…insist contributions into CVFF exceeds $2billion
Ship owners under the Nigerian Indigenous Ship-owners Association (NISA) are considering a swift court injunction and a strike action to stop the federal government’s plan to hastily disburse the $350million Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF).
These strategies were explored by members of NISA at a meeting in Lagos earlier today, as they considered strike action and other alternatives to prevent the planned disbursement of CVFF, which they argue should be in excess of $2billion.
According to the indigenous ship owners, these moves have become the last resort as neither the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) nor the Ministry of Transportation has revealed the total amount currently in the Fund.
The Chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT), NISA, Chief Isaac Jolapomo recalled that the group had written to NIMASA and its supervisory ministry via lawyers who relied on the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act to demand the total sum collected under CVFF, yet both parties didn’t reply.
His words: “Last year, a letter was written to NIMASA and the Transport Ministry while Hon. Rotimi Amaechi was the Minister. NISA sought the total sum collected under CVFF because we hear confusing figures. We want the federal government to account for that money because it should be more than $2billion and I’m being conservative.”
“CVFF was setup for a specific purpose. Ship-owners won contracts and got paid for their services and a percentage of their earnings was collected to enable them buy vessels. So, the question of ownership of the fund isn’t debatable”
Despite waiting for almost two decades for the disbursement of CVFF, Jolapomo argued that ship owners are more concerned about the content of the fund, possible misappropriation and the secrecy, rather than the actual disbursement.
A six-man committee was established by the association to explore all avenues to ensure accountability in the CVFF disbursement, if it must happen, while also demanding an audit of the CVFF collection since inception in 2003.
The Managing Director of International Bulk Cargo Logistics, Mr. Jubril Rowaye stressed that a strike action should be sought by the group urgently as the government may have already decided the persons and companies to benefit from the fund before the declaration made by the Minister of Transportation, Engr. Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, last Saturday.
“My fear is that the government has already decided the companies to receive this CVFF disbursement and I wouldn’t be shocked to find that the companies that would benefit would be registered within the last six months or one year. We know how government abandons all bureaucracies when an administration is about to end and they want to speedily get things done. This time things no longer have to go from bottom-top but accelerates from top-bottom. We would get a court injunction to stop this administration from disbursing CVFF,” Rowaye said.
Also speaking, Engr. Emmanuel Ilori posited that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should be invited to carry out investigation on the management or perhaps mismanagement of CVFF over the years.
He observed that ship owners weren’t carried along ahead of the impromptu announcement by the Minister; while he equally wondered why the government has suddenly decided to hurriedly disburse the CVFF in few weeks when it had over seven years but didn’t do anything.
Corroborating the views on the need to know the actual sum collected under CVFF, Mr. Jegede Paul stressed that it was high time all ship owners came together irrespective of their differences and associations in order to fight for their collective good.
“It is when we have ship owners under one umbrella that we can take a strong decision on this delicate issue of CVFF and other pertinent issues affecting our sector. Ship-owners have a right to know what has been collected and if some persons have misused the fund. The federal government isn’t doing us a favour by promising to disburse, but we can achieve so much more if we team up. All aggrieved NISA members as well as those in the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) should come together. Let’s stoop to conquer,” he said.
NISA, however, agreed to have its next election on January 26th, 2023 as the group encouraged the Steering Committee to reach out to all aggrieved members in order to bring them into the fold before the elections.