[UPDATE] Statutory Levies: Appeal Court Dismisses NLNG Suit Challenging NIMASA’s Powers

 

The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos, today has dismissed a judgment of the Federal High Court, which declared as illegal, levies imposed on Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) by Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The NLNG in 2013, had approached the Federal High Court, seeking a judicial determination of (among other things), the legality or otherwise of the levies sought to be imposed on it by NIMASA, on behalf of the Federal Government and the consequent blockade of the Bonny Channel by NIMASA and its agents as a result of the dispute.

In Oct 2013, the Federal High Court, Lagos, presided over by Justice Muhammed Idris, (who has now been elevated to Court of Appeal) held that NLNG, was not liable to pay three percent gross freight on its international inbound and outbound cargo, Sea Protection Levy, two per cent cabotage surcharge on all activities carried out for and on its behalf, as well as other sundry claims, as insisted by NIMASA.

Justice Idris also held that NLNG was not liable to make the said payments to NIMASA and that all payments already made by NLNG to NIMASA should be refunded to NLNG forthwith.

The judge further held that NIMASA was wrong in blockading the Bonny Channel for the purpose of enforcing the payments against NLNG.

Dissatisfied with Justice Idris’ decisions, NIMASA filed an appeal before the Appeal Court in Oct 2017, challenging the judgment on the ground of fair hearing among other grounds.

In a unanimous judgment delivered today, Friday the three-man panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Garuba Lawal held that the Federal High Court was wrong.

They, therefore, dismissed the judgment of the lower court for lack of fair hearing

Read Also: Court Revokes Nnamdi Kanu’s Bail, Orders His Re-Arrest

The Appeal Court also ordered that the matter be taken back to the Federal High Court and be reassigned to another judge for retrial.

The judgment which was read by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, on behalf of the panel members held: “The appeal is allowed, and the judgment delivered by the lower court in October 2017 is hereby set aside”.

“The case is hereby ordered to be sent back to the administrative judge of the Lagos Division of the lower court to be assigned to a judge for expeditious determination on its merit.

‘Parties are to bear the administrative cost of the appeal.”

In its suit before the court of appeal, NIMASA claimed that NLNG is liable to pay three per cent gross freight on its international in-bound and out-bound cargo as sea protection levy.

It also claims NLNG is to pay two per cent cabotage surcharge on all activities carried out for and on its behalf as well as other sundry claims.

All of these claims were, however, disputed by the NLNG which claimed it lost about 475 million dollars while NIMASA blocked Bonny Channel.

NIMASA says that with today’s judgment, the status quo is to remain and NIMASA will continue to collect statutory levies from NLNG on behalf of FG.

Alleged N2.6bn Fraud: Appeal Court Frees Ex-NIMASA DG, Akpobolokemi

Court Fixes Date For Ruling On Akpobolemi's N2.6bn Fraud Case

 

The Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos has upheld the ‘no case submission’ filed by a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi, over an alleged fraud of N2.6bn.

The three-man appeal court panel also discharged and freed Mr Akpobolokemi on all the 22counts and overruled the decision of Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court Lagos.

Justice Yargatta Nimpar, who read the lead judgment however held that other defendants who appealed the verdict alongside Akpobolokemi had a case to answer in relation to the charges.

In a swift reaction, however, the EFCC Prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo told Channels Tv’s judiciary Correspondent, that it will appeal the decision immediately at the Supreme Court.

In December 2015, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned Akpobolokemi alongside five others for allegedly diverting N2.6bn from the coffers of NIMASA between December 2013 and May 2015.

The Commission claimed, that the funds were approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan for the implementation of a security project tagged, “International Ship and Ports Security Code in Nigerian Ports” and diverted by the defendants.

Those charged alongside Akpolokemi were Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Blockz and Stonz Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistics Limited.

They all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In proof of its case, the EFCC called 12 witnesses and tendered 77 exhibits.

Rather than open their defence, the defendants all alleged that no case had been made against them and each of them filed a no case submission.

In a ruling delivered on October 16, 2017, Justice Ibrahim Buba dismissed their no-case submissions and ordered them to put in their defence because a prima facie case had been made against them.

Apparently displeased by this verdict, the defendants all approached the Court of Appeal for redress.

