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Shipowners may go to court to access CVFF

Eyewitness reporter

Except other peaceful options fail, the indigenous ship owners may take a legal option as the last resort to wrest the Cabotage vessels financing funds (CVFF) from the Federal government.
Legal options are part of others several other options which the beleaguered ship owners are considering in a bid to break the deadlock on the disbursement of the controversial fund.
It would be recalled that the CVFF, an interventionist fund meant to empower indigenous operators under the Cabotage regime,  has become elusive to the would-be beneficiaries since 2007 when it was launched.
The fund, which is the two percent deductions from the Cabotage contracts of the indigenous ship owners, has been serially abused by successive governments.
After several raised hopes from the present government which never materialised, the recent pronouncement by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, that President Buhari has withdrawn his approval for the disbursement of the fund, may have spurred the ship owners into action after several years of inertia.
To give vent to their resolve, the Shipowners have rallied themselves together in order to form a formidable body that will engage the Federal government over this vexed issue.
Consequently, the ship owners may have closed ranks and resuscitated the moribund Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), an umbrella body of the local operators that has been in tatters due to bickerings and internal wrangling.
The operators vowed to engage the government as one formidable force over the CVFF and other sundry issues on shipping.
Captain Taiwo Akinpelu, a member of the steering committee of NISA  said Shipowners will seek the National Assembly’s interpretation of the Act establishing the fund to know whether it belongs to Shipowners or the government.
He also affirmed that preliminary investigation by the group had shown that President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to withdraw his approval for CVFF disbursement

Capt. Akimpelumi, who said the association has risen from the crisis that rocked it for so many years, said they are ready to fight and take possession of what belongs to them in the sector.

“We have consulted widely and we realised that nothing like suspension of the fund but, we know there is an internal politics of moving the fund from the Central Bank of Nigeria  (CBN), to the Primary Lending Institute.”

“We will take every step to make sure the fund is disbursed, we contributed into the fund, I can assure that no withdrawal of approval but, on whether it is a government fund or shipowners’ fund, we will seek NASS interpretation but, going to court will be the last resort,” he said.

A former Secretary-General of NISA, Tunji Brown, who said shipowners supported the enactment of Cabotage act, on the belief that they will be better off, said poor cabotage act implementation has made the indigenous shipowners worse than ever before.

“Many of us has been in the shipping sector before Cabotage, we fought for the implementation of cabotage with the hope we will be better off but, that has not been possible.

He, however, disclosed that the factions in the group have all agreed to forge a common front to develop the nation’s shipping sector and maximise the potentials inherent in the sector.

Chief Isaac Jolapamo, the Chairman, Board of Trustees  (BoT)  NISA, said the sector being capital intensive hasn’t enjoyed any government intervention nor incentives.

Jolapamo said every other sector of the economy have enjoyed government incentives in the past and even after the Covid-19 pandemic but none has come to the shipping sector.

He said, “No intervention or assistance for players in the industry from government.

“Only in Nigeria we see that maritime is not important, that is a sector that can fund Nigeria budget deficit yearly if properly harnessed.

“Funds were made available to other sectors of the economy, especially during and after the Covid-19 pandemic but, none was made available to us.

“So many offshore vessels belonging to foreigners are working unabated with few Nigerians working onboard the vessels also, those working are low-level officers so, Nigeria is losing out in capacity building as well,” he said.

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Buhari, Jonathan, Obasanjo, Babangida, Abdusalami, Osinbajo, Atiku, others to spend N13.8billon from N27.5 trillion 2024 budget 

Tinubu presentation of 2024 budget to the National Assembly

The Eyewitness Reporter

The Federal government has earmarked the sum of N13.8 billion in the 2024 budget as the cost of upkeep of
former presidents, vice presidents, heads of state, Chiefs of General Staff, retired heads of service, permanent secretaries, and retired heads of government agencies and parastatals.

The beneficiaries include former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, ex-vice-presidents Atiku Abubakar, Namadi Sambo and Prof Yemi Osinbajo.

Also expected to benefit from the windfall are ex-military Heads of State, General Yakubu Gowon and General Abdusalami Abubakar, as well as a former dictator and self-styled military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, and a former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (retd.).

Also, N1tn was provisioned for the public service wage adjustment for government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (including arrears of promotion and salary increases, and payment of severance benefits and minimum wage-related adjustments).

A breakdown shows that the entitlements of former presidents/heads of state and vice presidents/chief of general staff will cost N2.3bn. At the same time, N10.5bn is proposed as benefits for retired heads of service, permanent secretaries and professors.

The payment of severance benefits to retired heads of government agencies and parastatals is proposed to cost N1bn.

Other allocations include N65bn for the Presidential Amnesty Programme for the reintegration of transformed ex-militants; N1bn for the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Energy; and N108bn for unnamed special projects.

The government is also proposing the sum of N40bn to offset electricity debts owed to power distribution companies by all MDAs.

President Bola Tinubu unveiled the N27.5 trillion budget estimates for the 2024 fiscal year.
The budget was presented to a joint session of the National Assembly on Wednesday, where it is currently undergoing scrutiny and deliberation for final approval.

