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Shipowners seek NASS’ intervention in delayed N136b Cabotage fund

By Sulaimon Salau
24 October 2021   |   3:25 am
Indigenous shipowners have concluded plans to engage the National Assembly (NASS) in the interpretation of the real ownership of the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF), which is estimated at over N136b.

Indigenous shipowners have concluded plans to engage the National Assembly (NASS) in the interpretation of the real ownership of the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF), which is estimated at over N136b.

The Guardian gathered that the fund comprises of two components- the naira and dollar accounts. As at March 2020, both accounts had N136.5b. The naira account has N32b, while the dollar account has $209m.

The shipowners who have waited endlessly for the disbursement of the fund, have expressed concerns over the continued delay by the Federal Government.

Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos, where the body signified its intention to engage the government on shipping policies among others, the chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Issac Jolapamo, said the sector, which is capital intensive, has not enjoyed any government’s intervention or incentives.

The shipowners disclosed that contrary to what is being widely speculated, President Muhammadu Buhari has not withdrawn approval for the disbursement of the CVFF.

Jolapamo, who said that almost every other sector of the economy has enjoyed government’s incentives in the past, and even after the COVID-19 pandemic, lamented that none has come to the shipping sector.

He said: “No intervention, or assistance has been extended to players in the industry from the government. It is only in Nigeria that we see the maritime sector as being unimportant, but this is a sector that can fund Nigeria’s budget deficit yearly if properly harnessed.”

Also speaking on the disbursement of CVFF, a member of NISA’s steering Committee, Captain Taiwo Akinpelumi, said shipowners will seek the National Assembly’s interpretation of the act establishing the fund to know whether its belongs to them or the government.

He also affirmed that preliminary investigation by the group has shown that Buhari has not withdrawn his approval for CVFF disbursement

Akinpelumi, who said the association has risen from the crisis that rocked it for so many years, added that the group was ready to fight and take possession of what belongs to it.

His words, “We have consulted widely and we realise that there is nothing like the suspension of the fund, but we know that there is internal politics of moving the fund from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to the primary lending institutions.

“We will take every step to make sure that the fund is disbursed; we contributed to the fund, and I can assure that there has been no withdrawal of approval, but whether the fund belongs to the government or shipowners is, we will seek the NASS’ interpretation. Going to court on the issue will be as a last resort,” he said.

A former secretary general of NISA, Tunji Brown, who said that shipowners supported the enactment of the Cabotage Act with the hope that they would be better-off, said that poor implementation of the act has made indigenous shipowners worse than ever before.

“Many of us have been in the shipping sector before the Cabotage Act, we fought for the its implementation with the hope we will be better off but, that has not been possible.

He, however, disclosed that the factions in the group have all agreed to forge a common front to develop the nation’s shipping sector and maximise the potentials inherent in the sector.

CVFF was set-up alongside the Nigerian Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act of 2003, to empower indigenous shipowners to take control of the nation’s coastal and inland shipping business, otherwise known as cabotage trade.

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, recently accused indigenous shipowners of going ganging up against him after he fought for two years to secure approval for the disbursement of the fund. This, he said, led to the withdrawal of the approval for disbursement by the president.