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Workers to push for N48,000 minimum wage

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  • As Buhari again, rules out naira devaluation

Labour said it would soon submit a proposal demanding a new minimum wage of N48,000 based on the impact of the global economic downturn on wages.

The General Secretary, National Union of Garment and Textile Workers (NUGTW), Comrade Issa Aremu, advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to bow to pressures to further devalue the national currency because the last devaluation eroded the value of the minimum wage.

“The last time we signed the minimum wage, which is N18,000, which is the current rate, and this was between 2009 and 2010, this translated to $124. But now on account of depreciation alone, this $124 has dropped to less than $60. So wages have been completely eroded on account of devaluation.

“In nominal terms, if we are talking just on account of the exchange rate, the minimum wage which is currently N18,000 should be about N48,000. And I am leaving this warning, if you dare devalue again, be sure that labour will also have to hike its own price in the market,” Aremu who was also the former Vice President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said. Aremu also advised President Buhari to urgently revisit the report of the 2014 National Conference and implement the holistic recommendations for the power sector.

He said the Federal Government should not allow the electricity tariff increase to sail through because the generating and distribution companies were underperforming.

“The point cannot be overstated; power/energy is so strategic to the industrialisation and the well being of the people,’’ Aremu said.

He also appealed to the Federal Government to review the privatisation contracts with the electricity generation companies (GenCos) and DisCos. Aremu said the firms should be given a two- year time-frame to allow them stabilise and provide efficient power supply to Nigerians before they could contemplate any tariff increase. He urged more transparency in future disposal of the nation’s assets in the name of privatisation.

He said: “The point cannot be overstated. Between 30 per cent and 35 per cent of textile and garment manufacturing costs are energy related expenses. Without electricity, there can be no industrialisation.

“The promise and expectation that President Buhari will revive textile industry generally is not possible without electricity,’’ the labour leader said.

According to Aremu, it is time for the Buhari-led administration to critically review the power sector reform with a view to increasing public sector investment.

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has again ruled out the possibility of devaluing the naira, insisting that those with a taste for imported luxury goods should pay for them at their own expense.

Pressure has been mounting on the government to devalue the currency officially in line with market realities as it is now trading at about N380 per dollar at the parallel market though the official rate remains  at between N197 and N199 per dollar.

Some analysts insist that government was only subsidising the private sector by refusing to allow the naira to float while also creating room for arbitrage and corruption with the huge gap between the official and parallel market rates. However, in reiterating his opposition to naira devaluation, Buhari said Nigeria cannot compete with developed countries which produce to compete among themselves and can afford to devalue their local currencies.

Speaking at a ‘Presidential Panel Roundtable on Investment and Growth Opportunities’ at the opening session of the Africa 2016: Business for Africa, Egypt and the World at Sharm El- Sheikh, Egypt yesterday, Buhari said the priority of his administration was to ensure national food security before export of food products.

The President stressed that Nigeria being a mono- economy dependent on oil, and with a teeming unemployed youth population, the way out of the current slump in the global oil market was for the administration to focus on agriculture and solid minerals development. “

“The land is there and we need machinery inputs, fertiliser and insecticides.

““Developed countries are competing among themselves and when they devalue they compete better and manufacture and export more. But we are not competing and exporting but importing everything including toothpicks. So, why should we devalue our currency? ““We want to be more productive and self-sufficient in food and other basic things such as clothing. For our government, we like to encourage local production and efficiency, ” the President stressed. He added that those who have developed taste for foreign luxury goods should continue to pay for them rather than pressure government to devalue the naira.

The President expressed optimism that Nigeria would get out of its current economic downturn, saying another major problem militating against economic revival is the huge resources deployed in fighting insurgency and international terrorism.

He commended the support being received from the international community in the administration’s fight against terrorism as well as cooperation in tracing looted funds stashed away in foreign countries.

Responding to a question on his performance since he assumed office, the President said his administration had been ““quite focused”” on three fundamental issues of securing the country, reviving the economy and stamping out corruption.

““The message on corruption has been driven home vividly and Nigerians are very acceptable to the message,”” he said, adding that those accused of stealing public funds are cooperating by voluntarily providing useful information while investigations and prosecutions are ongoing.

In his opening address at the Forum, the Egyptian President, Abdel- Fattah El-Sisi, said Africa needs to concentrate on transforming into knowledge societies using innovation and research. The Presidents of Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia also participated at the Roundtable. In his opening message, Akinwunmi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (AFDB), said ““Africa must think big, act big and develop big””.

Before departing Egypt, Buhari and his Egyptian host, had a bilateral discussion on security, military cooperation, agriculture and solid minerals development.

The Nation with additional report from National Mirror

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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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