- Stakeholders demand clarity on amendments, removal of waiver clauses
The House of Representatives has passed a revised version of the Cabotage Act and forwarded the ammended document to the upper legislative chamber, Senate.
The Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, OFR, revealed this yesterday while speaking at a one-day colloquium held in honour of Late Otunba Kunle Folarin by Media Friends of the maritime icon and the Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (NPCC).
Although the NIMASA boss couldn’t disclose the details of the amendment captured by the House of Representatives, he stated that the revised document was recently forwarded to the Senate for subsequent passage before proceeding for assent of the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari.
Meanwhile, shipping stakeholders are in the dark on the possible changes in the nation’s Cabotage Act, even as the waiver clauses which create opportunities for foreign vessels has been described as the greatest limitation in the legal document.
Amid flaws in the Nigerian Cabotage Act, the Ghanaian government has modeled a similar legislation and recently signed a Cabotage law even as the nation is sending an 8-man delegation to study the Cabotage regime in Nigeria.
Jamoh disclosed this at the conference while expressing optimism that there is sufficient time to make inputs in the ongoing review of the Act tasked with improving indigenous shipping.
At the conference, an oil magnate and public policy expert, Mr. Chris Asoluka stressed the need to have stakeholders input in the ongoing review, adding that it would ensure all necessary changes are made without having to make additional changes soonest.
Describing the waiver clauses in the Cabotage Act as one of the greatest limitations of the Cabotage Act and the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), Asoluka asserted that the clause has stifled indigenous shipping in the country.
Also speaking on some complications with the Cabotage Act, the President of Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Capt. Tajudeen Alao said: “some vessels are trading within West Africa but when there is a need to move cargoes from Indorama Plant in Port Harcourt to Lagos ports, such vessels can’t do such business because it has to register for Coastal shipping.”
Capt. Alao opined that there is a need to reconsider how the term coastal shipping is analyzed, revealing that there was an incident where a vessel was brought into Nigeria for coastal trade and couldn’t get cargoes to trade for two years, but as soon as the ship arrived Nigeria, the authorities collected all the dues as though it brought in cargoes.
“Once a ship is registered under the Nigerian flag, it has covered for coastal trade but if it pays Cabotage 2%, it should be allowed to do business without the complexities of coming back to register with the administration for the same document. A citizen can’t be compelled to get a work permit to trade in his country, it is against the constitution,” Alao stated.
On his part, the Chairman, Integrated Oil and Gas Limited, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho noted that there are more benefits in growing the Nigerian shipping capacity to thrive in global shipping and not just coastal trade, adding that the regulations should be tilted in that regard.
He also described Otunba Kunle Folarin as a friend for over 50 years and thanked the media Friends and NPCC for organizing the programme.
“I knew Otunba Folarin for over 50 years and he was a man who always gave absolute research to any topic he was to speak on. He would also deliver his points in such a way that you would marvel his performance. When I learnt that he was a graduate of Oxford University, I stopped wondering how he always prioritized excellence. Oxford University is one of the best universities in the world and those who attend the institution always came out polished and refined,” he said.