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WEEKEND GINGER: Touting set to end in MMIA

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… As Dikko plans to saturate Customs area with CCTVs

The Comptroller General of Customs, Dr. Dikko Inde Abdullahi has finally read the riot act to freight forwarders at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA): touch my people again, and go to jail!

President Jonathan Goodluck

President Jonathan Goodluck

The warning came Wednesday, shortly before the CGC reopened business operations in major sections of the Customs area, which had been closed for 12 days, because some agents, assisted by touts took the laws into hands, and variously embarrassed the command’s Customs Area Controller (CAC), including pelting him with stones.

The Controller’s offence was that he discovered that some unbecoming activities were taking place around the bulk breaking section of the cargo terminal; and he had the temerity not only to challenge them, but also to decide that it must stop.

Consequently, the CAC,, Olanrewaju called for reinforcement from the Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’ who confronted the protesting touts, forcing them to scamper for safety, as the FOU operatives reportedly fired sporadically into the air. Some clearing agents were said to have been arrested in the melee.

Nigerians are remarkably funny lot. The average Nigerian would enter into the American embassy and behave like a saint.

The London train operators (tube) publicly display everywhere: anyone who behaves “unruly” to its staff, would be prosecuted. Nigerians in London do not need to read it, before they behave well.

I sat near a Nigerian man in a BA, Boeing from New York to Nigeria, through London. He was a quintessential gentleman. At Heathrow, he passed through the interconnection screenings with me, behind him, like a most amiable angel. Yet, hardly had we touch down at the MMIA in Lagos, than this fellow metamorphosed, into the most offending fiend!

He criticized everything and everyone, beginning from the immigration officers, the Customs, the conveyor belts etc, etc.
At a point, I was wondering if it was the same ‘saintly’ soul that had been my ‘good’ friend in the air.

A Nigerian driver taking a delegation of the Board of Maritime Academy of Nigeria to Ghana by road, a few years back, left Lagos in a gale of dust. He drove so recklessly that ‘we’ were all sorely afraid. But hardly had we passed the Nigerian side of the Customs/ Immigration point, than the same driver transformed into the most humane, considerate and thoughtful driver. He drove so saintly and discreetly, through Lome into Aflao, Ghana, that we began to wonder, if it was the same ‘reckless’ driver that put the fear of God in us, a few hours earlier.

One of the Board members later ‘congratulated’ him, joking telling him that he would have ended up in jail, if he continued in his “mad driving”.

‘Our’ mis-behaviours are far from youthful exuberance because those involved, in each occasion were truly adults, not youths!

But back at the MMIA and CGC riot act, the agents by now must be very proud of themselves, being able to paralyse business operations for 12 long days.

How much has the nation lost to the crisis? How many importers failed to meet their supply schedules on the basis of the crisis? How did the touts/ agents come to grow, into such an intimidating factor?

Bluntly put, the tail is finally wagging the dog! Or how else do you describe a situation where well-fed, highly connected but mostly unlicensed ‘agents’ would enter a Customs facility and beat up those authorized to function there? It was gathered the mob manhandled also, the chapter Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Nze Alloy Igwe.
It totally leaves much to be desired.

An informed source, speaking under strict anonymity told the Maritime First that “those who fomented the trouble were no licensed agents”.

“Most of them were there illegally. There is no sane person who values his license that would go there and behave like that.

“But the reason is definitely, not those boys. The problem is actually with the regulatory and enforcement agents. They see things growing bad, but they turn the other eyes, and collect their settlement.

“If they want to do their job, the way it should be done, that crisis would be non existent” the source explained further, concluding on the note that a system that encourages operators not to have any office, but mill around in Customs controlled area, had also legalized occasional mob behaviour.

Maybe, the touts have won the first round. But this may soon turn into a pyhrric victory when they realize the next line of action, by the Customs.

The CGC has directed that the NAHCO shed operational offices, and all other relevant areas now, should be covered with CCTV monitors, linked to the Customs Area Controller’s office, the Federal Operation Unit and the Comptroller General’s office in Abuja.

Specifically, right from the tarmac to the break bulk area; to the warehouse, examination bay and the loading section, would soon be covered by cameras that can be monitored at the command and the headquarters

In other words, the unlicensed agents, have unwittingly ignited a revolution, a new regime, where future touting may also be recorded, so that miscreants, broaching perpetrators cargo-flyers can be documented, prosecuted and gaoled.

Unknowingly, the touts have precipitated a course of action whose multiplier effects, may soon spread into other Customs ports, making it genuinely difficult for offering or taking of bribes.

The touts in MMIA have probably won the first round. A victory that may become, the beginning of the end, to serious touting in all Customs formations in Nigeria.

Goodbye touting, as the cameras are set to arrive soon!

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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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