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Kwankwaso condemns non- disbursement Of $350m Cabotage funds

Presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Sen. Musa Kwankwaso
The Eyewitness reporter
The Presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Sen. Musa Kwankwaso, has condemned the non-disbursement of $350million shipping intervention funds, also known as, Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF), to shipowners.

Kwankwaso, who spoke in Lagos at a town-hall meeting on the Maritime Agenda for the politician, organised by the Prime Maritime Project ahead of the 2023 general elections, also expressed shock over the government’s failure to refloat the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL), many years after it collapsed.

He, however, said to get the industry on its right footing, he will place the control of the nation’s maritime sector in the hands of stakeholders, if elected president in 2023.

According to him, the traffic congestion in Ijora and the Apapa port city was due to lack of planning for the future, saying the menace of gridlock from articulated vehicles in 21st Century Nigeria “goes to show that we rarely plan for the future.

“So many things have gone wrong with the industry. I can still remember the days of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) with its beautiful ships flying Nigeria’s flag across the globe!

Why did it die? Why do we not have a replacement as the giant of Africa? What has become of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)?
“Why has it not been disbursed to the beneficiaries? From my little knowledge of the sector, a lot of questions are begging for answers!”

“In summation, the desired assistance to all importers of goods, manufacturers, including exporters and other ancillary stakeholders associated with port operations and management, will be guaranteed under our party’s regime, by the special grace of God.”

However, “having been here today, I have discovered that more work needs to be done in the sector.

” I am therefore using this forum to solicit your support so that I can emerge winner of the 2023 general election.”

He also condemned the underutilization and over-utilization of the Eastern and Apapa Ports respectively.

He said, “Lagos port system originally designed for a population of fewer than 50 million people in the 1950s with less than 20 million cargo throughput has remained almost the same for over 200 million population in 2022.

“Our government will look into constructing a rail line from both Apapa and Tin Can Island ports to a dry port area outside Lagos, where arrived goods should be domiciled for clearance in order to stop heavy trucks from causing gridlock in Lagos.
“We should also look into the possibility of opening other ports such as Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar, among others, to decongest the Lagos port.”

Going forward, he requested the stakeholders’ forum to form the nucleus of the group that will design “a workable and actionable maritime sector reform template, which should include clearance of goods arriving at our ports within 72 hours, as done in other countries.”

Kwankwaso, also vowed to place the control of the nation’s maritime sector in the hands of stakeholders, saying “under our watch, maritime professionals will take charge of the maritime sector.”

According to him, “operators of the maritime industry know where it pinches the most and certainly has their insider perspective on how best to revamp the sector.

” We will continue to tap into that insider knowledge to have a better understanding of the challenges so as to continue to fine-tune our proposed policies.

“In the end, we must all agree that this very important sector must be back on its feet and must be given the chance to support the growth and development of our country in the overall interest of our citizens.”

He explained that though the NNPP has a robust economic blueprint, in which maritime and transport logistics are incorporated, his presence was due to his conviction that “maritime is a critical element to the growth, survival and prosperity of Nigeria.

“The maritime industry gave birth to our great party, the NNPP, so my being here is primarily to listen, appreciate and understand the expectations of maritime operators from me and our party should we eventually emerge winners of the 2023 general elections.

“Though I may not have been fully involved in the maritime sector to understand its nitty-gritty, my experience over the years as a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, former governor, former minister of defence and a former senator has availed me some basic understanding of the sector, especially some of its challenges.

Earlier, the Chairman of the occasion, Mr. Kunle Folarin, had enumerated the rot in the sector, regretting the incessant changes in the leadership of maritime regulatory agencies and the supervising ministry, which are often headed by appointees that have no knowledge of the industry, which adversely affects its growth.

This was also listed by the Prime Maritime Project, which said the series, which will be availed to all presidential candidates, was meant to extract a social contract from them on their plans and commitment to placing the maritime sector on the front burner as a major economic driver.

