Furore over FG’s selection of Cabotage Fund beneficiaries

Transport Minister, Idris Umar

Transport Minister, Idris Umar

25 November 2013, Lagos – Stakeholders in the maritime sector of the economy have continued to kick against the criteria used to select beneficiaries for the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, CVFF.

They picked holes in the way and manner the six ship owners were selected by the federal government and flayed what they described as “undue delay” in the disbursement of the fund.

The stakeholders, particularly Nigerian ship owners have raised highbrow over the delay and secrecy surrounding government intention to disburse the fund over the years.

CVFF was established following the enactment of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act 2003 (Cabotage). It was meant to help Nigerian ship owners acquire new vessels or maintain existing ones.
It was aimed at empowering indigenous ship owners so that they can be in a position to run neck-to-neck with their foreign counterparts.

Against the provisions of the Cabotage Act, foreign ship owners are presently dominating inland trade and coastal trade in Nigeria to the detriment of their indigenous counterparts.
The federal government had used the occasion of the 2013 celebration of the world maritime day to announce that it has shortlisted six Nigerian ship owners as those who will soon benefit from CVFF.

Though the identity of the Nigerian ship owners were not revealed, the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar who disclosed this at the venue of the celebration in the Cross River capital, Calabar said only six firms have been penciled down as beneficiaries of CVFF.
Umar who stated this in a key note address at the occasion said: “Realising the importance of the participation of the indigenous operators in the achievement of sustainable development and enhancement of indigenous capacity, the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act (Cabotage Act) was enacted and provides for the establishment of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund. This is intended to assist indigenous operators to acquire vessels. For purposes of disbursements, four primary lending institutions namely Diamond Bank, Fidelity Bank, Skye Bank and Sterling Bank have been appointed.

“Out of the several applications received for the CVFF facility, six applications have been processed and endorsed by these aforementioned Primary Lending Institutions (PLIs) and accordingly recommended by the management of NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency) to the ministry and are being evaluated for approval”.

However, some ship owners who spoke to THISDAY in Lagos wondered why the federal government is still dilly dallying on the actual disbursement of the funds many years after it had repeatedly made failed promises to disburse it.

An indigenous ship owner who preferred anonymity expressed dismay over the secrecy surrounding the exact amount the fund has accrued over the years and the identity of the six shortlisted beneficiaries.

“For God sake what is delaying the actual disbursement of the CVFF? How can the minister announced that the federal government will soon disburse the fund after all these years of waiting? That is not what we want to hear. We want to hear it has been disbursed. Again, why the secrecy on the exact amount the fund has accrued till date and identity of the six shortlisted beneficiaries? We want to know. It is of public interest for the minister to tell us what is actually happening to the funds. It is not a private matter”, the indigenous ship owner added.

The ship owner averred that it was only when the federal government actually disburse the fund, reveal how much it has accrued into it from inception till date, and disclose the identities of the six shortlisted beneficiaries that stakeholders in the shipping sector of the economy will know that it is serious and ready to reverse the dwindling fortunes in the maritime industry.

According to the ship owner who remains one of the key players in the shipping sector of the economy, the federal government was carrying on as if there was no urgency in harnessing the huge potentials in the maritime industry as it has continued to talk without taking any concrete action in addressing ills plaguing the shipping sector of the economy over the years.

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