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Soldiers confront landmines in Sambisa forest, vigilantes killed

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Nigerian soldiers, yesterday, confronted landmines in Sambisa forest, Boko Haram’s last known stronghold, with three Civilian Joint Task force members killed. This was just as doubt continues to hang over the whereabouts of the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, with speculations that the group may have been so disarrayed that it no longer has the luxury of issuing threats.

Indeed, the soldiers, backed by warplanes had invaded Sambisa forest on Wednesday, in an effort to finally defeat the sect, but confronted landmines which led to the death of three members of the Civilian Joint Task Force. Agency report said a vigilante and a security source both confirmed the landmines at Sambisa forest, a day after an offensive aimed at rooting out the insurgents, hinting that soldiers were beating a retreat.

“The soldiers have retreated to Bama because of mines. They had been on the road but that made them vulnerable, so they moved to the bush but there are mines planted there (too),” one soldier, who did not want to be named, was quoted by agency reports. The Sambisa forest, a former colonial game reserve, is about 100 kilometres from Chibok, where Boko Haram abducted more than 200 secondary school girls a year ago.

However, intelligence officials were said to have indicated that the Chibok schoolgirls were being held in the forest, even though U.S. reconnaissance drones had failed to locate them. “Three of our boys were killed by a landmine as we progressed into Sambisa. We’ve suspended going farther,” Muhammad Mungonu, a member of Civilian JTF said.

Indeed, Chadian military source said a joint military operation involving armies from Niger and Cameroon was expected to begin to encircle the Sambisa forest next week. Chadians were expected to go in from the Cameroonian border where they have been massing troops.

However, doubt continued to surround the whereabouts of the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, especially with the group’s long silence. It is believed in security circles that the sect may have been so disorganised that they could not issue releases recently.

A military source said since the declaration of the final push against the insurgents in the mid-February, and directive to clear all terrorists’ camps before May 29 handover date, the Nigerian troops have been on the lookout for Shekau and other commanders of Boko Haram. The last that was heard of Shekau was the unverified broadcast pledging allegiance to Islamic State (IS), early in March, which was posted on Boko Haram’s Twitter account.

In that broadcast, Shekau had vowed to disrupt the rescheduled elections. Shekau was quoted to have said: “This election will not be held even if we are dead. Even if we are not alive, Allah will never allow you to do it.” He spoke in Hausa language.

Despite the threats, however, the group was unable to disrupt the 2015 general elections as polls were conducted reasonably peacefully throughout the country on March 28 and April 11. Since asking for a six week extension to the date of 2015 general elections in February, Nigerian troops have essentially flushed out Boko Haram terrorists from the 21 local government areas that they occupied in three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

The military has invaded the notorious forest hideouts of the terrorists and is systematically combing them to clear the entire Nigerian territory of terrorist elements.

On Wednesday, Defence Headquarters issued a statement detailing the killing of a notorious top terrorists’ commander, Abu Mojahid, among scores of others in the outskirt of Alagarno on Tuesday morning. The military maintained that its “operations, especially in forest locations, are progressing in defiance of obstacles and landmines emplaced by the terrorists.”

Defence spokesman, Major-General Chris Olukolade, said in a statement that “Boko Haram have buried landmines all over the routes leading to their camps in the forest, which is no doubt a huge obstacle retarding the military offensive against them,” he said.

However, security sources indicated that Boko Haram members have massed around Sambisa forest. “All their fighters who were pushed out of Bama, Dikwa, Gwoza and Damboa (in Borno state) all moved to Boko Haram camps in Sambisa,” a source said.

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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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