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Customs

Customs, UN agency collaborate to fight smuggling

The Eyewitness Reporter

The anti-smuggling efforts of the Nigeria Customs Service has received a boost with the support of the United Nations agency,
United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN—Habitat.
The Customs got the assurance of collaboration from the UN agency on Tuesday, September 19, 2023, when the acting Comptroller General of Customs, Adewale Adeniyi hosted the ambassadors of the global agency led by Dr. Raymond Edoh in his office.
Adeniyi told his guests that the Service, under his watch, will implement every necessary action against saboteurs of Nigeria’s economy to cripple their ‘illegitimate’ business of smuggling.

“On behalf of the entire Management Team of the Nigeria Customs Service, I wish to inform you that we will partner with you in this campaign, and we will grant you all forms of support you may need to carry out this campaign — and I want to assign one of our amiable DCGs, Abba Kura, to work with you closely.”

He appreciated how they traveled from afar to inform the Nigeria Customs Service of their campaign against smuggling, which, according to him, the Nigeria Customs Service has already started yielding positive results in suppressing the menace of smuggling.

The CGC also welcomed Dr Raymond’s offer to engage officers and men of the Service in capacity—building to enhance their understanding of digital literacy skills, adding that the Service has already started embracing technology to advance its work by introducing related courses to officers.

The CGC appreciated the collaborative effort between the Nigeria Customs Service and UN—Habitat and believes that the collaboration signifies a commitment to tackling smuggling and enhancing trade facilitation in the nation, setting the stage for a more prosperous future.

“What we’re trying to do is to raise a modern Customs Service through partnering with stakeholders to achieve our goals because we value partnership, and I am happy that you extended your hands of collaboration to work with us.”

He also appreciated their pledge to train officers and men of the Service in digital literacy skills, assuring that the Service will continue to prioritize proficiency in the fight against smuggling through a technological approach.

He underscored the importance of digital skills, promising that the relevant Service department will enhance trade facilitation.

On his part, the Director of UN—Habitat, Dr. Raymond Edoh, appreciated President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for reposing the responsibility of heading the Nigeria Customs Service on the Acting Comptroller-General, describing him as “a competent Customs officer who knows the terrain and masters the job.”

According to him, they decided to visit the Ag. CGC at the Customs Headquarters to express their interest in partnering with the Service.

He appreciated the Service for being a “gatekeeper of the country” that protects citizens against border threats, stressing that his organization will collaborate with NCS to mitigate the smuggling of illicit goods and train officers and men of Customs on digital literacy skills and certification.

UN-Habitat is the United Nations entity responsible for developing urban policies and translating them into action to create sustainable cities and promote viable urban development and adequate shelter for all.

