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Rep close to tears at sex scandal hearing



  • As House fires committee chair over Budget 2016 padding

One of the three House of Representatives members accused of sexual misconduct in the United States was yesterday close to tears as he defended his integrity before the panel probing the allegations made by U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle.

Rep. Mohammed Gololo (APC-Bauchi) was alleged to have sexually assaulted a housekeeper in his hotel room. His colleagues, Mark Gbillah (APC-Benue) and Samuel Ikon (PDP-Akwa Ibom) were accused of soliciting for prostitutes while attending a leadership programme in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.

During the investigative hearing on the allegations, by the joint Committees on Ethics and Privileges and Foreign Affairs in Abuja yesterday, they demanded video evidence from the ambassador who leveled the allegations in a letter to Speaker Yakubu Dogara.

Gbillah, whose eyes were misty while testifying, denied the allegation, saying the reliance on evidence from employees of the hotel and confirmation of identities of the lawmakers in a group photograph was faulty.

According to him, the action did not comply with global norms that demanded fair hearing on such matter.

“We were not contacted by the US embassy to hear from us about what transpired at the hotel.

“This is the only evidence they admitted that they have contrary to all fallacious statements in the media about them having video evidence.

“I can then dare the U.S. government today to produce the video evidence about something that does not exist.

“Some of us will not relent in this matter,’’ Gbillah said.

He added that the accused lawmakers suspended legal process on the matter in deference to the ongoing investigation.

“But, when you have concluded we are taking it up at whatever U.S. department wants because it is my reputation and career and I will not take this lying low,’’ he said.

Gololo, who was accused of grabbing a house keeper at the Marriot Hotel in Cleveland, described the allegation as spurious.

He demanded that the allegation should be retracted and apologies tendered by the US government if video evidence was not produced.

According to him, I never grabbed any body and all through my stay in the hotel, I did not come in contact with any house keeper.

“So, I insist that the video evidence against me be produced not only to clear my name but to seek redress for the damages done to my reputation.

“I am ready to go back to Cleveland at my expense to establish my innocence without prejudice to my right,’’ Gololo said.

Ikom said the U.S. Ambassador’s letter that suggested that all parties were interrogated before arriving at a conclusion was misleading.

He said:” My views on this issue have not been sought; I have not been confronted with facts at their disposal.

Chairman,  House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Rep. Nicholas Ossai, adopted the submissions of the lawmakers and adjourned the hearing till today.

Ossai said the panel will take submissions from Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, who was absent at the investigative hearing because of his engagement at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.

In the meantime, the House of Representatives yesterday replaced its Appropriation Committee Chairman, Abdulmumin Jibrin, over the controversial “padding” of the 2016 budget.

Jibrin (APC Kano) was replaced with Mustapha Dawaki, also APC Kano, the former House committee chairman on Housing.

But Jubrin denied being sacked. According to him, he resigned the position after “extensive consultation” with his family.

During the controversy over the passage of this year’s budget, Jibrin was accused of allocating 20 projects worth N4.3 billion to his constituency without the consent of his committee members.

Projects worth N40 billion were also said to have been surreptitiously allocated to the leadership of the Appropriations Committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives and also without the knowledge of other members.

The padded budget, which was returned by the Executive was reworked before President Muhammadu Buhari eventually assented to it after a meeting of Presidency officials with principal officers of the Senate and the House.

A 15-member harmonisation Committee was raised to sort out the grey areas.

When the furore on the padding died down, some members called for Jibrin’s removal.

Jubrin, at a news conference yesterday, attended by some members of the committee, said he did no wrong as far as the committee’s work was concerned.

He described his “resignation” as a personal decision.

Jibrin said his hands were clean and promised to give details “of what transpired in the 2016 Appropriations” later.

Jibrin said his revelations will not be “to attack anybody but so that we can also learn collectively and see how we can move the system forward.”

“But whether I like it or not, I was the Chairman of Appropriations and my signature was on all the documents even though I know that I am not at fault.

“Of course we are all aware of a lot of issues that took place during the process of the 2016 budget. I have always maintained one position, that as the Chairman, Appropriations, I did my very best. Until date, I have said that if anybody has anything that I have done that amounts to an abuse of my office, or amounts to an illegality, that it should be brought forward.”

The lawmaker went on: “I’ve said it several times that I can be reported to the authorities or the relevant arm of government  or the internal disciplinary measure of the House should take its course. And as it is until date, nobody has raised any issue against me.

“ And that has been the case even while I was Chairman Finance. For four years, I was chairman Finance and I executed my responsibility diligently and I left an unblemished record.”

He said there were a lot of “obstacles here and there” during the 2016 budget appropriation.

“Even if I’m not at fault, it is only proper that I take the responsibility. I believe that the best thing I should do under the circumstance is to step aside so that the committee can move forward,” Jibrin said.

During plenary, Speaker. Yakubu’s Dogara announced a replacement Mustapha Bala Dawaki (Kudu/Warawa Federal Constituency, Kano) as Jubrin’s replacement..

Dogara said: “He ( Jibrin) met me and said he does not think he would continue as the committee chairman due to pressure of the work.”

The Speaker said the House leadership had taken a decision to replace him as the committee chairman.

Jibrin (Bebeji/Kiru Federal Constituency, Kano) was the chairman of the committee on Finance in the Seventh House. He was made Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations  after Dogara’s emergence as Speaker of the Eighth Assembly.



WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners



…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



The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured



…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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