- Levy Collection Allegation Smears Operation
- Aminu’s NISA disclaims Ogbuagu as DG
- Minister Grants Only 5 Waivers in 12 Years
Two foreign flagged vessels have been handed over to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) by the Nigeria Shipowners Association (NISA) Marshalls for alleged cabotage Act breaches. The breaches were said to have been noted by Capt. Dada Labinjo’s led NISA Marshalls.
Meanwhile, the President Aminu Umar- led NISA faction has condemned the action and dissociated itself from it. Earlier, it was alleged that the Labinjo group collected illegal levies from the vessels – MT Stride and MT Portland pearls.
Interestingly, the consignee of the cargo delivered by both foreign vessels was said to be Integrated Oil and Gas Ltd owned by Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho, a member of NISA and an ex-Minister of Interior.
In a disclaimer notice sent to the Director-General of NIMASA, last week, and signed by the General Secretary of NISA, Mr. Tunji Brown, the association noted: “We want to reiterate that Capt. Dada Olaniyi Labinjo (rtd.) ceased to represent NISA since 4th February, 2015 when he was asked to step aside by executive committee as president, therefore boarding of MT strider and MT Portland on 12May, 2015 by his representatives is not supported by NISA members or our constitution.”
It continued, “all official engagement by NISA with NIMASA shall be performed by the Acting president, Mr. Aminu Umar and the General Secretary, Mr. Tunji Brown.We hereby promise our unequivocal co-operation to advance the policy and programmes of your highly esteemed agency”.
Another twist in the disclaimer is, “We the executive committee of NISA hereby writes to disclaim the appointment of Mr. Oliver Ogbuagu as Director of NISA.
According to the Publicity Secretary of NISA, Engr. Emmanuel Ilori, “NISA Exco is not aware of a DG, whoever is parading himself as the DG is an impostor. We have a process for the appointment of a DG. The Exco is not aware of such a process being initiated yet”.
On the alleged illegal levy collected by the rival NISA marshalls led by Labinjo, Illori added, “NISA has not imposed any levy on any ship. Anyone doing that is taking an illegal action and should be reported to law enforcement agencies for proper action. NIMASA should be aware. Whoever is doing that does not enjoy the backing of the national executive”.
But speaking with MMS Plus Weekly, Capt. Labinjo said that MT stride and MT Portland pearls sailed into Nigerian territorial waters in breach of cabotage law. “There is nothing like levy collection, he stated. “Why will anybody ask MT Portland pearls to pay money? Money for what? Are they a member of NISA? We sent our Marshalls out to keep surveillance in all our ports to report any foreign vessel in breach so that NIMASA can arrest them. It is in line with the association decision and the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with NIMASA as well as the directive of the Minister, who said he was unimpressed so far with the implementation of Cabotage Act. He said, ‘we must ensure full compliance,” he added.
According to him, MT Portland is Indian crewed, not registered in Nigeria, not owned by a Nigerian and not built in Nigeria. And does not have waiver.
Read the full telephone interview with Capt Labinjo, who insisted that there is no faction in NISA, adding, “Tunji Brown is not in NISA. We are writing to government and government is responding. We are moving on. He has the right to form another association like some have done.” Read on:
We learnt you sent your men on board ship, MT portland pearls and MT Strider on collection of levy. What actually happened?
There is nothing like that. We have NISA Marshalls. They are our own taskforce. I am sure you are aware of the new impetus to the full compliance of the cabotage law by the Minister of Transport.
Are you aware?
