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Who is really after Rotimi Amaechi?, by Achi William-Wobodo

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This question has become pertinent following the 2016 Budget saga and the narratives trending in the media. Why has Rotimi Amaechi suddenly become the centre of the discussion and the scapegoat? In all of this, I have waited patiently to hear or see anyone come out publicly to quote with precision any comment credited to Rotimi Amaechi on this matter that could be alleged to have triggered this whole crisis for which he is now being vilified and persecuted before Nigerians.

The present Budget saga started with President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to assent to the Appropriation Bill without verifying its content. I have carefully listened to everyone on this matter and nobody has shown that it was Rotimi Amaechi who advised and convinced the President to take such position. After the emergency Federal Executive Council meeting, the Council issued an official statement in which it alleged that for some adjustments made by the National Assembly, the Budget “cannot be implemented” as it is. There was nothing from that statement suggesting that the Minister of Transportation took that decision or influenced it, neither did he address the press to convey the decision. The question then is: is Rotimi Amaechi now the President?

In fact, I had the privilege of listening to the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on Appropriation Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin during his appearance on Channels Television programme (Sunrise Daily. Jibrin was the first to speak about the matter publicly on behalf the National Assembly.

He unequivocally said he could not confirm that Amaechi made any comment, but based his entire statement on assumption, as he continuously prefaced his statements with: “if he said such”; “if indeed he said so.” He confirmed that the bases for his statement were reports on social media.

I also heard him say that similar issue occurred in the Ministry of Health’s and Ministry of Works’ appropriation, and went ahead to explain the scenarios. Not calling for the antagonism or persecution of other persons, I ask the question: why are the Ministers of Health and Works not as much in the news and persecuted on this same issue as Rotimi Amaechi? Why is Rotimi Amaechi singled out? Why have both the Senate and House of Representatives taken such a posture against a person who has not spoken on the matter, to either cast aspersion on them or corroborate their story?

Senator Gbenga Ashafa, the Senate Committee Chairman on Land Transportation, who is the only person that has so far given a clear account of what transpired has confirmed that the Lagos -Calabar Rail Line, the subject matter, was part of the projects that the Minister of Transportation defended before his committee and that his committee in turn defended the project before the appropriation committee.

He maintained, however, that it was not contained in the Budget Document submitted to National Assembly by Mr. President. Another question: Shouldn’t the National Assembly have waited for the Minister of Transportation to have joined issues with Senator Ashafa, either to disprove or agree with him?

Curiously, the Senate went ahead, without hearing from the minister in question, without an official statement from the Ministry of Budget or Budget Office, or from the Presidency that disagrees with Senator Ashafa, but most regrettably relied on Social Media stories and reports to reprimand and vilify Amaechi and even went ahead to call for his apology or resignation. What a pitiable situation.

It is even more worrisome the extent to which the Senate, a very distinguished institution, could rely on “unofficial communication” on social media, to lower the person of a minister, vilifying him with such uncouth remarks as “this latest antics of this particular minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is reckless, uncalled for and dangerously divisive.”

The Senate in its haste to make the minister for transportation the scapegoat tried to accuse him of “setting the people of the southern part of the country against their northern compatriots, it potentially sets the people against their lawmakers from the concerned constituencies and sets the lawmakers against themselves.”

Ironically, it is indeed the actions of the National Assembly so far that rather put these concerns on the national burner and raised the bigger questions: is it because the Minister of Transportation is of the southern part and not the northern that he is singled out to be humiliated and vilified? Is it because some other ministers are of certain parts of the nation that is the reason they are not called upon to apologise or resign?

I totally do agree with the Senate that “reprehensible mischief has no place in a democracy.” Equals should and must be treated equally – equally in regional development, equally in respect for dignity of persons, and equally in association of like terms. This is the take in the Rule of Law; and main of democracy.

William-Wobodo, a lawyer and development analyst wrote via agwills2@yahoo.com.

Rader. Ng

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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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