At Otunba Folarin’s Colloquium: Stakeholders Flay 20-Years of Cabotage Act, Call for Removal of Waiver Clause
Nigerian maritime industry big wigs on Thursday gathered at the Rockview Hotel for a one -day colloquium held in honour of the Late Otunba Kunle Folarin, organized by Media Friends of Otunba Folarin and the NPCC.
Stakeholders who attended the event included the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr Bashir Jamoh, Capt Emmanuel Iheanacho, Chairman of Integrated Oil and Gas, Chairman Board of Trustees of Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) Mrs Jean Chiazor Anishere (SAN) Dr Chris Asoluka President of Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, Capt Tajudeen Alao among others.
Worried by the dominance of foreign ships in Nigerian coastal trade two decades after the establishment of the Cabotage Act, shipping stakeholders at the event called for the removal of the waiver clauses in the Act which create opportunities for foreign vessels.
An oil magnate and public policy expert, Mr. Chris Asoluka made this call even as he described the waiver clauses in the Cabotage Act as one of the greatest limitations of the Cabotage Act and the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), Asoluka asserted that the clause has stifled indigenous shipping in the country.
DAILY TREND reports that Dr Asoluka was among the notable stakeholders who worked tirelessly on the Cabotage Act before it was passed in 2003.
Speaking twenty years after, he said “Foreigners are excused to use vessels not owned by Nigerians, not built or crewed by Nigerians. This was a mistake we made with the Cabotage Act because we thought at that time Nigeria hadn’t grown to the stage where it could handle Cabotage trade in compliance to the requisite standards.”
“We should have inserted a caveat or timeline to give waivers to foreign vessels for five years while growing indigenous capacity for the service. However, twenty years after the Cabotage Act was passed, the Transport Minister still has the powers to give waivers to foreign operators.”
The Chairman of Integrated Oil and Gas Limited, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho expressed delight at the updates on CVFF disbursement and Cabotage Act, even as he commended journalists for organizing the event in honour of Otunba Kunle Folarin.
Iheanacho, who also chaired the event, opined that the emphasis on utilizing CVFF for Cabotage vessels alone may hamper plans to train seafarers for seatime on such vessels as they wouldn’t be categorized as ‘ocean-going vessels’.
He suggested that the name ‘CVFF’ could be changed to ‘Ship Acquisition and Ship Building Fund’ to enable applicants of the fund purchase ocean-going vessels.
Iheanacho also wondered who would fill the shoes of Late Otunba Kunle Folarin, describing Folarin as a friend and an astute maritime professional.
Meanwhile, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh has revealed plans to immortalise the late Otunba Kunle Folarin, by naming one of its newly acquired vessels after him.
Jamoh who described late Kunle Folarin as a selfless maritime professional, while he informed participants that NIMASA just acquired some vessels scheduled to arrive Nigeria in few weeks and the agency will be naming one of the vessels after Otunba Folarin.
The NIMASA Director General also described the late Folarin as a maritime encyclopedia, recalling and commending the maritime expert’s willingness to make himself available at any time to help resolve numerous issues in the nation’s maritime sector.
He, however, stressed that queries and criticisms about the CVFF and its planned disbursement are hasty as the fund is yet to be disbursed, but a public scrutiny of the exercise has already begun.
Jamoh expressed optimism that public hearings will be held on the ongoing review of the Cabotage Act, while noting that a stakeholders’ meeting will also be organized to finalize on the guidelines for the disbursement of CVFF.
In her paper presentation, Mrs. Jean-Chiazor Anishere, SAN, posited that there is a need to develop a clear financing mechanism as well as a clear reporting system on the utilization of the CVFF.
According to her, NIMASA shouldn’t be just satisfied with disbursing the CVFF, but also monitor and evaluate the impact of the fund in collaboration with Primary Lending Institutions and shipping experts.