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Emefiele CBN

Banks Hijacking Nigerian Ships Over N5b Non-performing Loans

Commercial banks in Nigeria out of endless rescheduling of loan repayments by local ship owners may have started impounding vessels of defiant debtors.

Recent reports put the value of the indebtedness at about N5billion.

Discoveries by research indicate that banks have resorted to seizing property, interception and hijacking of ships acquired with non-performing loans. Besides the banks have gone some steps further to work with sister banks to block any account linked to their debtors as a strategy to force payments.

Now, affected banks employed the services of private loan default collectors and gave them a mandate to track the defaulters’ taking cover even beyond the shores of this country

Apart from the ongoing grounding of debtor vessels, banks now see granting loans to the sector as leprous.

However, intelligence from some banks, names with held show that appreciable progress have been made by tracking some of the loan defaulters with third party. But many of the defaulters are still making commitments while pleading for time. A banker confirmed that some property have been seized and put up for sale adding that a few of the defaulters in some cases have gone underground. The expert was smart to explain that “grounding the vessels remains an option for banks to recover their money because it was part of the terms and condition signed before the release of the loan ab-initio”.

Sector analysts are more worried over the development, saying the challenge has become a big trouble since the Cabotage Vehicle Finance Fund (CVFF) which was created by the government to serve as a buffer for them has remained a source of controversy and near total mirage.

Isaac Jolapomo, who is a Shipowner and a former president of the Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), said recently in an interview that the debt profile of ship finance loans in banks kept rising in spite of the strict appraisal processes and due diligence adopted by financial institutions in ensuring that only experienced shipping professionals access the funds.

He linked the situation to the lack of jobs for indigenous Shipowners, and added that it was not necessarily from the management of the funds.

While stressing that “The bad debt in Nigerian banks today by ship purchases is conservatively, between three and five billion,”  Jolapomo noted that “Having owned and managed ships in the past three decades and half, I can conveniently say that ship ownership and management in Nigeria is not a profitable venture because of so many factors…we have put the horse before the cart.

Continuing, he said “Go and check from NPA how much import they had last year, not one ton of that import came with a Nigerian vessel.

“Ask NNPC how much crude they exported last year, not one litre of that crude… Go to Central Bank and ask them how much they paid for freight in the last five years… If those things happen, then are we on the right path, he asked.

Analysts say local shipowners hardly get jobs from government agencies which are known for huge carriages.

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