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Headlines

Maritime stakeholders set agenda for success of Blue Economy

Adegboyega Oyetola,Minister of Marine and Blue Economy
The Eyewitness Reporter
Key stakeholders in the maritime sector during the  Roundtable discussion hosted by the League of Maritime Editors (LOME) to commemorate the unveiling of its  Secretariat in Lagos, on Thursday, September 14, 2023,  have enunciated fresh measures to be adopted, to ensure that the Blue Economy contributes tremendously, to the development of the Nigerian society.
The stakeholders, include the Director General of the  Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh,  the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA), Muhammed Bello Koko, the Executive Secretary/ Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council(NSC), Hon Emmanuel Jime and the Patron of the League of Maritime Editors, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, who is an ex- President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA).
During the Roundtable, titled,’’ How to Achieve the Benefits of the Blue Economy’’, the League Patron, Prince Shittu who was the Chairman, the   NIMASA  DG, represented by the Agency’s Director of External Affairs, Chief Isichei Osamgbi,  said that the blue economy is already operational, but required the proper identification of comparative advantages, for the purpose of what is potentially advantageous and sustainable.
He challenged industry players and operators, to see themselves as co-drivers in the journey towards the success of the Blue economy, saying without this,  the success story of the Blue economy cannot be complete.
 Jamoh disclosed that, whereas the blue economy in Nigeria is still unfolding, it is at the stage where a collaboration of efforts, must concentrate on optimizing the comparative advantages in order to remain competitive in the global space.
Represented by the Director External Relations, Isichie Osamgbi, the DG NIMASA said the country must tell herself the truth that the blue economy holds the front row potential in resource growth and as a leading revenue projection and hence should be accorded the right attention to drive its explorations.
“Today we are no longer talking about the benefits of the blue economy, we have passed that conception stage, current discussions should be how to tap into the various strata, the unfolding of the separate gold mines as already enshrined in the NIMASA Act.
“We need to do more collectively to improve on our individual spheres of contribution and achieve a sustainable template that will create a beneficial impact. For us, the effort to strengthen maritime security and achieve maritime safety, grow shipping development, marine tourism, and cruise transportation are key considerations we keep expanding.
“So, the time has come to maximize our abundance in the blue economy and to also be able to operationalize their economic benefits by looking at the comparative advantages each resource provides. We must be determined and focused, we are not the first to have maritime security challenges, Singapore’s niche market is the blue economy, and we must have the political and operational will to tackle insecurity as the top of the identified monster.
“We must come together and set the agenda for a functional blue economy and it is commendable that the League of Maritime Editors has been doing this, because however we look at it, today, the blue economy and the maritime domain hold the biggest prospect for achieving the required GDP.
“We must remove the sentiments of what is in it for me and embrace the patriotic ethos of what is in it for the country. When we agree on what should be done and how to go about doing it, and how to sustain the developments, and how to expand, then we would have actually become serious.
“And like all others, the protection of the marine environment from pollution is also key, and that takes us to our exclusive economic zones. What is economically critical is the exclusive zone, these are the issues that should agitate our minds.”
Also speaking, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko represented by the  Tin Can Island Port Manager, Jibril Buba, advocated enhanced capacities through deliberate policy and stakeholder actions necessary to drive the processes.
While applauding LOME for providing the arena to brainstorm on the dynamics of the blue economy, Bello-Koko said the Authority has for a long time already prepared the grounds for its takeoff and consistent with the full realization is always providing the enabling environment through which the required efficiencies, competences and capacities can be developed and sustained.
He said, “We know where we are coming from,  we remember the era of warfare in the port, we used to have women delivering babies in the port and all that. And NPA in its quest for excellence in 1993, said look, we cannot continue to remain like this. It was consciously or unconsciously the way of re-awakening the blue economy, it’s only that it didn’t get the name blue economy.
“As the first speaker said, attitude is important, often roles and duties are dumped on NPA which does not belong to us. The foundation must be regenerated, we now changed the name of Nigerian Post Authority to Nigerian Port Plc all in a quest to improve efficiency.
‘’Of course, you all know our mandate efficiency in cargo handling is what will make the industry move forward. “but whatever we come up with as far as we do not change our behaviour, we do not change the way we do things, our overlapping functions, then the blue economy will not find its footing.
“By 2006 we were partnering, we followed the pattern of the remaining people of the world and came up with what we now have as a landlord model. Now we now have the machinery.  There is no berth that does not have mobile harbor cranes, some of them have up to eleven, some up to twelve, some more than that. They have the mobile harbour crane, have enough gantry cranes in the terminals,
 “Now, when we had the time that vessels used to come to this country and they spend up to 40 days, that is pre-concession of the terminals. Now it is  72 hours in the case of container vessels and in the case of bulk cargo at ENL and the rest, ten days. We’ve achieved 0% waiting time.”
