Business Hilights
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Again, NIMASA fails to disburse $100m Cabotage Fund in 2019 Q1

As the economy begins its journey into the second quarter of 2019 today, it has become very clear that the Federal Government through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), failed in its promise last year to flag off the disbursement of Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF) in the first quarter of 2019.
Checks have revealed that the vault of the fund is currently in excess of $100m, about N36bn which can change the ailing fortunes of indigenous ship-owners.
Business Hilights recalls that the fund, which is domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is meant according to the provisions of the NIMASA Act; to be used to power indigenous operators acquire vessels to gradually take over from the foreign operators, who dominate the business.
Industry observers say since the emergence of the current leadership at the agency led by Mr. Dakuku Peterside, it seems to have been from one failed promise to another even as the fortunes of Nigerian ship-owners continue to nosedive.
However, there are fresh window of hope for CVFF speedy disbursement as the newly elected President of Shipowners’ Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Mkgeorge Onyung, while speaking to journalists in Lagos, said the association would aggressively constructively engage NIMASA and the Federal Ministry of Transportation over the disbursement of the fund as soon as possible.
It would be recalled that at the height of the fund disbursement campaign and associated controversy last year, while the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi claimed that there is nothing in the account, NIMASA was economical with the true content of CVFF vault.
In an interview with Greg Ogbeifun, former President of SOAN, he painted a very discouraging picture on the height of frustration he received while struggling to finance his purchase on new vessel last year in the hands of NIMASA and other relevant agencies, who are by law, supposed to drive capacity development of indigenous shippers.
Still on his regret over the NIMASA politics of denying local shippers the CVFF empowerment, Ogbeifun told Business Hilights in Apapa that “The non-disbursement had affected activities of ship-owners to compete favourably in the sector globally”.
“The challenge still remains that the funds that is statutorily designed to help the acquisition of ships by Nigerians is still being locked up by NIMASA and the ministry of transport.
“That fund has to be released to be able to allow Nigerians acquire the ships and be able to take their rightful position, otherwise the opportunities for foreigners will continue to be there, ”Ogbeifun said.
However, explaining more shortly after the election him in as new leader of the association, Onyung made it clear that CVFF was created to aid Nigerian ship-owners to boost operational capacity and compete strongly in cargo freightage and that the fund must be disbursed for that purposes.
According to him, “The CVFF is created for the benefit of indigenous ship-owners and the fact that it had not been disbursed means that something is definitely wrong somewhere. So, I will come back with my team to look at what are the possibilities and what is the real nagging problem so that we can address it squarely for the benefit of the country.
“It is not my job to ensure CVFF is disbursed but I believe government is working on the disbursement but we will create a team that will address all issues that affect our members and the CVFF is one of them.”
While stressing that his leadership would explore ways to ensure that CVFF is disbursed to our members, Onyung hinted that the new administration would support NIMASA’s five years’ waiver cessation plan for the actualisation of Cabotage Act.
SOAN president vowed to build an association that would engage stakeholders in the sector constructively to enable Nigeria become the hub in the West and Central Africa region.
Newly elected officials of SOAN included Eno Williams (1st Vice President); Sonny Eja (2nd Vice President); Babalola Adefarati (Financial Secretary/ Treasurer); Lucky Akhiwu (Chairman, Technical Committee); Wisdom Nwagwu (Chairman, Training and Capacity Building Committee;) Dr Louis Ekere, Chairman, Ethics and Privileges Committee and Iroghama Obuoforibo, Chairman, Finance and Membership Committee.