- Why hurriedly dole out funds few weeks to Presidential elections? – Macfoy
- I can stake my integrity over disbursement of CVFF – Sambo
- Misappropriation will be a great disservice to Nigeria – Onyung
With less than eleven (11) weeks to the 2023 Nigerian Presidential elections, the federal government has revealed plans to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) estimated to be over $350million, a development which has sparked fears that the fund, which failed all attempts at disbursement since 2003, would be hijacked for political activities.
The Minister of Transportation, Engr. Mu’azu Jaji Sambo revealed that the President had directed the immediate disbursement of the fund at the flag-off ceremony of the third phase of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), in Lagos, yesterday.
According to the Minister, the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh will get a formal communication from the Ministry conveying the approval of President Mohammadu Buhari and consequently, immediate steps towards the disbursement process would begin.
CVFF was established by the Federal Government for the development of indigenous shipping capacity in Nigeria to enable ship-owners maintain existing vessels or purchase new ones.
The Minister, aware of concerns about political hijack, has said he is staking his integrity on legitimate disbursement but maritime stakeholders remain skeptical about the latest approval he secured from President Mohammadu Buhari, while the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) has warned that any misappropriation will be a great disservice to the nation.
Ship-owners, maritime lawyers, seafarers, freight forwarders, legislators, barge operators as well as non-governmental organizations and academicians affiliated with the Nigerian maritime sector, have taken turns to pressurize the federal government to disburse the CVFF but to no avail in almost two decades.
Raising concerns on this development, the Managing Director of Ocean Deep Services Limited and President of African Women in Maritime (WIMA), Nigerian Chapter, Mrs. Rollens Macfoy warned that the funds would be channeled into politics and electioneering if disbursed speedily as planned.
During an exclusive chat with News Diet, she said: “I don’t think this is the ideal time to disburse CVFF because it will definitely go into politics. Why the hurry to take a decision this government could have made more than seven years ago? This fund should be left for the next administration to decide how to disburse it. Stakeholders should also be carried along in the process to disburse CVFF. If the fund is disbursed now, what are the guidelines? Who are those that qualified for the fund and what kind of vessels are they purchasing?”
“There should be clarity on these issues. Are we giving the fund to vessel owners or going into partnerships with ship builders locally or internationally? The money is said to be $350million, which I think is a scam, because the funds should be much higher. If this administration should handover reigns in few months, why make a crucial decision that could make or mar the nation’s maritime sector in a hurry?”
On his part, the Transport Minister asserted that he wouldn’t blame people for being skeptical or pessimistic, but assured that he also wouldn’t come to the public to tell people lies.
”Hold me responsible if this fund is not disbursed. I am staking my integrity on approval granted by Mr President”, the Minister vowed.
Sambo noted that the reason the approval secured by his predecessor did not yield the desired result was due to what he called administrative challenges between the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Finance.
He, however, assured that those gaps which hindered the previous administration have been addressed and conveyed to Mr President, thereby leading to the current approval for disbursement.
Five banks have also been selected after a rigorous but transparent process as the Primary Lending Institutions (PLIs) to drive the disbursement process and they are; Union bank, Polaris bank , Zenith Bank, UBA and Jaiz bank.
Explaining the guidelines for the disbursement and eligibility of beneficiaries to access the loans, he said the process is anchored on two major planks: the Coastal and Shipping Act which is the enabling law of 2003 otherwise known as the Cabotage Act and the second plank is the guidelines for the disbursement of the funds as approved by the National Assembly.
He explained that the applicants for the funds will make an equity contribution of 15 percent, NIMASA will contribute 35 percent while the PLIs (disbursing banks) will provide the balance of 50 percent.
”Other additional criteria for legibility will include but are not limited to such things as a contribution to the funds. Those who do not contribute to the funds as two percent of their contracts executed under the Cabotage as provided under the guidelines will not be eligible for the funds. Another condition to accessing the funds is the issue of ”off-taking”. If you do not want your loans to go bad, the easiest way to prevent this is to ensure that the applicant has off-takers for his vessels,” Sambo said.
During an exclusive chat with News Diet, the President of SOAN, Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung stressed that the Cabotage Act is clear about what the fund is meant for, adding that anyone who misappropriates the fund would be carrying out an illegal action and doing a great disservice to the maritime industry and the nation at large.
“The guidelines aren’t new. It is the political will that has been missing. Our recommendations have been on the table of the Minister and the Cabotage Act is clear on the guidelines. The fund isn’t for elections. There should be no ambiguity about that. We don’t expect any hijack because it will be contrary to the Cabotage Act and there are consequences.”
“It’s a good thing that the current Minister isn’t contesting elections. I don’t in any way perceive any hijack, but if that happens, the greatest consequence would be a great disservice to Nigerians and humanity if the funds are directed towards shipping which in turn guarantees prosperity of the nation,” Onyung said.
He, however, maintained that the development is victory for the entire maritime industry, and not the success of SOAN or Nigerian ship-owners.
“We are very happy and we celebrated with the Transport Minister, Sambo and the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, OFR, for the move to achieve this. We also thank all stakeholders, including the media who have played a role in getting us to this stage,” Onyung added.