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International shipping cartel removes Nigeria from paying war insurance premium

Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo
— as war against piracy gains traction
 The eyewitness reporter
After the successful decapitation of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and Nigeria’s territorial waters, the international shipping cartel has finally removed Nigeria from paying war insurance premiums.
The international shipping lines have slammed what they described as war insurance premiums on cargos destined for Nigeria in the wake of the frenzy of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea and Nigeria’s waters.
This surcharge has therefore resulted in a high cost of shipping into Nigeria.
But due to the total war declared by Nigeria which was coordinated by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in collaboration with the Nigeria Navy, the pirate activities in the region were reduced to the barest minimum so much so that the Gulf of Guinea recorded zero piracy attacks for 10 consecutive months since 2021.
The Director General of NIMASA Dr. Bashir Jamoh said from the first quarter of  2021  to date, Nigeria has not recorded a single accident or incident on its territorial waters in terms of a piracy attack.
From the last quarter of 2021 till date, it’s been over a year now, with no single attack.

He said this has led to the cancellation of the stigma placed on Nigeria as the most dangerous water in the world and the country was removed from the piracy list for the first time in March 2022.H

However, the international shipping cartel refused to remove the country from paying war insurance premiums despite this feat.

This, therefore, led NIMASA to embark on a campaign against the continued imposition of this surcharge which Jamoh described as no longer justifiable in the face of the successes recorded in the fight against piracy.

However, the NIMASA campaign may have eventually paid off as the country has finally exited from this inglorious era of payment of war insurance premiums.

Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo said that Nigeria’s exit from the surcharge was owing to improved naval operations in Nigeria’s maritime domain and enhanced security architecture in the country’s sea lanes.

Making this disclosure in Abuja Thursday, the Naval chief said Nigeria was removed from the list of countries paying War Insurance Premium on ships whose destination is Nigeria by Llyods of London, United Kingdom.

The war insurance premium meant that cargo ships and other vessels plying the Nigerian route or whose destination was Nigeria paid a significantly higher premium on insurance due to heightened security fears and attacks including piracy which were a frequent occurrence in the past before the Nigerian Navy overcame the criminal activities of pirates in the country’s sea lanes and maritime domain.

Admiral Gambo noted that “with the removal of the tag, insurance premium to be paid by ships doing business with, or plying Nigerian sea lanes will become normal insurance paid by other countries which are less expensive and will enhance shipping/cargo trade”

Similarly, the Nigerian Navy has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) through the Navy Holdings Limited (NHL) and Akewa Global Services for the Upgrade and reactivation of the Burutu Dockyard and building of a Naval Logistics Base to be located at Burutu, in Delta State.The MoU on the Burutu Dockyard reactivation/development which is a Nigerian project, aimed at decongesting land transport challenges while reviving inland waterways transport that was abandoned at the jetty since the 1960s.

On the MoU, the CNS said, “It is with great delight that I welcome everyone to this unique collaborative initiative, which is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Navy Holdings Limited and Akewa Global Services Limited.

“This partnership with the Nigerian Navy is to revive the dock facilities, by upgrading and modernizing the facilities to support maritime commerce, especially in preparation for the take-off of the regional Sealink Inland Water Cargo Transportation.

“This will greatly assist in the movement of bulk cargoes from Nigeria’s hinterland thereby boosting our country’s non-oil export, especially solid minerals and agricultural exports.

Gambo said the desire to safeguard the nation’s maritime domain for socio-economic activities to thrive, prompted the Nigerian Navy to collaborate with Akewa Global Services Limited adding that signing of the MoU is the beginning of good things and better relationships between both organisations and by extension, the good people of Burutu Community.

“It is my hope that this collaboration would continue to blossom and yield expected dividends that could rid the nation’s maritime environment of activities of criminal elements and economic saboteurs while attracting desired development to both parties and the nation at large”, he said, adding “Undoubtedly, this collaboration will further position the Nigerian Navy to support government’s development of sustainable Blue Economy”.