 you remember the Amada shipping saga, that is what gave an offshoot of Tin-Can Island port to act as a shock absorber to Apapa port’’.
Bello-Koko also identified the fishing sub-sector as an advantageous resource area that can grow the blue economy substantially.
He said, “ if the government can deliberately, or the stakeholders can deliberately form a sort of consortium and then come up with a bigger fishing industry, I think it will move the industry forward because what we have now are fragmentations.
“Apart from probably the foreign partners that are doing well, exporting lobsters, our lobsters are well loved in America and the UK. You can hardly find them here but those farmed are constantly being exported to the US and to the UK and we are making very good foreign exchange from it.
“Apart from the fisheries which can move the blue economy forward, we also have, like other countries, the net industry. The net industry in countries like India generates thousands of employment. Why do we have to import the nets and the crafts that were used in fishing?
“So if you can help us push for the development of the net industry, it will in fact assist in boosting the fishing industry. And then also we have the welders of the craft itself, that’s entirely another industry that will come up under fishing alone, so these are things that can generate serious employment opportunities, plus forex.”
The NPA boss commended LOME for the acquisition of its secretariat which has been designed to also serve as Centre for Media Advocacy, noting that the place will serve as a catalyst for positive change in the industry.
“I am particularly delighted by the fact that this Secretariat will serve as a hub for collaboration, information exchange, and the development of best practices. It will be a platform where stakeholders from various segments of the maritime industry can come together to address challenges, explore opportunities, and shape the future of our sector.”
In his contribution, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Hon Emmanuel Jime represented by the Council’s  Director Consumer Affairs  Department, Chief Cajetan Agu,  described the blue economy,  as having huge economic potential that should be harnessed by all.
 Describing Nigeria as a blessed country in terms of the abundance of Blue Economy,   the NSC CEO  said what is needed is to harness the potential of the blue economy. Jime pointed out that the opportunities embedded in the blue economy were so many that it has become the project of the entire African Union (AU).
 The NSC boss identified the potential of the blue economy as shipping, fisheries, underwater mining, cruise transportation, and tourism, among others. He said that realizing these potentials, the AU sees the blue economy as a project that no country will do alone because of the issue of security.
 Jime stated that the criminals move around in different territorial waters, and as such the blue economy needs to be implemented together.  He disclosed that the AU has developed a model of the blue economy after studying the potential, adding that for the body, it is the rebirth of the African Renaissance.
He however acknowledged that Nigeria through NIMASA has been able to reduce drastically the issue of piracy in her territorial waters and Gulf of Guinea (GoG.
Before the League’s Patron,  cut the tape to inaugurate the Secretariat,  the NIMASA DG; NPA MD, and the  Shippers’ Council ES/ CEO, had identified the various benefits that would accrue to the League from having its own Secretariat and encouraged the members of the Association to tap into those benefits.
 They all, lauded the various contributions of the League members, to the development of the maritime sector, and urged the League to ensure that it uses the Secretariat to brainstorm to set the agenda for the success of the Blue Economy, as well as the additional progress of the shipping sector.
Shittu, particularly charged the League, to consider building its own Secretariat being senior practitioners, and appealed to industry stakeholders to support the initiative whenever it comes on stream.
“I am delighted to be part of this epoch-making event, some of you l have known over the years, two, three decades, I remember those days while serving under Alhaji Sanni Kamba in the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents and l was the National Publicity Secretary, even though l was based in Port Harcourt, l was always coming around for meetings and briefings, so all along l have been part of you.”
“I foresee a future where we will be moving out of this apartment and going to our own property. Despite their moderate critical reporting as senior practitioners, l think that it is good for the industry.
“But generally, people should also be able to criticize certain reports, especially misleading reports. One of the mistakes we make is that we read stories and forget to read the commentaries or push out reactions.
“I am delighted to see the representatives of the CEOs of the agencies at the commissioning of your Secretariat, this shows mutual respect, even though they get you to attend their commissioning events all the time, it is good they identify with you during your own one-off events.
“Knowing that your profession is one of utmost service with very little monetary attachment, l am sure that if you ask them for water to support your secretariat, they will give you wine”., he had said.
Earlier, in his speech, the President of the League, Chief Timothy Okorocha had told the guests that the Monthly Roundtable Parley of the Association, which was on hold is now back, assuring that the League would again be providing the missing nexus in the industry, with regards to developmental journalism, and the essential advocacy that nations depend upon to nurture their peculiar circumstances and to build their capacities.
He expressed the League’s appreciation to all the stakeholders that have assisted the Association in one form or another, noting that, since, the Secretariat that is being inaugurated, is the beginning of a new long journey, LOME will still need their support to make the Secretariat,  a Center of Media Advocacy, as conceived by the body’s immediate past Executive.
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Customs