Court Orders Forfeiture Of Funds, Property Linked To NIMASA

Court Orders Forfeiture Of Funds, Property Linked To NIMASA.
File Photo

 

A Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of N11,040,000.00 belonging to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

Justice Muslim Hassan granted the orders following an ex parte application made by one, Idris Mohammed, a prosecutor with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The money, which is suspected to be proceeds of crime and recovered by the anti-graft agency form a company, Lakewood Garden Ventures, is said to have been diverted from NIMASA by a Maritime Guard Commander in the Nigerian Navy, one Captian Ebony Aneke.

The EFCC also secured an order of interim forfeiture of a three-bedroom terrace duplex located at Lekki Gardens Estate Phase IV, said to belong to another Maritime Guard Commander in the Nigerian Navy, One Captian Olotu Morakinyo, and another five-bedroom duplex also in the Lekki area belonging to Captain Aneke.

In an affidavit in support of the application, an operative of the EFCC, Idris Adamu, had stated that the commission received intelligence report for a case of conspiracy, stealing and money laundering made against the two naval officers who were posted to NIMASA as maritime guard commanders from September 2011 to September 2015.

The investigator also stated that a NIMASA Committee of Antipiracy Logistics opened and maintained a bank account which was administered by the Maritime Guard Command.

As a guard commander, Captain Morakinyo was said to have received monies from certain people namely: Yahaya Kanawa – N3,800,000; Maigai Integrated Limited – N4,650,000; Capital Providers limited – N8,000,000; and Crescent Pillars Investment Limited – N18,000,000.

The EFCC also said Morakinyo allegedly received and converted the total sum of N40,950,000 property of NIMASA, through his personal account.

He was also said to have converted another N6.5 million meant for the construction of a Communication Centre for the Maritime Guard Command,

Morakinyo was alleged to have used the account of his wife, Rhoda, to launder part of the monies and to acquire the property at Lekki Gardens.

On the other hand, Captain Aneke was said to have received monies from Crescent Pillars Investment Limited totalling N55,905,100, and another N30milion from Seabulk Offshore limited through his bank accounts.

He was also alleged to have used his share of proceeds to acquire the five-bedroom duplex in Lekki.

The EFCC said various witnesses who were privy to the transactions were invited and made voluntary statements to the anti-graft agency.

According to them, Aneke’s sister, Jumie Aneke, however, refunded the sum of N11,040,000 which was diverted through Lakewood Garden Ventures Ltd.

After presenting all his facts before the judge, the EFCC Prosecutor urged Justice Hassan to grant a temporary order of the court forfeiting the property and the monies to the Federal Government.

In his ruling, Justice Hassan granted the order and directed the anti-graft agency to publish it in any newspaper for the respondents or anyone who is interested in the properties and the funds sought to be forfeited to appear before the court to show cause within 14 days why a final forfeiture should not be made in favour of the Federal Government.

The case was then adjourned till April 16.

Alleged Fraud: You Have A Case To Answer, Court Tells Ex-NIMASA Boss

Akpobolokemi--NIMASA
File photo

The Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos has ruled that a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, has a case to answer.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned Akpobolokemi alongside five others in December 2015 for allegedly diverting N2.6bn from the coffers of NIMASA between December 2013 and May 2015.

Presiding Justice Ibrahim Buba held on Monday that the anti-graft agency has established a ‘prima facie case’ against Akpobolokemi.

The court overruled the ‘no case submission’ by the defendants and ordered them to open their defence on October 30, November 7 and 9.

The five other persons who allegedly conspired with Mr Akpobolokemi to divert the monies are Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Blockz and Stonz Ltd, as well as Al-Kenzo Logistic Ltd.

They had all pleaded not guilty to the 22 counts of conspiracy and fraud made against them.

EFCC had claimed that the funds were approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan for the implementation of a security project.

The commission then opened its case against them and during trial, it called 12 witnesses and tendered 77 exhibits in a bid to establish its case.

After the EFCC closed its case, the defendants through their lawyers, filed various ‘no-case submissions’ contending that the prosecution failed to establish ‘a prima-facie case’ against them to warrant entering any defence.