Explaining the legal basis for the MoU, Admiral Gambo said, “Pertinently, the Presidential Executive Order 5 of 2nd February 2018, allows Ministries, Departments and Agencies to partner or engage reputable indigenous professional companies in Joint Venture relationships in realization of corporate objectives.

“Accordingly, this partnership with Akewa Global Services Limited stands to yield great benefits in Local Content Development in the areas of shipbuilding technology as well as other aspects of science and engineering”.

“Therefore, while the Nigerian Navy benefits in enhancing the turnaround maintenance of her vessels, the good people of the Burutu Community would also derive maximum benefits from employment opportunities and corporate social responsibilities that would arise from this collaboration. This partnership will also lead to the establishment of a standard Base to facilitate all-around security of the facility, the community and the entire region.

Articulating other objectives of the MoU, the CNS said, , ‘My vision for the Nigerian Navy is to leverage all factors of national location, technology, training teamwork and synergy to re-energize the Service and enhance her as a well-motivated and ready naval force in the discharge of her constitutional mandate in fulfillment of national security objectives.

“To achieve this, one of the policy thrusts of my administration is geared towards renewal and re-invigoration of the Nigerian Navy Fleet. The strategic objective of this Fleet Renewal Project is to develop and sustain the right mix of ships and assets capable of sustaining the presence of the Nigerian Navy across the span of the nation’s maritime domain.

“Undoubtedly, attaining this objective requires standard shipbuilding capability, repairs and maintenance facilities to enhance operational availability of Nigerian Navy platforms towards curtailing maritime crimes that undermine the economic prosperity of our great nation.

“Although the Nigerian Navy operates 2 shipbuilding and repair facilities, namely the Naval Shipyard Port Harcourt and Naval Dockyard in Lagos, it is believed that these collaborative efforts to develop the Burutu Port and utilize existing shipyard facility, would act as a force multiplier to the Nigerian Navy in ship maintenance and repairs, particularly in the Central Naval Command area of responsibility”.

‘This would further enhance securing the maritime domain as well as protection of critical maritime assets therein. Certainly, the dockyard would be leveraged towards building needed platforms including barges and small craft”, he added.

The CNS thereafter appreciated
President Muhammadu Buhari for empowering the Nigerian Navy towards the actualization of its constitutional mandate, and both ministers of Defence and Transport for their support and guidance toward ensuring safety and security within the maritime domain.

Chief Kenneth Donye, Chairman of Akema Global Services in his remarks recalled that Burutu Dockyard built by the colonial masters during their early trade mission to the Niger Delta Coast in the early 20th century played a very crucial role in the then lucrative inland waterway transportation that existed upto the late sixties, when inland waterway transportation drastically declined in Nigeria as well as the Burutu dock business.

“The partnership with the Navy is to revive this dock, by upgrading and modernizing the facilities to handle modern maritime challenges, especially in the preparation of the take-off of the Regional Sealink Inland Water Cargo Transportation, which will greatly help in the movement of bulk cargo from Nigeria’s hinterland resulting in a boost of our country’s non-oil export, especially for solid mineral and agricultural exports.

He commended the Chief of Naval Staff for approving the partnership, which Includes the establishment of both Naval and Commercial Logistic bases, saying Burutu, will help boost security in the area, as well as increase the shipping and other maritime activities for both the oil and non-oil industries.

“This will also Improve the lives of several communities within the Niger Delta Region, Eastern Region, and the Northern Region, from where most of these bulk cargoes will be transported through the naturally gifted Rivers Niger and Benue Inland Water Channels,” he said.

“What gladdens me most in this partnership, is the Naval security architecture that will be put to bear in these areas of operation. This will help de-stigmatize Burutu and environ as a security-prone area and help attract both local and foreign investors to unlock the investment potentials of this area, which will ultimately translate to wealth creation for both the people and the nation at large.

“This partnership is expected to help revive commercial activity along the rivers Niger and Benue axis, by producing specialized barges, best suited for our river transportation for bulk cargo, against the current trend, where all goods are conveyed majorly through our dilapidated roads and inadequate rail systems.