MARAN raises alarm over continued depreciation of Customs’ N180 billion boats on Lagos Marina waters —- calls on CGC Adeniyi to deploy the assets

Wale Adeniyi, Ag, CGC
The Eyewitness Reporter
The Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) has called on the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Adewale Adeniyi, to rescue the N180 billion Customs patrol boats from further depreciation on the Lagos Marina waters.
In a statement issued by the foremost maritime journalists group, the anti-smuggling patrol boats procured by the former President Goodluck Jonathan Administration for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), have been abandoned since 2015 at the Marina Lagos waterfront.
The group noted with concern that more than eight years after procurement, and many years after the immediate past administration of Customs led by Hameed Ali promised that the two patrol boats would be rescued from disuse, the boats have rather become a pitiable sight as most of its gadgets have gone useless.
” More pathetic and anger-inducing is the fact that the patrol boats, which consume more than N5 billion as annual maintenance fees have, however, not been put into use even after being commissioned by former Customs boss, Rtd Col. Hameed Ali.
“It is more unpardonable to note that while these vessels are being eaten away daily by termites, the officers and men of the Western and Eastern Marine Commands of the Customs go on patrol operations on the waterways with obsolete and smaller patrol boats that have made them easy prey for smugglers.
“Many have lost their lives in the process.
“Inside sources claimed that the boats are more than overdue for dry-docking and routine maintenance, going by the manufacturer’s specification.
“It will be recalled that the procurement of the patrol boats was initiated by the management of NCS  led by the late Abdullahi Dikko Inde, to boost its marine anti-smuggling operations.
“At that time, the NCS operations, according to research, were at their lowest point because of a lack of functional patrol boats and other operational equipment to withstand smugglers with sophisticated fast-moving equipment, fully armed.
“The government awarded the contract to build the boats to a South African firm, Kobus Naval Design , KND, in 2012.
“The then Jonathan-led Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved N3 billion for the procurement of the two NCS patrol boats for the surveillance of Nigeria waters.
“Based on the order, the two vessels, named ”Customs Pride” and” Group of Nine”  were slated to be delivered to the NCS within  10 months but were not until April 2015, three years behind schedule.
“The total cost of building the two patrol boats by the firm catapulted to over N180bn from the initial approved sum, raising questions about perceived sharp practices.
“The patrol boats, which were delivered to the NCS in April 2015  have since then berthed at the Marina Waterfronts, Lagos, where it is idling and rotting away at significant cost of maintenance to the NCS.
“While commissioning the two sea-going boats in September 2019, the CG of Customs, Hameed Ali, admitted that the Service has been weak on the waterways compared to the land and that this necessitated the purchase of the two boats.
“This situation, he agreed, led to the death of nine Customs marine officers while confronting deadly petrol smugglers on the sea in 2012.
“It was in honour of this group of nine gallant officers who died in the service of their fatherland that one of the seagoing vessels was named ‘Group of Nine’ while the other represents the ‘Customs Pride’ on the sea.
“One would expect that since the Service now has four marine commands, namely Western Marine, Eastern Maritime, North-Western Marine and North Eastern Marine commands, there is no better time than now to put the boats the effective.
“Presently Nigeria is going through economic turbulence, and cannot afford the culture of waste amplified by the past administration”
The group therefore called on the Acting CG of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, to deploy his dynamic attention to this issue and take immediate steps to get the boats functional as the Customs operations, more than ever, require these vessels to confront smugglers.
“We advise that the issues surrounding the abandonment of the vessels should be sorted out immediately or the Customs management should seek the help of experts to rescue them.
“Nigeria Customs management should purge itself of the indifference and above board attitude of its immediate predecessor that led us to this sorry state”
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