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WEEKEND GINGER: OBI: SAVING THE BEST FOR THE LAST?

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…Jonathan’s effort at capturing maritime industry votes

You  only need to hear him speak once, before you begin wonder, as to why President Goodluck Jonathan kept him so much in the background! Former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi was not just persuasive, he was extremely effective.

Former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi

Former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi

His mission was to convince the Nigerian freight forwarders in Lagos, on the need to vote Jonathan on Saturday, if this 28th March election if the exercise was not again postponed, at the last minute. His tools were his voice, his mien and his logics.

No one can be un-enchanted by a speaker who literarily ‘melts’ the hearts with persuasive logics, romancing your emotions with reasons, and re-building your future with enviable hopes like Chief Adebayo Sarumi was noted for; and would not be effective. The Ibadan High Chief did it so well that “enchanted” dockworkers, the NPA workers and in fact the entire Nigerian Maritime industry happily bought and swallowed the Port Concession pill with relish! Several countries, including Ghana, South Africa and the UK have come to study how Nigeria achieved what dockworkers vehemently resisted in Liverpool, as in several other places, without adequate comprehension. Their missing link was Chief Sarumi and his logic of persuasion!

Popularly hailed as the “Okwute ndi Igbo”, he gauged the composition in the Rockview Hotel hall, and having noticed that the composition of the audience were mostly Igbo, perhaps as a result of the short timing or, because that was the group the organizers belong to, he freely flowed from English to Igbo and back to English. He also emphasized the need for Nigerians to speak up; noting that the culture of silence had not been helpful.

He spoke about the importance of the Second Niger Bridge, presently underway; the necessity of ensuring the effectiveness of the Onitsha Dry Port, which may viably be guaranteed by an enduring Deep Sea Port, like the one now underway at Ibaka; and the dire importance of ensuring the functionality of the Nigeria ports, particularly the Eastern ports!

Perhaps, it was not so much as what he said, but more of how he said it. The hall stood still. Like a snake charmer, he had them by the jugular; and he led them, like a politician, to a desired destination; their needs, which more or less hovers around optimizing the benefits from the maritime industry could be easily met, if they would vote Jonathan…

“Okwute” was building on strong foundation laid by a politician and founder of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam; reinforced by a chieftain of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tony Uju Nwabunike; and another top officer of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDCLA), Chief Bennett Ndei; all of whom recalled the woes of the industry, dwelling largely on the decayed Cabotage law, the lack-lustre Local Content Act and  the hopeless traffic gridlock in Apapa.

Everything was perfect! The timing was perfect! The question was then asked: let those who think the freight forwarders should vote Jonathan say ‘ayes’; the response was thunderous!

The “Okwute ndi Igbo” was happy as he was guided out. It was an onerous mission, effectively accomplished. Then the bedlam began!

First, the food was grossly too little for the large population that turned up! Those that got food, fought for it as if they were violently, bidding their ways, into the proverbial ‘Kingdom of God’. Several lack the courage to join the queue!

One man who failed to secure any food, despite his spirited struggled was seen challenging a lucky friend who got a little fish and what looked like a tiny potato cut why he was sitting to eat the fish, instead of gobbling it in one swallow, to enable them pursue their main reason of coming!

“Nnanna, o maka nri k’anyi ji bia ebea? Nka i ji achozie oche maka ntonto azu… Biko, jiri ihea tun nye n’onu, ka’ ga juo ndia ma he nwe ezigbo program!” (Nnanna, is it because of food that we have come here? This one that you are looking for a seat because of this tiny fish?…. Please, throw this thing into your mouth, let’s go and ask the organizers if they have any better program!).

Most of the attendees came, not because of Okwute or whatever he was going to say. The notion was that something reasonable, like dollars, would be shared. Needless to say, that most went home disappointed. Most dejectedly withdrew the ‘ayes’ they publicly gave, of their own accord, when Okwute was there.

Nigerians are talking, daily far beyond the advice of Obi. The tons of ‘what’s-app’ messages are intimidating. Even concocted ones, like the photo-shop image of an alleged ‘Shekau’, slated to be arrested this week, with a script in hand, memorizing how he would respond to questions…when arrested!

But did Obi speak out of tune? Of course, not! Obi’s performance was so perfect that most reasonable persons asked why Jonathan didn’t make him his chief mouth-piece, rather than one of the Yoruba big boys who, have assisted him to create more enemies before a sophisticated and highly politicized South West!

Obi did not talk out of tune. The only person that may however be talking out of tune presently, may be the Department of State Security powerful mouth-piece, Ms Marilyn Ogar who thinks that the fear of post-election violence was responsible for the build-up of queue at petrol stations, several days before election. (Saturday Tribune 21/ March- page 6).

Every stakeholder and maritime industry watcher fully understands the sense in classical economics of Adam Smith’s theory, that if supply is deliberately reduced, in a situation where demand remains constant, scarcity would develop, and subsequently followed by a northward movement of price. The importers of fuel, for exigency reasons have deliberately cut supplies. Mild scarcity has surfaced, followed by a slight movement of pump price from N87 to N100, in several petrol stations. If in doubt, go to Ibadan. Those still selling at N87 have mostly tinkered with their meter!

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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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