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Weekend Ginger: Good Bye 2015, A Year Of Massive Political Distraction!

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2015!  A year of political distraction,  during which the Nigerian Ports Authority did nothing,  except pay whooping dollars for a jinxed Calabar channel dredging,  while a retired  soldier told journalists in four months  of democracy,  that he would rather commit extra-judicial killing if he had his way,  than worry himself with revenue enhancement!

ALH. INDE DIKKO ABDULLAHI, COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF CUSTOMS.

ALH. INDE DIKKO ABDULLAHI, COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF CUSTOMS.

The Nigerian maritime industry was a beehive of pragmatic activities,  until 2015! The politicians came,  because they must campaign in an election year; the bright things they said in English,  to an audience hungry for a fair share of dough.  When they left, the hungry audience did not get the money they came for; and the food the mammoth crowd swooped on for consolation could not go beyond 45 percent,  no matter how smart the Rockview Hotel staff tried to ration it!

Habib Abdullahi, MD NPA

Habib Abdullahi, MD NPA

It came with all the fun fare of a new year; and for the first two months left the industry docile.  The APMT was the first to find its feet,  clearing containers while the Roro Port and the PTML Grimaldi Port crossed their fingers,  watching stakeholders,  especially the Customs brokers,  battled hotly with Government representatives on a proposed intention to hike collectable duty on imported Tokunboh or fairly used cars!

Only poor people rely on fairly used cars as means of transportation. Visit Ghana,  a country that funds 10 percent of its annual budget with foreign aids from friendly nations,  they have more brand new cars than fairly used.  Their houses,  though not as big as Nigerians,  mostly have flowers dotting the facade; a pointer to the wonderful peace of the minds of the occupants.  It was for no reason: they have a more stable light.

I once dropped my money in the hotel and sneaked to Nungua Beach at night (seeing is believing),  the crowd on ground were few,  but highly responsible. When was the last time you visited the Eleko Beach?  The Bar Beach is good,  though unharnessed.  How can a hungry,  thievery Government with an insatiable appetite harness a beach?  How can a reckless government that stole a mind-boggling sum slated for the protection of its people,  claim to have the least of their interest at heart?! For the PeeDiiPee,  the election was lost at Rockview Hotel.  The hungry and disappointed crowd cursed them.  Now,  can you rate the potency of several hungry,  disappointed people’s curse?!

A major assignment of 2016 must include how to protect the money making parastatals from the forage of political operators.

The politicians needed money.  They always do.  Adam Smith in his classical economic theory concluded that human want is insatiable.  Thank God he didn’t come to Nigeria; he would have known that when uncontrolled, human want actually destroys a people and their economy.

First they came to NPA, for bogus and frivolous contracts. The Managing Director,  Habib Abdullahi would not play ball.  Stubborn,  slippery,  a man who would always play along,  yet could never be pinned down on the same spot twice.  Habib never say no; yet most men who called on him,  mostly came back,  empty handed.
In time,  they left him,  turned to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and struck gold!

Overnight, the workers’ furniture allowance, ‘infiam’!  The reserved funds for salaries,  ‘infiam’!  Until finally,  even the CVFF,  a consolidated fund for cabotage vessels financing,  ‘infiam’!

The sage advice is “follow the money”. The politicians followed the money.  There was no money in Nigerian Shippers Council; so they let it be.  They had finished whatever was at the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) pretending to dredge the lower Niger River; and so,  Lokoja too,  they avoided. Where next?!!! If not NPA!!!

And so,  back they swooped again on Chief Adebayo SARUMI’s smart student!

Analysts are yet to agree on whether or not Habib should have poured his energy and fund into the development or rehabilitation of the Ports’ Access Roads.  Some believed it would have instantly given him away as sitting on doughs.  They felt it was better,  he stood still.  But then,  the Access Roads grew from bad to worse, precipitating fatal accidents,  from time to time; while bottlenecks became a regular feature of ports!

The Authorities played a fast one on the stakeholders : they postponed the effective date for implementing the hike on Tokunboh cars,  till after election,  believing that dealing with such thorny and controversial issues at election period could be costly. It quieted the stakeholders,  changing the un-ended war,  to subtle hostilities.  Undaunted,  arrowheads and chieftains of freight forwarding bodies forged on,  seeking every opportunity with the decision makers,  to enlighten them,  as well as assure them they would resist the move,  whenever it came.

Then, the elections came! It was won and lost! And then, all hell was let loose!

First,  those who were contented watching Habib pretending to be ‘deaf and dumb’ suddenly discovered the time was no longer in their favour and so sacked him.  Quickly, they brought in a wonderful prince,  who never understood why Habib dilly dallied on releasing funds for a jinxed Calabar channel dredging; and pronto,  about N2bn was released!

Somewhere in NIMASA,  new funds started growing hurried wings.  And immature or not the wings were,  the funds began to fly out.  Unconfirmed sources said some funds flew away,  even on May 28, 2015!

At the Nigerian Customs Service,  the Comptroller General (CGC) Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdullahi,  a man who never bothered about who won or lost election,  preoccupied himself,  pursuing Customs duty evaders,  whose debts were put at over N10bn, even as the alleged powerful debtors played hide and seek,  either trying to obtain waivers from Agric Minister; or discussing with others considered relevant.