Akpobolokemi through his lawyer, Joseph Nwobike, had argued that the EFCC failed to link him with the alleged diversion of funds from NIMASA.

Nwobike pointed out that his client’s signature authorising the said diversion was never presented in court and as such, the former DG could not be held liable for the offence.

He had also described the evidence given by the prosecution witnesses as mere hearsay, which he contended had no legal weight.

He then urged the court to come to the conclusion that the first defendant could not be called upon to enter any defence because no ‘prima-facie case’ had been established against him.

EFCC’s prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, however, argued that the testimonies of the 12 witnesses and the 77 exhibits had successfully linked Akpobolokemi to the alleged fraud.

He noted that being the head and chief accounting officer of NIMASA at the time of the alleged fraud, Akpobolokemi could not by any stretch of imagination claim to be innocent.

Oyedepo further submitted that even if it was the former president that approved the security project, Akpobolokemi as the head of NIMASA at the time, had constituted a committee to handle the project, the funds of which were subsequently converted to his personal use.

In his ruling on Monday, Justice Buba held that the evidence of all the prosecution witnesses who testified dwelt extensively on the conspiracy of all six defendants and as such, a prima facie case had been made against them which required them to explain the roles they allegedly played.

Buhari Congratulates Peterside On Election As AAMA Chairman

INC-supports-petersidePresident Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Dakuku Peterside, on his election as Chairman of the Association of African Maritime Administrators.

Peterside was elected as the AMAA chairman at the end of the Third Annual Conference of the association in Abuja on Friday.

According to a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, Buhari believes the election is positive for Nigeria.

“The President notes that Peterside’s unanimous election is not only a personal honour and affirmation of confidence in his ability to lead AAMA, but also places Nigeria in a pivotal position to rally other maritime administrations in collaboration with the International Maritime Organisation towards safer global maritime activities,” the statement read in part.

It added that the President was confident that the new position offered Peterside the opportunity to make the country more proud considering NIMASA’s “encouraging performance” under him, especially in the fight against sea piracy.

Buhari expressed the hope that during Peterside’s one-year tenure, the Federal Government’s renewed focus on growing the Nigerian economy through increased maritime resources would be further enhanced.

Osinbajo Seeks Continental Response To Maritime Challenges

Yemi Osinbajo Seeks Continental Response To Maritime ChallengesStrengthening the coast guard function and timely exchange of information by African countries will help build a stronger maritime industry and improve trade facilitation.

Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, made the recommendation on Thursday at the third annual conference of the Association of African Maritime Administration in Abuja.

As part of the opening ceremony of the conference tagged: ‘Sustainable Use Of Africa’s Ocean and Seas’, a new Logo for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

New NIMASA logo unveiled at the conference

Professor Osinbajo who said the challenges facing the sector are not insurmountable, however tasked African countries to take advantage of the incredible opportunities to tackle the difficulties.

“The challenges are many but not insurmountable. As things stand, Africa’s fishing grounds are being pillaged, it waters are polluted and piracy is heightening maritime insecurity and causing increases in the cost of insurance and trade. Many difficulties but incredible opportunities.

“The good news is that we are on the right path, collaboration and synergies. Our countries have to continue to develop the maritime sector, beginning with the national level to the sub-regional and regional levels,” he said.

The Vice President further suggested better regulatory framework and human development as crucial factors for development in the industry.

He stressed the need for countries to ensure a coherent and collaborative continental response to the challenges facing African maritime.

“Here in Nigeria, we have taken steps to tackle some of the issues peculiar to us while still requiring regional and sub-regional collaboration. As African maritime administrators and regulators, it’s my respectful view that you must ensure a coherent and collaborative continental response to the challenges facing our maritime space.

“This will require cooperation amongst our states and agencies, and with other segments of society, including the private sector. It means that governance issues and appropriate legal and regulatory frame works must be put on the front burner, alongside timely exchange of information.

“In addition, issues of maritime security and safety must continue to receive priority attention as we strive to make Africa a valued player in the international maritime community,” he said.

Dakuku Peterside Advocates More Maritime Sector Reforms

dakuku-petersideThe Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA), Mr Dakuku Peterside, says a lot has to change if the country must compete with the rest of the world in the maritime sector.