“It will also help put activity on the several moribund inland and dry ports located in the Northern and Eastern parts of the Country, thus increasing economic activities in these areas. The partnership will help boost the commercial shipping activity of Burutu seaport and other Delta cluster ports.

“While the Navy will be having a 10 Hectares Naval Logistic base, donated by the host community, for their internal use, there will be an additional 50 Hectares Commercial Logistic base to be jointly owned by this partnership which includes the host community, that will help boost commercial businesses and safety within this area of operation.

This icing of this relationship is that the Nigerian Navy is being transformed from not just a maritime security outfit, but to an economic enhancer that provides facilities that help boost commercial activities within their maritime operational zone.”

He commended the efforts of both the Nexim Bank and Sealink towards operationalization of the relationship noting that, “The business advocacy of the Sealink Consortium generated the need for construction of specialized river crafts and barges that will convey hitherto locked bulk cargoes in the hinterland for export.

Also speaking at the signing ceremony, the Managing Director of NEXIM, Nigerian Export-Import Bank, Alhajii Abba Bello disclosed that the bank got involved in maritime activities in a bid to expand the Maritime logistics infrastructure to drive trade and commerce hence its support for the surveying and charting of the nation’s rivers, as well as boost maritime security.

Reiterating that the project required huge capital investments to see its actualization, Alhaji Bello disclosed that NEXIM bank has signed an MoU with AFRI-EXIM bank for a $400million loan facility for the purpose of providing Port Infrastructural Development and other needed infrastructure for the waterways.

The Group Chief Executive of Naval Holdings Limited, Rear Admiral Sirilander Lassa, signed the MoU on behalf Nigerian Navy while Chief Kenneth Donye signed on behalf of Akewa Global Services.

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House of Reps gives NIMASA green light to disburse CVFF –appoints audit firm to coordinate, monitor  disbursement

Hon. Legor Idagbo
The eyewitness reporter
The House of Representatives has given the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) a clean bill of health over the controversial Cabotage Vessels Financing Funds(CVFF) and consequently directed the agency to disburse the funds.
It would be recalled that the lawmakers, a few weeks ago, halted the planned disbursement after long and painstaking groundwork made by the Ministry of Transportation and NIMASA towards the disbursement process.
The House had raised concerns over the funds, said to be about #700m, and decided to ask its committee on Nigerian Contents Development and Monitoring to investigate the funds.
This followed a motion during its sitting last month on the matter and subsequently directed the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to stop the planned disbursement of the fund.
However, after concluding its investigation, the House found tenable the need to disburse the funds to the eligible indigenous ship owners.
Addressing journalists in Abuja Thursday, the Chairman of the committee, Hon. Legor Idagbo said that its investigations indicated that due process was followed, informing that the disbursement can now be made.
“The House of Representatives at its sitting on Tuesday, 4 May 2023, deliberated on a motion on the Planned Disbursement of $700 Million Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund, and investigate the Total Accrual of the Fund, and referred same to the House Committee on Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring to, amongst other resolutions, investigate and urge the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to immediately stop the planned disbursement of $700 million to Nigerian citizens and companies and to lay before the floor of the House, an audited statement of account showing all monies that have accrued to the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund not later than fourteen (14) days from the date of this resolution.
“The Committee requested the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and the Ministry of Transportation to provide detailed information on the total amount accrued to the Fund and disbursements since inception.
“The Committee met with the Minister of Transportation and the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency ({NIMASA) on Thursday, 11 May 2023 to find out about the details concerning the matter.
” After a thorough analysis of the various submissions on the matter coupled with the explanations given by the Ministry and NIMASA, the Committee discovered that due process was followed in the planned disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund.
“The Committee notes that the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) is a fund that was set up in 2003 by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act.
” The Fund was established for the purpose of developing indigenous ship acquisition capacity, and to provide financial assistance to indigenous shipping operators.
“The Committee further notes that there is a lack of Capacity amongst indigenous/ Domestic Coastal operators in Nigeria, thus the reason Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPC) still awards contracts to foreign shipping Companies in contravention of the Cabotage and Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act.
“Some of these awards have been previously investigated by the Committee which led to their cancellation.
“It was also discovered that the total funds of $360m in the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) represents 50%, while the remaining counterpart funds of 50% is from stakeholders and Banks which is 15% and 35% respectively.
“NIMASA should go ahead with the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) in compliance with the extant laws and laid down guidelines for the said disbursement.
“To ensure the disbursement does not violate any of the extant laws made by the National Assembly, the following persons were nominated to supervise the disbursement process:
“Rt. Hon. (Barr.) Legor Idagbo  – Chairman ii. Hon. Henry Nwawuba – Member iii. | Mrs. Kehinde Bolade Olaiya – Committee Clerk.
“An Audit firm, Stratford Hill and Co. was appointed by the committee as the coordinating enforcement auditor for the CVFF.
“The Committee applauds NNPC for its commitment to awarding the shipping contracts to indigenous companies that have built capacity to the level where they can successfully execute these contracts.
“The Committee is grateful to the leadership of the House for the confidence bestowed on it to carry out the investigation”.
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President Tinubu appoints Gbajabiamila Chief of Staff

