By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has said that the controversial Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund (CVFF) does not belong to Nigerian shipowners, but that it belongs to the Federal Government.
The agency also said that as at last check, the money that has accrued into the CVFF Fund was $209million in foreign currency component and N32billion in Nigerian currency.
Speaking at an enlarged press conference in Lagos on Friday, Director General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh said certain section of the Cabotage Act might not allow easy disbursement of the CVFF Fund because they are no longer in tune with modern realities.
He said the Ministry of Transportation is taking the law back to the National Assembly for a review.
“We have a law, but for 17 years we didn’t implement it, we didn’t see the strength of the law or its weaknesses, in 2019, the Minister of Transportation set up a committee to review the guidelines, maybe we would have to review the Act”
“There are lots of things in that law that might stand as hindrance or bottleneck in terms of implementing the CVFF disbursement. Whatever it is we must go back to the national assembly for the review of that Act” Jamoh stated
He however said the agency has canvassed that the disbursement should be done with the law as it is, in order to reveal where the shutcomings are.
According to him, disbursement of CVFF is one of the challenges NIMASA is facing.
On the bright side, he said NIMASA has advertised for banks that have interest to be part of disbursement of the CVFF fund, and that four primary lending banks, as well as eleven benefitting companies have been shortlisted.
“We have so far shortlisted 11 companies, we have made our presentation to the Ministry of Transportation for them to oversee that the four primary lending institutions as required by law comes up with guidelines so that we can disburse”
“After this, the stakeholders would be asked to come up with the specifications of vessels they want to procure” he said
Also clearing further on the CVFF disbursements, NIMASA Executive Director Cabotage Services, Mr Victor Ochei said the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of the federal government has affected the CVFF disbursement.
He insisted however that the money belongs to the Federal government and not the shipowners.
“You cannot surcharge yourself, it is 2% surcharge dedicated to financing coastal vessels, it does not belong to the shipowners and it is not paid to their accounts, it is paid to federal government accounts.
The Federal Government enacted the law in order to surcharge every contract on coastal trade by 2%”
“The CVFF account is not under NIMASA control, we cannot spend the money, there is a process for its disbursement, so far, with the way the Cabotage Act 2003 is, disbursement of the fund cannot happen now because of realities of operating from TSA, all government agencies pay into TSA, so we have to follow this process”
“As of the time we came into office which is over a year ago, I called for the fund, and as at then, we had N32billion in Naira, and $209million”