Pirates Demand $1m To Free Five Indian Sailors
The Nigerian pirates who took five Indian seafarers hostage last month have demanded $1 million to release them. They made a ransom call to one of the victim’s families in Haryana’s Jind district three days ago.
“At first I thought they said $1,000 and thought we could manage the amount and get them released. But one of the pirates repeated his demand as $1 million,” Bharat Deshwal, cousin of Ankit Hooda, one of the abducted seamen, told TOI over phone from Rohtak.
Ankit was a seaman on Greek motor tanker ship MT Apecus when the pirates struck on the outer anchorage of Bonny Island of Nigeria on April 19. Captain and six other crew members were taken hostage. Five of them are from India.
Bharat said the pirates used a satellite phone to speak to them. One of them spoke in English. “The pirates reportedly kept the five seamen at an undisclosed location. We were allowed to speak to four of them on the phone. At least, we know that they are with them,” Bharat said, adding that he could not speak to the fifth sailor, who is possibly from Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam.
The pirates allowed Ankit to speak to his family, while giving the impression that time was running out. “The pirate told us that neither the owner of the ship (from Greece), nor the Indian embassy tried contacting them on behalf of the families,” Bharat said.
Later in the conversation, the pirate who demanded a ransom of $1 million said they were even willing to accept half a million dollars. However, they did not give any details on how the transaction could take place. Bharat said they are yet to get any intimation from the Indian high commission in Abuja, Nigeria.
Ankit’s family has been desperately trying to get in touch with the government to get him and others released. They also conveyed details of the phone call to the office of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and expressed an interest to meet her personally.
Meanwhile, the high commission has informed Swaraj that it is following it up with the Nigerian government to get the seafarers released. “We have reiterated vigorously to the presidency, foreign minister and interior minister. Security forces are deployed, while ensuring safety of hostages in southern Nigeria. Other parties are also in touch. We are hopeful and will follow up,” the high commission tweeted in response to Swaraj asking for a report on the situation.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, on May 20, said it is making efforts to get the Indian seamen released.
Minister Charges NRC On Functional Port Community System
Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, has called for the unbundling of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) in line with the vision and objectives of Government’s current reforms in the transportation sector.
Sambo said as it is presently constituted, the NRC cannot operate optimally, hence necessary reforms and unbundling have become imperative.
The Minister, who was addressing the management team of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI), led on a visit to his office by the CEO, Dr. Armstrong Katang, charged MOFI to drive the unbundling of the NRC to make it more economically viable while offering world class services to Nigerians.
“One of the things I will like to see as the Minister of Transportation, through MOFI is the unbundling of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC). There is a Committee set up to unbundle NRC and I will urge you to work with the existing Committee”, he said.
The MOFI was incorporated under the provisions of Sections 2 and 3 of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI) Act of 1959 as an asset holding company under the Federal Ministry of Finance.
MOFI is the sole manager of all Federal Government investment interests, estates, easement and rights.
The Minister made reference to the reforms implemented in the ports and the benefits these have brought, noting that such should be carried out in railway sector.
“The NRC, the way it is currently, is the way the ports were prior to concession, prior to the reforms of 2005. Today, even the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) workers are happier about how NPA is today compared to how it was prior to the reforms. This means the reformed NPA is generating more revenues to support its operations and also support its workforce and its pensioners”, he said.
The Minister, who assuaged the fear of job loss as a result of the unbundling, said, “I don’t want the NRC staff to see the unbundling of the NRC as a threat to their jobs. If we have a better performing NRC, then we are going to have better salaries for its workers, better working conditions for its workers, more revenue for the FG and therefore the ability to even build more rail networks”.
Sambo noted that the issue of encroachment on railway property will soon be a thing of the past as “MOFI was berthed for a specific reason and that reason is for the Federal Government to take control of its assets and create optimum value for these assets”.
In his contribution, the Minister of State for Transportation, Prince Ademola Adegoroye, extolled the capabilities of the Managing Director, MOFI, Dr. Armstrong, saying he has full confidence that the MOFI team will deliver on the job.
Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, noted that the MOFI team being made up of young and intelligent people has satisfied the yearning of Nigerians to have young people in positions of responsibility.
By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos
NPA Shops For $800m To Rehabilitate 4 Ports
The Nigeria Ports Author ity (NPA) says its proposed rehabilitation of four Ports in the country will gulp $800 million, its Managing Director (MD), Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko, has said.
The Ports, according to him, are Tin Can Island Port and Apapa Port in Lagos, Onne Port in Rivers State, rehabilitation of the Escravos breakwaters in Warri Port, and the Calabar Port in Cross River State.
Bello-Koko disclosed this while speaking at the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) Europe and Africa 2023 Regional meeting which held recently in Germany, with the Vice-President of both regions, Jens Meier (Europe) and Micheal Luguje (Africa), hosting IAPH members CEO’s to a top level discussions.
According to the NPA boss, the $800 million loan facility will be repayable in a seven- year period once secured.
According to him,” NPA would have opted to fund the project, but that will reduce its contribution to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).
“The rehabilitation would help in achieving the digitalization of all ports in Nigeria as port rehabilitation and remedial works are no more effective. These ports need total rehabilitation”, he stated.
By; Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos
IBF Delists Nigeria From Unsafe Water List
The International Bargaining Forum (IBF), a global agency, has delisted Nigeria from the unsafe water list.
The removal of Nigeria from the list of countries designated as risky maritime nations by the IBF is a confirmation of the improved global ratings of Security in Nigerian maritime domain as a result of sustained collaborative efforts of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Navy.
This was contained in a statement by NIMASA’s Assistant Director in charge of Public Relations, Osagie Edwards, a copy of which was made available to The Tide in Port Harcourt.
According to Osagie, IBF is the body that brings together the International Transport Federation (ITF), and the international maritime employers that make up the Joint Negotiating Group (JNG).
He said IBF listed 5 designated risk areas and applicable benefits in the event of attacks leading to deaths and disability.
He also said the Gulf of Guinea is the second extended war risk zone covering Liberia/Ivory Coast border to 00°N 005°E, to the Angola/ Namibia border.
Reacting to the delisting in a statement, Director General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh, described it as a landmark achievement under the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari,.
“This achievement is a product of a well-structured multimodal policy which has been implemented over the years to fight piracy and other criminalities in Nigerian Waters.
“The Legal instrument called SPOMO Act signed into Law by President Buhari in 2019, the full implementation of the Deep Blue Project by NIMASA, expanded assets and capacity of the Nigerian Navy, enhanced cooperation between NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy, and the regional collaborative efforts under the umbrella of SHADE Gulf of Guinea midwifed by NIMASA, are all policies of the current administration and the benefits are gradually coming to fruition.
“We are focused on ultimately improving and reducing the cost of commercial shipping in Nigeria”, he said.
The statement further disclosed that notable maritime institutions such as the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), have lauded the reduction in piracy in Nigeria following enhanced patrol and relevant Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered by NIMASA with other security agencies.
The 2023 IBF list called for double compensation for seafarers who die or suffer disability on the date of attack on vessels in the Gulf of Guinea.
By: Chinedu Wosu
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