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Why INEC was unprepared for polls



Contrary to accusations and insinuations by the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) that the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, shifted the dates of the 2015 general elections from February 14 and 28 to March 28 to April 11, on the prompting of the military, due to intense pressure from President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who were not ready for the polls and had premonition of defeat, facts have emerged that Jega shifted the polls as a result of his own lack of satisfaction with his commission’s preparedness and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki’s inability to guarantee safety and security of INEC personnel and voters in Boko Haram-held areas of the North East.

Two days before the shift, it was clear a postponement was in the offing when Jega told the National Council of States, in a speech titled ‘Preparations for the 2015 General Elections: Progress Report,’ that a bit more time of additional preparation would enable the commission improve and perfect the current level of preparedness.

His exact words: “In determining whether or not INEC is adequately prepared to conduct the February 2015 elections as scheduled, we should separate what is under the control of the Commission and what is outside its control; our accomplishments are to such a degree that we can conduct the election, in spite of the identifiable challenges. Compared with the 2011 general elections, for instance, our systems are definitely more robust now.

Among others, we have a greatly improved register of voters, having removed over 4 million registrants; voters will use PVCs; and accreditation using Card Readers will reduce the likelihood of fraud. Consequently, although our state of preparedness may not be 100% or perfect, and although a bit of more time of additional preparation would enable us to improve and perfect the current level of preparedness, we believed that we’re ready for the elections as planned.”

After Jega has said “a bit of more time of additional preparation would enable us to improve and perfect the current level of preparedness,” to then add “we believed that we’re ready for the elections as planned” is an anti-climax and a slide into illogical progression of argument. The INEC cannot be saying in one breathe that it requires more time of additional time and it is ready for the elections as planned.

Jega seemed to want to please all the listening ears at once. No wonder the Council of States urged him to do wide consultations on whether to postpone the elections or not. No wonder, the APC driven by a desire to see elections hold as scheduled in spite of encumbrances, and is more inclined to hear just what it wishes to come to pass, came out to say that both Jega and the Council of State okayed elections as scheduled.

The aftermath of the shift of polls not only drew the ire of the APC, with the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun describing it as both provocative and a trap, it was harbinger of serious criticism for the Federal Government by a section of the press.

The party’s presidential candidate who had attended the February 5 National Council of State meeting as a former Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, warned that his party would not accept any further polls shift, describing such eventuality as a civilian and military coup.

Even former President Olusegun Obasanjo expressed fear that the shift might lead to a coup, also accusing President Jonathan of impressing it on the service chiefs to impress on Jega to postpone the elections.

Why does it appear as though Professor Jega, who had built a strong reputation as a seasoned unionist and administrators in his days as President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and later Vice Chancellor of Bayero University in Kano, is double-talking? As he himself explained in the same speech delivered at the Council of State meeting, the INEC has carried out most of the preparations necessary for the conduct of elections.

The first of such condition precedent for election is preparation and publishing of a register of voters as required by Section 20 of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended).

Jega says the certified and published register has 68, 833, 476registered voters. Another achievement of Jega’s INEC which, albeit, presents the first area of challenge for the electoral umpire, is the transition from the use of Temporary Voters Cards (TVCs) to Permanent Voters Card (PVCs).

Again, Jega would speak for himself: “As of Monday February 2, 2015, the total number of PVCs for the 36 states and FCT, which have been produced, delivered and taken to them for distribution to voters, is 66, 323, 850 or 96% of the total…. As at February 3, 2015, out of the 66, 323, 850 PVCs already taken to the states for distribution, a total of 45, 098, 876 or 61.81% of the total; have been collected by voters. Thus about 34% of the PVCs are yet to be collected by voters.”

To Jega, 34 percent of registered voters disenfranchised in not having their PVCs distributed to them a week to the election as previously scheduled was healthy for the country’s democracy, after all there was never a time the country recorded up to 60 per cent of participation in voting by registered voters. It mattered little to him that those who were yet to receive their PVCs might have been persons who participated consistently in the 2011 general elections.

If the result between the two recurring presidential contenders, Jonathan and Buhari, comes out differently this time, such disenfranchised voters would view the outcome as contrived.

Another lacuna in INEC’s preparation was the Card Readers. Of the card readers, Jega has this to say: “For the 2015 general elections, the Commission has decided to introduce the use of Card Readers (CR), which will be used on the day of election in every polling unit and voting point, to verify and authentic the PVC presented by a voter.

This is so as to eliminate, or at least drastically minimise, multiple voting and confer additional credibility to the electoral process.” The Commission ordered for the production and delivery of 182, 000 customised CRs, sufficient for the 150, 829 voting points (VPs), plus redundancies.

Out of this number, according to Jega, 154, 500 have since been delivered and distributed to the states and FCT. So much for the use and distribution of CRs, what happens when the CRs fails? For one, the use of the CRs is still being mastered. Besides, Jega says they could fail. The failure of a CR envisions yet another kind of postponement, he added.

“What if a Card Reader fails? What if a person is verified but his fingerprint cannot be authenticated? We have worked with political parties and agreed on what to do if any of these arises. In the highly unlikely event that a CR fails, we have enough spares to deploy before the end of accreditation at 1pm and adjust the time to gain lost time.

If we cannot replace before end of accreditation, then election in that voting point would be postponed to the following day when a new CR would be provided,” says Jega. What of the engagement and training of ad hoc staff of INEC, mainly youth corps members and students of tertiary institutions?

Again Jega: “INEC has planned to use 4 Ad hoc (Presiding Officer and Assistant Presiding Officer) per unit and voting points, to be recruited primarily from the NYSC scheme and our tertiary education sector. Together with Returning Officers, Collation Officers and Supervisory Returning Officers, INEC requires a total of approximately 700, 000 temporary election duty personnel.

“We have been able to gather information and establish a database of over 867, 210 who have indicated interest to do the job.The state offices have screened these, in close collaboration with the authorities of the NYSC and the tertiary institutions and are now finalising the recruitment.” With just a week to the scheduled poll, how much of the training of ad hoc staff can INEC carry out when recruitment itself was just being finalised?

To the other reason for the shifting of the poll, the reason the opposition has been much interested in because they could see the hands of the President in it – security.

More so, it is the only reason given by a devious Jega for the shift. “I am sure that this august body will also be apprised of the security situation for the elections by the responsible authorities.

Yesterday (February 4), for example, we received a letter from the office of the NSA, informing us of recent developments in four of the North East States, stating that safety and security cannot be guaranteed during the proposed election period, adducing reasons why this is so, and strongly advising that INEC considers rescheduling the elections by at least 6 weeks, within the provisions of the electoral legal frameworks, and within which time spam it is hoped to restore sufficient normalcy for elections to hold.

This is a new development that INEC cannot certainly ignore or take lightly.” From the foregoing, drawn from Jega’s own speech before the postponement, it is clear the INEC was not prepared for the polls. —Newswatch Times


WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners



…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



The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured



…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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