Gbajabiamila , Tinubu
 President Bola Tinubu has appointed Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as his Chief of Staff.

An authoritative source in the Presidency confirmed the development on Thursday.

The source said the president finally made the decision after wide consultations on the contending candidates.

Gbajabiamila has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2012 and has just been re-elected to the House in the last elections.

The choice of Gbajabiamila by the president is not a surprise to many political pundits as he has been a very close ally to the president.

They are part of the brains behind the formation of the All-Progressives Party (APC).

He will now have to forgo his seat in the House of Representatives if he accepts the appointment.

Olufemi Hakeem Gbajabiamila CFR, is a Nigerian lawyer and foundation member of the APC.

He has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2019.

Gbajabiamila was born in Lagos in 1962 and attended Igbobi College for his secondary education and the University of Lagos as part of his education.

He is married to Salamatu Gbajabiamila.

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Maritime media, NUJ mourn as Ray Ugochukwu passes on to glory

Ray Ugochukwu
The eyewitness reporter
The media confraternity of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council and the maritime media, was thrown into a deep shock and mourning Thursday at the sudden demise of Mr Ray Ugochukwu, a crack journalist of international repute.
The entire members of the NUJ and the maritime media, his immediate constituency, received the news of his death, which was broken by Mr Leye Ajayi, the Chairman of the NUJ Lagos council, in a terse message posted on the council’s WhatsApp platform, with mixed emotion of sadness, shock and disbelief.
Shell-shocked, most colleagues of the deceased, who thought the announcement was a joke taken too far, make frantic calls to the NUJ council officials who confirmed the unfortunate incident.
As the rude reality of the death of the erudite maritime journalist sank in, many of them paid glowing tributes to the man widely regarded as the encyclopedia of the maritime press and a repository of wise sayings.
In its statement on the death of Mr Ugochukwu, Leye Ajayi eulogised the huge reportorial qualities of the deceased who has practised journalism for over 30 years
“With heavy hearts, we mourn the death of a media giant, a versatile Unionist and a brilliant journalist, Mr Ray Ugochukwu who passed on on Thursday.

“The death of Ray came as a big shock to the union.

“We are going to miss his courageous attributes and mentorship.

“He was also one of the pillars of the Lagos Council of NUJ and served the union meritoriously in his capacities as the Chairman of, the Seminar Committee; and as a Member, the Committee on Milestone Recognition of Media Icons In Nigeria.

“He spent most of his life in ensuring the advancement of Maritime Reporting as well as the welfare of Journalists.

“He worked in several media houses.

“Among his giant strides, he was a former President of the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN); President, Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN); and a former Chairman of the Daily Times Chapel of NUJ.

“The legacies of Ray are indelible and will exist forever.

“May God grant his soul eternal rest” the Lagos NUJ said in a statement signed by Leye Ajayi, the Council Chairman and Tunde Olalere, the Council Secretary.

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