In his presentation, he declared, “The 2024 Appropriation has been themed the Budget of Renewed Hope.

The proposed budget seeks to achieve job-rich economic growth, macro-economic stability, a better investment environment, enhanced human capital development, as well as poverty reduction and greater access to social security.

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News Alert: Wale Adeniyi revives CG conference, holds 2023 edition December 13-15 in Lagos.

Wale Adeniyi, CGC
The Eyewitness Reporter
After 11 years of interregnum in the annual Comptroller General of Customs conference, Adewale Adeniyi, the Customs boss, has announced the rescucitation of the annual conference which holds December, this year.
In the social media broadcast, Adeniyi said he was delighted to announce that the 2023 CG Conference will hold from December 13th- 15th, 2023 at the Grand Africa Ballroom of the prestigious Continental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The theme of this year’s conference, according to the CGC, is “Leveraging Data Analytics for Secure and Efficient Trade Facilitation in Customs Operations”.
The Vice President of Nigeria, Senator Kashim Shettima, is expected as the special guest of honour while the Governor of Lagos state, Mr Babajide Sanwo- Olu and the Minister of Finance and the coordinating minister of Economy, Wale Edun, are also expected to grace the occasion.
Adeniyi stated that this year’s conference will centre around the discussion on implementing new measures to enhance service operations, championing secure and efficient operations across the federation.
“In line with my efforts and that of my management team to modernize the Nigeria Customs service through leveraging technology-driven Customs to shape the future of our operations, I am inviting you to this year’s Comptroller General Conference scheduled for 13tg to 15th December 2023 at the Grand Ballroom, Continental Hotel, Lagos.
” The theme of this year’s conference is Leveraging Data Analytics for Secure and Efficient Trade Facilitation in Customs Service.
” We are embracing innovation, utilizing the power of analytics to ensure the security and efficiency of Customs Operations.
“This significant event will centre around discussion on implementing new measures to enhance the service operations, championing secure and efficient operations across the federation.
“It will serve as a platform for attracting new business stakeholders to our shore.
” Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of this renewed hope experience as we consolidate on the achievements of the past, collaborate with our stakeholders and of course, bring in innovation to drive Customs Operations.
“The conference will be graced by esteemed guests, including the Vice-President, Senator Kashim Shettima as the special guest of honour, the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Finance Minister, Wale Edun” the CGC announced.
The CG conference is a platform for interaction where customs reviews its past operations and project for the future.
The last conference was held in 2012 in Katsina state.
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Ukraine blocks Russia’s reelection bid at IMO council elections

The Eyewitness Reporter
The world is gradually ostracizing Russia from the comity of nations due to its aggression against Ukraine.
At the council election of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) held Friday, December 1st, 2023, Russia, for the first time since 1958, failed in its reelection bid into category A of the organization
The failure of Russia was masterminded by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who told the IMO General Assembly that Russia had no place in the August gathering.
Ukraine, which was not standing for election, had pushed for Russia to be ousted from the IMO Council.
“Russia has no place in the International Maritime Organization nor its governing bodies because no one in recent decades has caused greater harm to free navigation than Russia,” Zelenskiy told the IMO Assembly in a remote address on Monday.
Russia has been a member of Category A of the IMO and has consistently won reelection into the fold of the committee of countries with the largest maritime interests in the world.
But due to its war with Ukraine, the country has lost that revered place.

The outcome is another blow for Russia after it failed in its bid to return to the UN’s top human rights body in October, in an election seen as a key test of Western efforts to keep Moscow isolated.

Last year, Moscow also failed to win enough votes for re-election to the UN aviation agency’s governing council.

The London-based International Maritime Organization (IMO) is responsible for regulating the safety and security of international shipping and preventing pollution and comprises 175 member state countries.

Russia has been a member since 1958 and has been consistently re-elected to the IMO Council.

With voting on  Friday, 40 countries were elected by secret ballot to the IMO Council, which supervises the work of the body.

They include China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Norway, Panama, South Korea, Britain and the United States.
Russia’s IMO delegation told the Assembly earlier on Friday that it deserved its place on the Council.”A balancing and constructive role is what our country contributes, not just to this body, but to the Organization as a whole,” Russia’s delegation said in translated comments.

In October, Russia said the IMO was departing from its impartial role due to “external pressure” which it said was impacting the fair treatment of all member countries.

Meanwhile, the IMO  Assembly on December 1st, 2021 elected the members of its Board for the two years 2024-2025.
 Category A, which includes the ten nations that have the highest interest in providing international maritime services, have been China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Norway, Panama, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In category B of the IMO Council, which is made up of ten nations that have the greatest interest in international maritime trade, representatives of Australia, Brazil, Canada, United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, India, Holland, Spain and Sweden.
Category C, is made up of 20 nations that have a particular interest in maritime transport or shipping, and whose election to the Board will ensure the representation of all major geographical areas of the world, including Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Philippines, Finland, Jamaica, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Qatar, Singapore and Turkey.
After the thirty-third Assembly of the IMO, which will end next Wednesday, the following day the newly elected Council will meet for its 131st session and elect the President and Vice-President for the next biennium.
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