply and reduce the suffering to get the product. Kachikwu told newsmen in Abuja yesterday that NNPC did not have the resources to supply the product to meet the demands of the nation.

“I want to explain the situation with the recent price of the PMS and I know that a lot of you that watched the movement of the price from N86 to N145 will understand more. “The reality is that we are unable to bring the product with the prices we sold before, that is why we see the systemic queues all over the country for a very long time. “I will urge you to trust that we are trying to do what is right and there is no better time to do this other than now under the leadership of President Buhari,” he said He added that non-availability of foreign exchange and inability to open letter of credit forced marketers to stop products importation. This, he said, imposed 90 per cent supply on NNPC since October 2015 against its supply strength of 48 per cent.

This development, Kachikwu said, contributed to the continuous queue witnessed in the country. He said with the NN86.50 pump price of PMS, Federal Government would have been paying subsidy of N13.7 per litre, which he added, translated to N16.4bn monthly. The minister said government could not go on with such funding and had completely removed subsidy and working with the price modulation to get things done right. He added that the renewed pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta had drastically reduced national crude oil production to 1.4 million barrels per day as at yesterday.

This, he added, was against 2.2 million barrels per day as proposed in the 2016 budget. “This will further reduce income to the federation account and also affect crude volume for PMS conversion and Federal Government’s foreign earning. “To continue massive importation of PMS, it is clear that unless immediate action is taken to liberalise the petroleum supply and distribution, the queues will persist,” he said. The minister said diversion would worsen and the current price spiral out of control. Kachikwu further said if pump price was not increased, more states would have no money to pay salaries as monies accrued to the federation account would not be able to solve their needs. He assured that the current policy would help to sustain and create jobs instead of job loss that was witnessed in the system. The minister said the situation would also put to an end various sharp practices such as hoarding, smuggling, and diversion and ensure market stability.

“It will potentially create additional 200,000 jobs through new investments and prevent potential loss of nearly 400,000 jobs in existing investments. “It will provide government more revenue to address social and infrastructural needs of the country,” he added He urged Nigerians to trust government’s effort to ensure growth and development in the oil sector.

In the meantime, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Wednesday explained that the new price of N145 per litre was as a result of the problem suffered by oil marketers in sourcing foreign exchange for product importation.

The explanation came as the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, asked the marketers to sell between N135 and N145 per litre, adding also that the marketers can now import the product if they wished using the quality specifications and other guidelines.

The Acting Executive Secretary, Mrs. Sotonye Iyoyo, explained that NNPC retail stations have been directed to sell at a price lower than N145 per litre.

According to her, “we are conscious of the difficulties that Nigerians have been going through in the last few months, and to ameliorate this situation, we shall continue to modulate pricing in accordance with prevailing market dynamics, thereby ensuring fair value to all citizens.”

The Minister said the new fuel price was the only way out, adding that it was the only solution to the exorbitant price of N150 and N250 per litre.

He claimed that with the increase, the product would now be available unlike before.

He said, “the reason for the current problem is the inability of importers of petroleum products to source foreign exchange at the official rate due to the massive decline of foreign exchange earnings of the Federal Government. As a result, private marketers have been unable to meet their approximate 50 per cent portion of total national supply of PMS.”

In announcing the fuel price increase, government had held a meeting with stakeholders at the official residence of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

Those who attended the meeting were representatives of labour unions, including NLC, TUC, NUPENG, and PENGASSAN, leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives, among others.

National Mirror with additional from Shipping Day

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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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