On the strength of that, and because we have waited for twelve years of non-implementation of cabotage law by NIMASA; We waited for them this long to act on their own and nothing had happened on enforcement and we realized that it is about our business. Also, bearing in mind that in 2010 we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NIMASA, we called it up. At that time, they pleaded with us not to be arresting vessels on our own because we could go to court and arrest the vessel. So based on that, NIMASA said whenever we discover a ship in breach we should pass the information to them to arrest. So what NISA agreed on was to check vessels in breach and report to NIMASA for arrest. Is that an aberration? Because they have been keeping away from the association they don’t know what is going on. The association has set up a disciplinary committee and I have asked them to face the disciplinary committee. That is the position of the association. The association is very much intact. It is only about five or six people that are doing things that are illegal to the interest of the association. Their action is ultra-vires with the constitution of the association, which you have a copy, states clearly the punishment they deserve. And this will take effect as soon as we have the full report of the committee. Forget that it is Capt. Labinjo that is involved. It is unfortunate that I am the president and I am directly affected. If it were someone else I would speak the same way, provided I am speaking the truth. The constitution is very clear. It says all powers to be exercised by the executive is subject to the approval of the association. So, can they now take an action that is not approved by the general assembly? No. Do they also have powers to appoint an acting president? No. There is no such provision in our constitution. So, they are acting ultra-vires.
Ok, the Marshalls went on board not to collect levies?
At all. Why will anybody ask MT Portland pearls to pay money? Money for what?
Answer me, money for what? Are they a member of NISA? We sent them out to go and keep surveillance in and around ports and what have you and to report any foreign vessel in breach so that NIMASA can arrest them. It is in line with the association’s decision and the MOU with NIMASA as well as the directive of the Minister, who said he was unimpressed so far with the implementation of Cabotage Act. He said we must ensure full compliance. So if we now go out in taking action such as looking at which ship is in breach of Cabotge Act, have we done anything wrong? That is what is called citizen’s responsibility. We did that, we are proud to do that and we will do that and we will continue to do that because for twelve years we have not been able to do it.
Could you point out one particular element of breach that the Marshalls are to look out for?
We are looking at four breaches which are:One, if the ship is not registered in Nigeria it is in breach. Two, it is not crewed by a Nigerian, it is a breach. Portland pearls was crewed by all Indians and not registered or built in Nigeria. If they had a waiver, it would have solved the problem. It must be owned by a Nigerian. In all essence, the vessel has breached all provisions of our laws.
So, was she arrested?
I don’t know, we have done our own duty as a citizen. Citizen has a right to report a crime. And if NIMASA fails to do the needful we know what to do.
When I heard about levy collection I needed to be sure of what the money was meant for?
No. No. That is just calling a dog a bad name to hang it.
Another thing is: was Engr. Oliver Ogbuagu appointed Director General of NISA?
Of course. He is our DG. It would have been nice if somebody alleges such a thing and substantiates it.
Capt Taiwo Akinpelu, Lagos Zonal Coordinator of NISA, in a chat also explained thus:
You know that cabotage law has been enacted for over twelve years and it has not been working. It is very easy for people to say Nigerians have rusty buckets but who is responsible for that? Who is supposed to develop our indigenous shipping? It is NIMASA. Now, we have watched overtime how the foreign vessel owners have taken over our jobs. We have made repeated complaints and went extra mile to commission a lawyer to get how many waivers have been issued till date. The Minister of Transport stated that he has only issued 5 waivers. Then the court compelled NIMASA to disclose the number of waiver it has granted, it said over 5,000. We concluded that we cannot continue like this. Some people are benefitting to our detriment. If I have four ships and those ships were reduced to two it is because of our inability to develop our shipping and do our domestic trade. On the strength of this, we made a strong presentation to the president who then directed the Minister to ensure proper implementation and enforcement of cabotage. The Minister then directed letter to NIMASA. And on this, we have had series of meetings with NIMASA over the letter from the minister. NIMASA now wrote letters to individual shipowners, including official letter to NISA, which stated thus: “Hence-forth operations of foreign vessels are terminated with immediate effect”. So, with the letter, we got the information that we have foreign vessels on our waters without cabotage compliance; that do not have waivers. We then resolved to get our Marshalls to ascertain where the vessels loaded from and where they discharged with their bill of laden and a copy of their waivers. We needed this information so that we can pass them to NIMASA for enforcement. If they have waiver we will ask NIMASA why they should grant waivers for lighterage. Waiver is only for specialized vessels. And that was what we did. And they were claiming that they loaded offshore Lome to Lagos, that it is international trade. It is not international trade because if they loaded from Rotterdam and stopped mid-stream in Lome, it is cabotage. It is still under the jurisdiction of Cabotage trade. It was surprising to hear that some people wrote that we were extorting money. How can we extort money?