Regardless of topping the chart on Port State Control inspections carried out in West and Central African Countries, 2018 by Abuja MoU, with a total of 636 inspections as a maritime institution of authority, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, can only boast of 2 ship flag inspections within the same period as against the total of 350 ship flag inspections amounting to 174% difference carried out by Liberia in the corresponding year.
Apparently, this report portrays NIMASA as an energetic workforce in fight against substandard vessels which operates in the country’s seaport, kudos to this current administration on that aspect. But on the other hand, the report equally reveals the need to facilitate the accessibility of the Capital Vessel Financing Fund, CVFF, in order to encourage the indigenous shipowners come on board.
The CVFF fund is government funding assistance for ship acquisition under the Cabotage Ship Fund established under the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage Act. 8) in 2017, by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, with concluded plans to disburse $100 million Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, CVFF, to indigenous shipowners at a single digit interest.
However, the deplorable situation has generated worries and hot debates on the gloomy mysteries preventing the disbursement of the fund as well as whether NIMASA fully understand the importance of having indigenous ship owners, which according to maritime experts, is the only way to compete favorably with foreign investors.
The level of worries registered on the faces of potential indigenous investors can be seen through their comments on the need for the acceleration in disbursement of CVFF fund to enhance their participation in the maritime business.
Former Chairman, Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria, ISAN, Chief Isaac Jolapamo, hinted on the need for democratization and localization of the maritime industry which is a panacea to the meted frustration being experienced by intended ship owners who have been striving to invest in the shipping business as he rightly put that some of the prospective ship owners are not where they were supposed to be because they were denied the cargo..
On the issue of discrimination and favoritism against the indigenous ship owners, he also pointed out that foreigners have advantage over Nigerians in their own country which according to him is regretful and discouraging especially when the government officials who indulge in such atrocities are still holding public offices without blemish. He said: “I have an instance of one of us here who was taking out of NNPC system when he was handling a shipment for them for $350,000 but it was handed over to foreigners for $550,000 and the people who are doing this are still making waves, they are getting promoted in the government circle.”
In his paper presentation, tagged “Innovative Concepts and Sustainable Approaches to Effective Ship and Maritime Infrastructure Financing in Nigeria: A Critical Review”, Professor Fabian, a director of Kenner Partners, stated that Nigeria’s maritime industry is still at its infantile stages in terms of funding and must source funds in other ways aside from the federal government.
I quite agree with him because the financial burden of the federal government is becoming unbearable especially on the issue of petroleum subsidy and the need to offset the debts already incurred by the current administration, especially as the debt profile according to Debt Management Office (DMO), has reached N24.4 trillion.
Prof. Ajogwu however, advised NIMASA to be transparent in disbursing the CVFF loan and bring in other innovative ideas to facilitate the local vessel ownership.
However, from the information gathered, NIMASA said to have remitted US$124 million for the Capital Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), into the Treasury Single Account (TSA), in the last capital year of 2018, which is in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), but could not be accessed due to some logical reasons as defended by the Director General, NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside.
According to Dakuku, the funds cannot be disbursed as directed by the then Honorable Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, due to some issues generated in the past concerning similar funds which must be clarified.
He said: “the Honorable Minister of Transport, who has the final authority to approve the disbursement of CVFF, I’ve been engaging with him, his desires will still come to CVFF, he doesn’t want the way of similar funds was disbursed in the past. And so, he has ordered a quick review of the guidelines, as soon as the fund was reviewed with the guidelines, we will commence the process of disbursing the CVFF.
The trudging face of the Ministry of Transport can be clearly seen as the Ministerial appointments are still without portfolios hence the gloomy face of handling the issue if the former Minister is not reinstated. On this premise, however, I must say that there is essentiality for NIMASA to go back to their drawing board and re-strategize.
Therefore, the need to call for foreign investors is now, to enable national individuals who wish to navigate their business acumen towards shipping industry, to be given a level playing ground as leverage, by establishing a relationship between them and other promising private financial institutions duly regulated by the country’s maritime authority.