03 July 2015, Lagos – The federal government has proposed fresh rules that will guide disbursement of the much awaited Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMOT), Mallam Mohammed Bashar has said.
Though Bashar did not disclosed the reason for the proposed changes in the guidelines governing the disbursement of CVFF, THISDAY checks revealed that this might be in line with the directive by the new government in power.
CVFF was initiated by the federal government as a way of implementing the provisions of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003.
According to its provisions, the objective of the Cabotage Act is primarily to reserve the commercial transportation of goods and services within Nigerian coastal and inland waters to vessels flying the Nigerian flag and owned by persons of Nigerian citizenship.
Since CVFF was established, billions of naira have accrued into the account as the government continue to prevaricate on the exact date for its disbursement to qualified ship owners.
No fewer than nine persons were selected by the government during the administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan following their selection by the primary lending institutions (PLIs).
The PLIs, which comprise selected commercial banks are those saddled with the responsibility of guaranteeing the loans to the beneficiaries through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
These measures were put in place to forestall any form of abuse in the disbursement of the CVFF as it was the case in the Ship Acquisition and Ship Building Fund (SASBF) which was diverted by many beneficiaries.
Successive Minister of Transport and Director Generals of NIMASA have repeatedly promised to disburse CVFF to no avail, fueling speculations that the funds might have been diverted into private pockets.
However, Bashar has dropped the hint of the government’s intention to make fresh changes in the guidelines guiding the disbursement of the CVFF. at a forum organised by the Captain Dada Olabinjo led faction of Nigerian Ship Owners Association (NISA).
The permanent secretary expressed regret that the government has not been able to disburse the CVFF, saying the ministry will soon come up with fresh guidelines on the disbursement of the fund.
“We shall soon invite stakeholders like you to a forum where these guidelines on CVFF would be unfolded. This will enable you and other members of the public to make inputs where necessary. We want you to take a look at them. Study them and see how you can take advantage of the enormous opportunities in our Cabotage trade by accessing the funds and make progress as a serious maritime nation”, he said.
According to the provisions of the Cabotage Act, encouraging indigenous shipping lines to participate in coastal and inland trade, administering CVFF, enlightening and sensitizing would-be investors in the Cabotage trade through seminars, conferences, and workshops remain some of the key functions of the Act.
Others are maintaining a registry of vessels for cabotage trade as well as registering ships owned by indigenous shipping lines to participate in the nation`s Cabotage trade.
It is expected that as soon as the cabinet of Buhari is in place, clamour for the disbursement of the fund by stakeholders in the maritime industry would take the centre stage as the new Minister of Transport settles down to perform his statutory roles and responsibilities.