He made his position known in an interview with Channels Television on Saturday.

He, however, pointed out some of the achievements of the sector in recent times, among which is the decrease in piracy.

“The rate of piracy has dropped to its barest minimum because we have been able to build on agency cooperation and coordination and we’ve also been able to build a network with our regional partners.”

Apart from that, he stated that in terms of maritime safety, the number of detentions of vessels calling at the ports have reduced because according to him, “people are now more aware that we have zero tolerance for substandard vessels.”

“We have also conducted more inspections than in previous years,” he added.

The Maritime boss also hinted that the Ministry of Transportation was pursuing the real establishment of the national fleet driven by the private sector; an initiative to which NIMASA is giving its total support.

Meanwhile, it was also revealed that indigenous players in the maritime industry may soon begin to rip the benefits of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act as Nigeria is set to disburse over a hundred million dollars sabotaged vessel financing fund.

Funds Diversion: An EFCC Detective’s Testimony Against Amosu

Adesola Amosu, Air Force, EFCC, NIMASA, Tosin OwoboA witness has told a court how a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu, and two other Air Force chiefs, diverted the sum of three billion naira paid to the Nigerian Air Force by the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

Mr Tosin Owobo, an Assistant Detective Superintendent with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said the money was paid in response to a request made to the Director General of NIMASA at the time, Mr Patrick Akpobolokemi, by Air Marshal Amosu for assistance on maritime security.

The EFCC detective, a third prosecution witness, made the testimony on Wednesday in continuation of the trial of the former Air Force chiefs at the Federal High Court in Lagos State, southwest Nigeria.

He informed the court that investigations revealed that there was a Memorandum of Understanding between NIMASA and the Nigerian Air Force.

In furtherance of the memo, NIMASA in 2013 paid the sum of one billion Naira and 480 million Naira to the Nigerian Air Force under the leadership of former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Alex Badeh.

In continuation of the agreement in 2014, the EFCC official testified that Mr Amosu wrote to Mr Akpobolokemi, requesting four billion Naira, as the cash amount needed for maritime security.

Mr Akpobolokemi was said to have instead approved the payment of three billion Naira, a sum which was reportedly released in three tranches of one billion Naira each between August and September 2014, and paid into a Nigerian Air Force Special Emergency Operations Account.

The witness added that authorisation for the three billion Naira to be paid into the special account was given by the Director of Accounts, Air Vice Marshal Jacob Bola Adigun, the second defendant in this case.

He, however, said that the monies were purportedly transferred from the special account to various oil and gas companies, all of whom have now been listed in the charge alongside the three Air Force chiefs.

The court admitted in evidence, the statements of accounts of the oil companies allegedly involved.

However, a move by the EFCC Counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, to get the witness to delve into some of the content of the documents was rebuffed by the defence team.

The defence counsels objected the move on the grounds that the witness was not the maker of the documents neither was there an authentication obtained.

Justice Mohammed Idris consequently adjourned till Thursday, February 26 to rule on whether the witness can answer questions based on the documents and for continuation of the trial.

PDP Asks Dakuku, Amaechi To Explain Work Done In Rivers State

PDP Governors Appoint Fayose As Forum ChairmanChairman of the Rivers state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Mr Felix Obuah, has asked Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, to account for the work they have done for the people of Rivers state.

He made the confrontation in a statement signed by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the party, Jerry Needam.

“Chairman of the Rivers state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Mr Felix Obuah, has observed that the people of the state have benefited nothing from the All Progressives Congress, APC, led government since it came to power at the centre.”

He described the development as unfortunate, the height of irresponsibility and insensitivity to the people’s expectations, as well as a failure to deliver its statutory obligations to the citizenry,

The PDP chairman expressed disappointment that since the appointments of Amaechi and Peterside, who are both from the state, they have not been able to initiate any project or empowerment scheme in the state.

Obuah noted that rather than serve as a blessing to the people of Rivers state, the appointment of the APC leaders from the state, has become a source of woes and anguish, as they have only used such positions to cause crisis and division, doing everything to blackmail the government in the state in their quest to force themselves on the people undemocratically.

