Details showing that the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Dakuku Peterside lied in claiming that he lacks powers to disburse the intact Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) are embedded in the Act establishing the agency and Cabotage Act itself.
Whereas the Cabotage Act empowers the DG to disburse the CVFF for growth of the indigenous shippers and maritime sector development, NIMASA Act clearly provides under section 17-(1) that the monies domiciled in The Maritime Fund (TMF) which is 25 per cent of annual income of NIMASA be applied in the promotion of the development of indigenous shipping and infrastructure in Nigeria.
The CVFF is a pool of fund collected from ships involved in coastal operation. It is warehoused by NIMASA to be borrowed by Nigerian shipowners for vessel acquisition through selected banks known as Primary Lending Institutions (PLIs).
The Act also made it clear that “the beneficiaries of the Fund under section (4) of same section shall be the Nigerian shipping companies.
Currently, there had be a running battle between indigenous shippers on one side and both the Minister of Transportation and DG of NIMASA on the other hand over the disbursement of the fund.
In his latest interview, the Minister, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi vowed that he will not disburse the fund and he is not even sure if there is any fund in the first place to disburse.
But it would be remembered that the immediate past DG of NIMASA, Mr. Haruna Jauro had dispelled insinuations that the account of the CVFF has been depleted, saying the fund was intact.
He made the revelation during one of the last Senate Committee visit to the agency in Lagos in their oversight function.
Still on the NIMASA Act which empowers the DG to disburse it, Section 16 made it clear that NIMASA shall provide as explicitly provided in Section 16-(2), (a), not less than 25 per cent of its revenue for TMF and Section 16-(2) (b) also averred that not less than 5 per cent of NIMASA’s annual revenue for the maritime Academy.
Explaining the role of NIMASA as provided by the Act in a telephone interview, the President of National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agent (NCMDLCA), Mr. Lucky Amiwero said “The core function of the Agency as stipulated under Section 22 (a) include to pursue the development of shipping and regulate matters relating to merchant shipping and seafarers”.
“Still on the core functions of NIMASA as provided on the Section 22, Amiwero noted that NIMASA is created among other things, to develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ship and other maritime infrastructure”.
“The Act also made it clear that NIMADA DG shall enforce and administer the Provision of the Cabotage Act 2003 and other duties,” Amiwero argued.
“The NIMASA Act inter alia provided that there shall be an Act (Cabotage Act) to restrict use of foreign vessel in domestic coastal trade so as to promote the development of indigenous tonnage and establish a Cabotage vessel Financing Fund (CVFF).
Business Hilights further research showed that the NIMASA Act made it expressly clear in Section 42, that “There shall be established a fund to be known as the CVFF,” and in Section 42-(2), the Act explained that “The purpose of the Fund shall be to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity by providing financial assistance to Nigerian operators in domestic coastal shipping”.
Only last week, the President of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Mr. Greg Ogbeifun, said both the DG or NIMASA and the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, lacks the power to hold on to the CVFF because the fund remains the statutory rights of Nigerian indigenous shippers.
Amaechi had claimed that there was no proper structure in place for the disbursement of the fund, which currently stands at over N100 billion and which was created solely to empower local ship owners in the industry to enable them to compete favourably with their foreign counterparts.
But, countering the minister, Ogbeifun said the law required him (the minister) to establish guidelines for the disbursement rather than claiming that there were none.
According to Ogbeifun, “The law requires that the minister sets up guidelines for disbursement. The law does not allow you to sit on the money doing nothing which is the situation we are in now and the ship owners are still contributing money to that fund up till now.
“Our tonnage is going down, seafarers are going out of the job, the businesses are collapsing and you are sitting on the money and in the midst of that, you are still collecting money in a regime where our shipping business is dying.”
The shipping group boss who expressed worry on the total negligence of shippers support as provided in the NIMASA Act, therefore called for the immediate resignation of the Director General NIMASA, Mr. Dakuku Peterside.
In his further submission, Amiwero called for probe of the financial activities of the current leadership at NIMASA since it has become clear that what the leadership knows well is only either organising conferences form one Nigerian city to the other or attending every conference whether it is relevant or not while indigenous shippers potentials while away due to poor implementation of core provisions of NIMASA Act.