…Real Reasons Why Singapore Pulled Out of Rotimi Amaechi’s MoU
By DAPO OLAWUNI
Stakeholders at the maiden edition of Nigerian International Maritime Summit (NIMS) which kicked off in Lagos on Tuesday, have said that absence of incentives from the Federal Government to shipping sector was the main reasons why it has been difficult for Nigeria to have a National Shipping Line.
Recall that Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi had in 2016 led Nigerian shipowners, stakeholders and critical investors to Singapore with the aim of striking a deal on acquisition of ships to resuscitate the Nigerian National Shipping Line.
The Minister succeeded in signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Singaporean shipping line; Pacific International Lines (PIL) to provide 40% capital for the Shipping Line, while private shipowners are to supply the remaining 60% fund.
However, speaking at the NIMS 2021 in Lagos yesterday agreed that lack of incentives from the Federal Government killed that dream, adding that the PIL shipping was not ready to invest in a business-hostile shipping sector.
Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr Bashir Jamoh said that no maritime nation can grow without incentives and palliatives. According to him, all other sectors of the Nigerian economy has enjoyed palliatives from the Federal Government except the shipping sector.
To this effect, Dr Jamoh announced that government is concluding plans to grant zero import duties on vessels and ship parts. Jamoh noted that the approval is currently before the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, even as he expressed optimism that the announcement will be made soon.
He also added that no maritime nation can achieve anything without adequate maritime security. He said that in 27-years, Nigeria has never had it this good, adding that there has been a drastic reduction in number of pirate attacks reported by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in the Gulf of Guinea.
Also speaking, former Director General of Abuja MOU and Managing Partner of Paul Usoro &Co, Mrs Mfon Usoro stated that opportunities and incentives given by shipping nations to their ship owners must be reciprocated in Nigeria.
“The PIL came into that MoU with their own shopping basket, they needed the kind of incentives they enjoy in Singapore and which is also available in other countries.
The financial institutions and the fiscal incentives, the whole of government approach has to be adopted if we are really serious”
“We have heard of fiscal schemes for sectors identified as key economic sectors in Vision 2020, because the shipping sector was not part of these identified sectors, we don’t have these schemes”
“Meaningful tax credits, incentives and low interest loans and others are necessary, we have submitted them to the Ministry and to the Vice President, these were the list of demands by the Singaporean companies
So, we did not even get to the stage of them asking us to put our money down”
“These incentives are not what the Ministry of Transportation can do, they do not control trade terms, it is done by Ministry of Trade, this is why all arms of government must seat on one table and have real experts explain these issues to them so that they can see the linkages )” she said
Usoro also stressed the need for the National Transport Policy to be passed into law in order for all agencies and Ministries to know their duties and responsibilities for the transportation Sector to grow.
Former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba said it would be difficult to achieve any success in the shipping sector without a maritime transport policy.
According to him, “No nation progresses without harnessing the potentials of its maritime space, it is like building on a faulty foundation or no foundation at all”
On her part, the Chairman House Committee on Maritime Safety, Mrs Linda Ikpeazu assured that the lawmakers would look into the waiver granted to shipowners on vessel importation and give it a legal backing.
On the National Transport Policy, she said that the policy is currently with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, ready to be signed.
On his part, the facilitator of NIMS 2021 said the idea behind the program was to harness potentials available in the maritime industry.
“We have been in the space of potential for a very long time, and we think that the abundance of the industry needs to be represented in the output, and this can only happen if we get a cohesive framework with which it can happen”
“We have gotten a lot of resources in individual sectors, but it can only be resourceful if they are harnessed to achieve a market”
“The robust participation in this programme shows that the maritime industry is ready to engage, it is desirous of a framework and a platform like this” Akabogu stated.
Speaking on the zero percentage waiver incentive announced by by NIMASA DG, Akabogu said the policy can only be implemented if given a legal backing.
“Everything is implementable if it is legal, the political will and strategies needed for implementing is needed and, I can assure you that at NIMS, we would come up with the needed strategy for implementing this waiver” he assured.