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We have always regarded the media as partners – Minister

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  • Colombia-Farc peace process to receive $450m in US aid

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, says he has always regarded the media as partners, hence the cordial relationship he has enjoyed with them over the years.

Speaking at a meeting with members of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) in Lagos on Thursday, the Minister said it is therefore inconceivable that he would attack the media, as some have insinuated in recent times.

”Gentlemen, I did say, at a different forum, that since we launched the National Sensitization Campaign (against corruption), corruption has started fighting back. I said pseudo-analysts and hack writers have invaded the media space to shoot down the campaign. You can therefore imagine my consternation when some people extrapolated that to mean that we have started attacking and blackmailing the media since we launched the National Sensitization Campaign Against Corruption.

”It is apparent that those making this accusation either did not read our statement in full or, if they did, did not situate it in the proper context,” he said.

Alhaji Mohammed said even when his party was in opposition for many years, he had never believed that the media could be bought or swayed.

”And this explains why, during our time in the wilderness, we enjoyed more media support than even the ruling government or party. We have nothing but tremendous respect for the media, and we reject any accusation of attacking or blackmailing the media. We welcome any criticism of our efforts, because we believe that will enrich the discourse,” he s

The Minister sought the support of the NPAN for the various campaigns which the Federal Government has launched or is planning to launch, including the National Sensitization Campaign Against Corruption.

”Gentlemen, we need your support for the ongoing campaign against corruption. Corruption is real and the cost is high. When we released figures of the huge sums of money that have been looted, we did not do that to vilify anyone. Rather, our intention is to give Nigerians a different perspective to the anti-graft battle,” he said.

Quoting a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Alhaji Mohammed said PwC compared Nigeria with three other resource-producing countries that are somewhat less corrupt – Ghana, Malaysia and Colombia – and concluded that Nigeria’s economy, which was worth 513 billion dollars in 2014, might have been 22% bigger, if its level of corruption were closer to Ghana’s.

”The report said that by 2030, the size of Nigeria’s economy should triple in real terms come what may. Yet if Nigeria manages to reduce corruption to levels comparable to Malaysia, its economy could be some 37% bigger still. The additional gain would be worth some 534 billion dollars, or about as much as the economy is currently worth. If it does nothing to change, then the cost of corruption in Nigeria would amount to almost 2,000 dollars per person per year by 2030. This is the grave situation in which we have found ourselves,” he said

Responding to the Minister’s appeal for support, the NPAN Chairman, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, said the association aligned itself ”with your patriotic views, especially in the fight against corruption”.

”The NPAN has always been at the forefront of the fight against corruption, and we welcome the new vista to fight corruption. As the media, we will work with you and champion the cause of corruption,” he said, urging the government to follow the rule of law and be fair to everyone in tackling corruption.

In the meantime, President Barack Obama has said he will ask the US Congress for $450m (£309m) in aid to help Colombia implement a peace deal with the Farc rebel group.

The proposed funding will also support de-mining, humanitarian and counter-narcotics projects, he said.

The aid was announced after President Obama held talks at the White House with his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos.

He told Mr Santos the US would be “your partner in waging peace”.

It was “an incredible moment of promise” for ending the long-running conflict in Colombia, he said.

The new plan is called Peace Colombia, but the fact is that even if a final agreement to end 50 years of internal conflict with the Farc is achieved – which looks extremely likely – the negotiations with the second largest rebel group in the country, the ELN, seem stalled.

Although much smaller in size, with about 1,400 armed fighters, the ELN has shown it can still do damage.

They are still kidnapping civilians, capturing soldiers and killing members of the security forces in confrontations.

Although an agreement with the Farc would be an accomplishment that should not be underestimated, if the ELN do not follow suit Colombia can hardly yet speak of peace.

That is, unless the government launches such a strong offensive that they defeat the ELN militarily.

Mr Santos has said he expects his government to sign a peace deal with the Farc next month. Both sides have agreed a 23 March deadline to reach an agreement.

It comes after Farc rebels said they were willing to lay down their weapons after five decades of conflict.

Peace negotiations were launched in Cuba in November 2012.

The post-conflict period “is more difficult than the process itself”, said Mr Santos.

The Farc, which was founded in 1964, will give up its armed struggle and join the legal political process.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council voted to accept a request from the Farc and the Colombian government to appoint a mission to oversee the end of the conflict.

He added the rebels also agreed to “cut every link that they have with drug trafficking”, as part of the accord.

“They recognise that they have financed themselves through drug trafficking, or taxing the drug traffickers. That’s what they say.

“And they will in a way help us, especially in those remote areas, to convince the peasants to switch to legal crops,” he said.

Colombia is the world’s top producer of cocaine.

Upshot with additional report from BBC

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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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