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We can’t be tried for padding, says Dogara

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House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara insisted yesterday that budget padding is not an offence, saying no lawmaker can be investigated or tried for it.

“No member of the National Assembly can be investigated or charged to court for performing his constitutional responsibility of lawmaking including passing the budget”, he said at the Civil Society Dialogue session on one year of the legislative agenda organised by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) in Abuja.

Dogara, who drew the flaks over his statement last Friday that “padding is not an offence”, said lawmakers have the constitutional right to tinker with the budget proposal presented by the executive.

“Tinkering with it should not amount to or be regarded as padding”,  Dogara added, noting that it is wrong to accuse lawmakers of using constituency projects to “pad” the budget proposal.

The Speaker was reacting to the allegation of budget padding levelled against him and 12 others by ousted Appropriations Committee chairman Abdulmumin Jibrin.

The others are Deputy Speaker Yusuff Lasun, Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa, Minority Leader Leo Ogor and nine committee chairmen. They were said to have padded the budget with 2000 projects worth N284billion.

A Special Investigation Panel (SIP) raised by acting Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are looking into the matter.

Dogara said the 2016 Budget was “controversial from the beginning”, adding: “it took dialogue, compromise and consensus to produce a workable document.”

The Speaker argued that by virture of the provisions of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act, no member of the parliament can be charged to court or investigated for exercising his powers of law making.

The budget, he said, was the appropriation bill, which like any other bill must be subjected to normal legislative processes and scrutiny.

Dogara said: “The Constitution talks about the estimates of revenue and expenditure to be prepared and laid before the National Assembly. The Constitution did not mention the word budget. And the reason is very simple. Budget is a law. Going by the very pedestrian understanding of law which even a part one Law student can tell is that the functions of government is such that the legislature makes the law, the executive implements and the judiciary interprets the law.

“The budget being a law, therefore, means it is only the parliament that can make it because it is a law. And I challenge all of us members of the media and civil society. organisations  (CSOs) to look at our law and tell me where it is written that the president can make a budget.”

The Speaker maintained that by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, only the National Assembly has the powers to scrutinise the revenue and expenditure estimates submitted by the President.

“What I am saying is further reinforced by Section 80(4) of the Constitution which says that no money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other fund of the federation except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.

“I want this thing to sink so that we can understand it from here and perhaps it may change the ongoing discourse.

“If you say the National Assembly doesn’t have the powers to tinker with the budget; that we just pass it. When it is prepared and laid we turn it into a bill. If it is a bill how do other bills make progression in the parliament in order to become law?” he asked, adding:

“If you contend that we cannot tinker with the appropriation bill, even though it is a money bill, it, therefore, goes without saying that we cannot tinker with any executive bill.

“Because if they (Executive) bring a bill they will not consult the public to say come and give us your input on this bill. It is the legislature that does that by the instrumentality of public hearing and when we aggregate your views it is only our duty as representatives of the people including the media and CSOs to make sure that your voices are reflected so that by the time we hear from you we now turn it into a legislative bill and when it gets to the President and he signs they say oooohhh some people have padded the bill.

“The budget is a law and nobody can object to the fact that only the legislature can make law so it is only the parliament that can conclude it.”

On constituency projects,  Dogara said it was the only means through which lawmakers can attract federal projects to their constituents.

According to him, this is necessary because the process of selecting constituency projects “lacks integrity as it is always lopsided against most federal constituencies”.

He said: “If you come from a constituency like mine for instance, right now, we don’t have a permanent secretary anywhere, we don’t have a director anywhere, so if you look at the 2016 Budget, if you were to go as proposed by the executive, there is no single federal funded borehole, even if it is N50, there is no N50 meant for any project in my three local governments. Why? Because I don’t have anybody where they are preparing, sharing or making allocation.”

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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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