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Amid fears that the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) may suffer setbacks if not be attained in the remaining 8 weeks of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the Ministry of Transportation has expressed optimism that the next administration will carryout the disbursement without arbitrary delays.
The Minister of State for Transportation, Prince Ademola Adegoroye gave this remark while speaking at the maiden Annual Lecture of the Institute of Maritime Studies (IMS), University of Lagos (UNILAG), yesterday.
His words: “I can assure you that the government will do everything that will make it easy for shipowners to get more ships so that we can continue to grow out blue economy. We are hoping and praying that the CVFF will be disbursed within the next eight weeks, but if it doesn’t work, we also expect that because government is a continuum, the incoming government, which is also an APC government will continue from where we have stopped”.
Speaking earlier, at the event themed: “From Crude to Blue – Nigeria’s Blue Economy: The Imperative of Maritime Domain Awareness and Good Governance,” the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh OFR, stated that the present administration is working towards disbursing the CVFF to Nigerian shipowners in the region of $700 million before the end of its tenure on May 29, 2023.
According to him, each beneficiary (qualified shipowner) will get $25 million to acquire a vessel in order to boost the maritime sector and create jobs for Nigerians and the Primary Lending Institutions (PLIs) have been directed to provide the loans at single digit interest rates.
“With the capacity of the ship, it can provide 71 direct jobs. When you divide 25 by 700, how many ships can you provide under the government’s guidance on ship financing? So you see the number of jobs the CVFF alone can provide. You can imagine if each ship produced 200 direct and indirect employment, the amount of jobs shipowners can provide. So, the issue of lack of employment in the country, definitely, blue will have to provide it, if we are serious.”
“We are on the last lap for CVFF disbursement. We have consulted with the PLIs and have engaged a consultant. It is out target that this loan will not be business as usual. We insisted that it must be one single digit loan. There are many grey areas like administrative charges, tenure from the bank and others. This is what our consultant and the lending institutions are trying to harmonize and agree on a position.”
“Once the consultant submits the report, it will be passed to the supervising ministry. If they are comfortable with it and they approve, the next thing is disbursement. So, I still believe and hope that we are going to disburse the fund before the end of this administration”, he opined.
The NIMASA boss, however, encouraged investors to explore renewable energy as the nation has opportunities for energy creation from the wind at seas as well as immense waste to wealth management, marine tourism, fishing and aquaculture, among others.
Jamoh equally lamented the absence of legitimate fuel bunkers for the thousands of ships which call at the Nigerian ports yearly.
“Nigeria is losing billions from absence of bunkers. Warri refinery was set up as some point to provide bunkers for ships in the country but unfortunately that refinery isn’t working. We need to explore this business from the legitimate aspects,” he said.
Speaking on the Agency’s new venture into marine cables regulation, he said; “Last week, we met with the stakeholders to see how we could address the issue of marine cables. We don’t want to be seen as a revenue generating agency because many people began to perceive that it’s the 3 percent fee that we want to pursue. Our emphasis is on safety and there is also the possibility of hoodlums using marine cables to create chaos under the water.”
“We must know what cables are underneath the water, who owns the cables and where they are located. So, we are presently developing a guideline for marine cables. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Ministry of Environment, and other stakeholders must be involved and we must have Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and guidelines. All necessary stakeholders are involved in the development of these guidelines and when we finish, we are going to involve the Ministry of Justice so that we don’t have any lacuna,” he added.
Also speaking, the Vice Chancellor of UNILAG, Prof. Folashade Ogunsola asserted that the University is interested in manpower development for the nation’s maritime sector.
She also disclosed that the Institute of Maritime Studies, which has produced a total of 180 graduates since it was established in 2013, is seriously working on aquaculture and looking towards Marine Engineering.
“We are looking at all these areas and planning to expand, but these are things that we believe we can handle. The institute which started with three courses has now increased to six, with 293 students currently registered in different programmes,” the Vice Chancellor said.
While pointing out some of the objectives of the the agreement between the institution and NIMASA, which is to develop academic and research capacity for the maritime industry; exchange of ideas, information and materials; academic exchange and training, collaborative researching among others, she said that the school is open to private sector partnerships that will help make the students industry ready.
The event was graced by several transport experts, academicians, ship owners, freight forwarders, Master Mariners, among other shipping industry stakeholders.