Business Hilights
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Shipping stakeholders’ cite failures, demand sack of NIMASA DG

Considering the recent failure of Nigeria in winning a Council seat at the International Maritime organization (IMO) election in London where Nigeria went with over bloated delegation of 40 people, and the hard skin being displayed by the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside in disbursing $1oom Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), shipping stakeholders has called for his sack.

The stakeholders’ are also complaining that the duo of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi and Peterside are working for the collapse of the industry since they were appointed last two years.

According to them, the most critical and strategic duty of NIMASA which is the statutory disbursement of the over $100m CVFF has not been done, rather the current leadership is concerned with attending and hosting conferences and talk shops across the world and Nigeria with no meaningful advantage to the economy and industry in particular, rather wastages.

Business Hilights recalls that on Thursday last week, Amaechi announced that he will not disburse the CVFF, thus, dashing the hopes and expectation of indigenous ship owners, who have been waiting for the disbursement of the fund for more than a decade.

The Minister had informed senior operators in Nigeria’s shipping sector at a workshop and dinner organized by the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) that as long as he remains the minister, the fund will not be disbursed.

The CVFF was created by law, solely to empower local ship owners in the industry to enable them compete favourable with their foreign counterparts.

The fund which is currently domiciled in NIMASA, has become an issue of controversy as past administrations of the agency were not able to disburse it.

But in what can be seen as industry disaster, Amaechi thundered saying, “I will not release that fund until I am removed tomorrow as the minister of transportation. Why won’t I release the fund? We gave over N300billion to owners and businessmen in the aviation industry, some took N35billion, N3.2billion and they disappeared and they used the money to go and build bank in Ghana and Sao Tome and nothing has happened to them.

“If you teach me how to spend that money, we will spend it. But to give you that kind of money that we gave to aviation and the money disappeared, no I will not no matter what you do.

“Bank of Industry for example is structured and if somebody doesn’t pay they will grab him but in our own, there is no structure. Once I pay you, you go. The law says recommendation from NIMASA to Minister and once the minister approves, you take your money but how do I hold you back?

“They said it is over $100billion that is there in the CVFF fund but when I asked the NIMASA man (Dakuku Peterside) he said it is not up to that because by the time we took over office, the former NIMASA man (Patrick Akpobolokemi ) had given out all the money and who he gave it to nobody knows. They have used it to build faculty of maritime studies all over but what did ship owners do?”

Besides, Ameachi chided Peterside for failing to implement the report of the ministerial committee set up to reposition the agency after he had given his approval.

However, reviewing Amaechi’s position on the CVFF, President of SOAN, Greg Ogbeifun said the minister lacks the power to hold on to the funds, arguing that “The law require 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 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.”

Ogbeifun who expressed his displeasure over challenges facing indigenous ship owners and the turn of event in the industry in the last two years called for the immediate resignation of the NIMASA DG.

He said while past NIMASA Director Generals have been sacked due to fraud related cases, this is the time to have the political boldness to sack the present leadership of NIMASA due to lack of competence.

According to him, “We will be deceiving ourselves if we pretend not to know that the IMO and the rest of the world are aware that our maritime domain has remained a high security risk and it is most unsafe for seaborne trade and activities such as piracy, hostage taking and kidnapping.

“That 22 years after the demise of the Nigeria National Shipping Line (NNSL), we have not been able to midwife the emergence of a Nigerian fleet be it public, private or fleet resulting from Public Private Partnership.

“IMO has passed a vote of no confidence on our maritime administration and if we do not do the right thing, which is taking the bold action of asking the leadership of the maritime administration to resign or the government should sack them. If we don’t do that, the International community that has not accepted us into the council will believe we are not ready to change.