Lobbying was the game.  Evasion was the goal.  One of the affected,  some believed, even paid chunky funds to former chief security officer,  Dasuki.  It has not been proved! But some believed it was part of the measures adopted,  in a bid to escape Dikko’s onslaught!

But while Dikko fearlessly battled the rice duty evaders, frozen  poultry,  some of them in highly poisonous conditions intensified their march  into the country.

Dikko’s mistake was perhaps taking the gauntlet against the poultry.  He declared a Hawk war against poultry,  and some of his assistants who taught he was playing to the new Government to retain him,  took to fifth columnist!

Ruminating on the snippets darting without sufficient justification,  Prince Shittu asked: “what makes any of these people think if Dikko leaves the Service,  that any of them would get there?!”

Whatever whatever,  Dikko resigned in August,  and there was no Customs officer in sight,  to replace him.  Instead,  a retired Col. who had made a great name,  fighting corruption was brought in. But with  Col. Hameed Ali who is neither technically entrenched in Customs matters,  nor may ever have the time to adequately study the CEMA Classifications and notes; has also come a regime of archaic idea of shooting any officer fingered for corruption.

Like the Yoruba would say: mo mu e,  ni ti Olopa pari si.. O ni bo n be,  ti adajo ni O! (I arrest you is where the police ends his job… You won’t escape this, is an issue for the judge!). In any case,  the Col. no longer shocks anyone again, singing same song,  after four wonderful months!  He has not sighted any corruption.  He is not likely to sight one.  And woe bethides anyone who claims to smell a rat… If you are in doubt,  ask the NAGAFF.  Beautifully displayed on General Ike’s country home,  near Ohafia is a roll of four monkeys: one closing it’s eyes,  one closing it’s ears,  one closing it’s mouth,  while the last one,  tightly held on,  to a closed zipper.  I sincerely love the philosophy of both General Ike and Col. Hameed too!

But,  I also love Mallam Habib too.  Fired by former President Jonathan Goodluck,  but reemployed  by President Buhari,  he wasted no time,  once he confirmed that about N2bn had strayed into areas that former Board Chairman,  Chief Tony Anenih had earlier declared a no-go area,  than he allegedly,  according to unfriendly sources,  called in the EFCC.

The former Managing Director and Kano prince is off the system,  but the Executive Directors are allegedly,  visiting the anti-graft body,  periodically explaining individual and collective roles played,  in the movement of N2bn, for a channel that we learned siltation had since wrecked again!

Friendly sources said it was not Habib that reported those who paid the money to EFCC,  even as loyalists of those who paid said their bosses were no longer afraid.  They believe Habib would only burn his fingers,  if he thinks he could bring them down!
Buhari has only few options: sack the directors,  if Habib must perform; sack Habib,  a cat with 9 whiskers,  and allow the Directors to complete the payments for the Calabar channel; or beg the two parties,  to work together,  in the nation’s interest especially,  on condition that EFCC would adopt Ike Nwachukwu’s monkeys’ philosophy!

Yet,  whatever happens at Marina,  Lagos, where Habib has terminated the contract /engagements of 5,000 dock workers,  while Ports’ access roads have transformed from potholes to manholes,  it would still remain a child’s play,  when juxtaposed with developments in NIMASA!

First,  it’s former Director General, Akpobolokemi, was sacked and his bank accounts frozen.  Secondly,  a Director was installed,  removed and another,  installed,  creating bad blood and a block of loyalists and realignment!  Then,  from the realigning ‘toughies’,  the EFCC came,  took away 5 big ‘fishes’  and slammed them,  with the sacked DG behind bars,  over alleged fraud,  running into billions!

First,  it was two,  then six and later 18 billions!  By next week,  perhaps, they could come up with new figures!

When Mallam Abdulsalam Muhammed was the Managing Director,  NPA,  he assured journalists that the day he leaves the seat,  he would go home,  eat his meal,  drink clean water and mount his praying mat.  The day he vacated office,  he did just that.  That’s the hallmark of a gentle man!

He did not struggle with the EFCC,  on the right procedures,  for boarding buses! He was not bundled in,  headfirst,  into  a waiting ‘danfo’ hurrying to disappear,  at top speed!

Good bye 2015! You did not allow the Nigerian Shippers Council give us it’s best; except a run-around trip,  with powerful and highly coordinated seaport terminal operators and foreign shipping companies,  which,  even when defeated in court,  nonetheless remained,  untouchables!

Good bye 2015!  For you only succeeded in yanking off,  not fewer than, 35 of our hardworking friends,  from their seats in the Nigeria Customs Service!

Good bye 2015! For the most remarkable gift you gave to us,  can only be found,  in the diligence and dedicated commitment of two dredging companies,  the Lagos Channel Management,  who attracted laudable investments and WAFMAX vessels to Lagos; while the Bonny Construction Company kept the country’s hope alive,  through the Port Harcourt /Onne axis, ensuring that the NLNG continues to remain vibrant!

Good bye 2015! Yes… Good bye 2015…and please,  DON’T COME BACK!!!

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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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