“It is sad”, Obuah emphasized, that while APC leaders from other states of the federation are making efforts, using their positions to do something positive and developmental in their respective states, our brothers in the same party, who are even holding top positions at the centre, are only bent on destroying our state, always igniting crises and misinforming the good people of Rivers state on issues of development, policies and actions of government.

“Stop the noise and desist from causing problems in Rivers state, deliver meaningful projects and empowerment schemes to the people”, the PDP urged the APC top government appointees.

“By her strategic location and economic base, Rivers state occupies a significant position as the leading live-wire of our nation’s economy, which statutorily and based on the principle of derivation and federal character, ought to be benefitting greatly from the government at the centre in addition to the share due her.

“Regrettably, Rivers state today is one of the few states that has not been accorded her right place by the APC government as a result of continued and deliberate denial and suppressive actions by even those who have benefitted a lot from her treasures.

“It is on the strength of this that we charge the duo of Amaechi and Dakuku to have a rethink, by stopping the fight of attrition against the government and people of the state and join hands to develop it and to influence federal projects into the state as their lawful responsibility.

“The PDP is afraid that if about two years into the life of the APC government at the national level and its leaders have not been able to show any project on ground in the state, the remaining months ahead might be impossible for them to make any reasonable mark, as all we see them doing now is playing politics with everything, including security and development of the people.

“Time is running out.” Obuah sounded as a note of warning to Amaechi and Dakuku.

“The PDP therefore, commends the Rivers state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for committing himself and the Rivers state government to ensuring peace, security and development in the state in the face of apparent efforts to distract him by leaders of the opposition party in the state, the APC.

“Bro Obuah particularly lauded the decision and action of governor Wike in acquiring 10 gunboats for the Nigerian navy, which will be used for security patrol on the waterways.”

He then expressed hope that on the day of handing over the boats, the NIMASA boss and Transportation Minister, would be invited to participate in the commissioning proceedings, “even though Amaechi wasted eight years in office without procuring a single gunboat for the navy,” the statement added.

Revenue Collection In Nigeria’s Capital Causes Face-off Between Lawmakers

House-of-Representatives-in-Rowdy-sessionA disagreement over the collection of Tenement Rates in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory has led to a face-off between two members of the House of Representatives during a public hearing on the matter.

The disagreement occurred on Wednesday when officials of the Federal Capital Territory appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Federal Capital Territory.

They had come to answer questions on the collection of revenue, especially Tenement Rates, in the city, a step the committee says is illegal.

Addressing the gathering, the Chairman of the House Committee on the Federal Capital Territory, Honourable Herman Hembe, argued that only the Federal Capital Territory Internal Revenue Service is allowed to collect any form of tax in the nation’s capital.

But his position was, however, opposed by Zaphania Jisalo, a lawmaker from the Federal Capital Territory.

This situation could not be resolved, forcing the committee to enter into a closed door meeting.

At another meeting, the Chairman of the House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, Honourable Umar Bago and the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, disagreed over the amount of debt owed to the agency.

The disagreement followed a discussion on the award of a debt recovery contract, which the committee says it is investigating.

After the disagreement on the issue, the committee fixed an investigative hearing for next month when the committee promised to look into the issues raised by petitions it received on the matter.

Buhari Approves Governing Boards For NPA, NIMASA

Muhammadu Buhari-NPA-NIMASANigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has approved the composition of the governing board of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

The approval was contained in a statement by the spokesman for the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Bolaji Adebiyi.

The new NPA governing board has 11 members with Mr Emmanuel Adesoye as its Chairman.

The members of the board are: Supo Shasore, Suleiman Halilu, Constance Harry Mashal, Umar Shu’aibu, Charles Sylvester, Hadiza Usman, Mohammed Koko, Dr. Sekonte Davis, Professor Idris Abubakar and Mrs I. J. Uche-Okoro.

Similarly, President Buhari approved a governing board for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The NIMASA board also has 11 members, with Major General Jonathan India Garba as the Chairman.

The members of the board are: Asekomhe Kenneth, Mohammed Muazu, Ebele Obi, S. U. Galadanchi, Ms Nene Dike, Dakuku Peterside, Rear Admiral Adeniyi Osinowo, Bashir Jamoh, Joseph Fashakin and Gambo Ahmed.