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How NIMASA’s inactivity in facilitating indigenous ship ownership killed sector in 10 years
An expose of what the federal government had in mind before setting up the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) several years ago has been revealed.
Explaining more at the Day two of the ongoing three-day training programme for the Federated Maritime Media Chapel (FMMC) in Lagos, the lead lecturer and top maritime encyclopedia, Mr. Lucky Amiwero said “The principal objective of NIMASA as defined by the Act establishing it as provided in Section 1 (i) and (ii) is very clear”.
“Section 1 (i) says the agency shall promote the development of indigenous commercial shipping in international and coastal shipping trade.
“Section (ii) says NIMASA shall regulate and promote maritime safety, security, maritime pollution and labour.
Granted that the agency may be faring to some extent on issues relating to Section (ii), it may have failed in Section (i) in the last 10 years because no ship owned by an indigenous operator can be said to have been facilitated by the agency using Cabotage financing fund or maritime fund as provided by the Act.
Advancing more facts on the establishment of Maritime Fund under Section 17 (i), Amiwero read out the provision of the Act which stated that “There is established, the Maritime Fund under Section 17 (i) maintaining that “The money in the fund be applied for the promotion and development of the indigenous shipping and shipping infrastructure in Nigeria”.
The Act also made it clear that the beneficiaries of the fund under subsection 4 of this Section shall be Nigerians citizens and companies.
Industry observers were divided on whether the agency has really done the core functions relating to the development of the nation’s coastal and international shipping with questions raised on how many indigenous shipping companies are functional in Nigeria today and to what extent has the agency facilitated coastal shipping in the last 10 years.
It was however discovered that NIMASA rather that championing the development of the shipping industry by using already provided fund, it has done little in training seafarers who end up lacking sea time because there is no developed indigenous shipping subsector which by the provision of the Act remains the core role of the agency.
The inactivity of the agency over the years in using the provided fund to grow local content in shipping lead to the failure of the coastal trade to even begin in the first instance.
It was not clear if the volume of unused found for the same purpose in the agency that is the reason behind the issues of looting by some past directors general of the agency.
Business Hilights recalls that since the ouster of former substantive head of the agency, Mr. Akpobolokemi is currently facing charges of starching away funds from the agency running into billions of naira.
Even the immediate past Acting DG, Mr. Jaluo was equally facing similar charges even though he was in office for very short period.
Analysts say, it remains meaningless spending money to train seafarers when there is no developed indigenous shipping subsector where they can work for sea time.
Only recently, about 130 Nigerians completed their training in Egypt and returned in a highly publicized promo by NIMASA but nothing was heard thereafter on why they are getting sea time after the training.
The negligence of its core functions as provided by the Act has continued to drive foreign control of shipping in Nigeria and the development remains a mark of embarrassment to Nigerians and the Act establishing the federal agency.
Statistics show that the country is losing fortunes leaving the sector in the hands of foreigners whereas the Act establishing NIMASA gave it the clear mandate to develop and promote the sector.
It was the consensus of experts that the inability or wicked decision of the agency not to develop the shipping sector by allowing indigenous shippers access to the fund that Cabotage Act introduced in the last 10 years had remained the most useless Act of the National Assembly as far as the maritime sector is concerned.
Only recently, it was discovered and reported 77 foreign vessels lift Nigerian oil without tax monthly according to the surviving indigenous ship owners who are yet to access the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) more than 10 years the was set up and domiciled at NIMASA.
During his recent World Press conference, the Director General of NIMASA was very economical with words on Cabotage regime and its effectiveness in Nigeria, saying his management si still sorting out militating issues which he failed to list.
Explaining more on how the economy is losing much when foreigners ferry Nigerian crude oil, the president, Nigeria Ship owners Association of Nigeria (NISA), Aminu Umar averred that Nigeria was losing a huge amount of money due to the fact that the foreign ship owners dominate the transportation of the country’s crude oil.
According to him, “Almost 70 to 77 crude oil vessels load oil monthly out of Nigeria. “The foreign ship owners do not employ Nigerians and they do not pay tax. What we are telling the federal government is to give us the support so that we can take at least 10 per cent of the crude oil vessels operating in Nigerian waters,” Umar said.
Umar added that “if government could give indigenous ship owners 10 per cent allocation to lift crude oil, they would create jobs for the teeming youths and would retain the proceeds in the nation’s banks.” Unlike the foreign vessel operators who freight out Nigerian crude oil without paying a dime to the federal government as tax, Umar said that indigenous ship owners would pay tax which would assist the government in carrying out its responsibilities.
In his submission, Mr. Greg Ogbeifun confirmed that no Nigeria owns a tanker fleet and in the last meeting with NNPC, they categorically said no Nigeria company or individual owns a tanker vessel.
The Nigerian economy would gain about $6.2billion, approximately (N2.1trillion at prevailing rate of N390/ dollar), lost to capital flight on freighting of Nigeria crude oil by foreign vessels.
Business Hilights gathered that 771,689,625bbl (107,179,115mt) of crude oil was lifted from Nigeria in 2015.
The current freight rate for 130,000 tonnes vessel from West Africa – UKC /Med is $7.99/tonne. With a total (which could take 950,000bbl), it means a total of about $6,165,800,104 would have been paid to foreign Ship owners to lift Nigerian crude.
The president, Ship owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Greg Ogbeifun, said the fund was what the Nigerian fleet; if in existence would have gained among other benefits of having a Nigeria fleet including job creation, commercial benefit of participating in the trade.
Efforts to get the reaction of the Head of Corporate Affairs at NIMASA, Mr. Isichei failed as all calls to him telephones were not answered or calls returned as at press time.