· There is nothing to be elated about — NISA
The recent announcement of commencement of disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) by the Federal government may have pitched the two major ship owners’ associations in the industry against each other. Shipping Position Daily can authoritatively report.
Recall that the Minister of Transportation; Engr Mu’azu Sambo recently announced that four banks have been shortlisted as lending institutions for the disbursement of the controversial CVFF, which has been officially estimated at $350 million and N16 billion. The institutions are: Union Bank, Polaris Bank, Zenith Bank, UBA and JAIZ bank.
However, key members of the two ship owners’ associations, namely: Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) and Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) have expressed divergent views over the disbursement and the total accruals from the CVFF.
While members of the SOAN are elated at the pronouncement, NISA members on the other hand do not see any need for excitement, even as they also query the amount that is to be disbursed.
The minister, while speaking about the disbursement, said the jinx that has hindered the CVFF disbursement has finally been broken.
Reacting to the planned disbursement of the fund, the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of NISA Chief Isaac Jolapamo faulted the Federal Government’s claim that the accrued CVFF in the last 18 years is $350 million. This is even as the association has set up a committee to ensure accountability in the disbursement.
Chief Jolapamo also alleged that a list has already been prepared by the Federal Government containing names of organisations to receive the fund.
Also speaking with our correspondent shortly after the announcement of the disbursement of the fund, a former President of NISA; Capt Niyi Labinjo said he was not elated about the news. He lampooned that the CVFF is useless without cargoes for ship owners.
He argued that ship owners ought to have been involved in the selection process for the disbursement of the CVFF, because, according to him, the fund actually belongs to ship owners.
He said: “I cannot be excited about the announcement, yes because getting a ship is only one aspect, but ensuring that the ship has employment all through her life is another thing. All our refineries are not working, what would the ships be doing?
“In other countries, it is not just the money that is arranged, they also arrange for the jobs, because without cargo, the ship is an ordinary thing, an iron.
“Personally, I will never apply because I can’t see the jobs that would enable me to recover and pay back the money. If there are no jobs, if you give anybody the CVFF, in another 10 years, you would be running after them.
“When you talk of Cabotage, it must be restricted to your people; by now, we should not have any waiver again, Indians and Pakistanis are the ones getting the waivers, because they are the ones running our tanker business. How many Nigerians still have tanker businesses running? Maybe three, all of them have gone under.
“We have advocated something which they have not complied with, and unless they do so, we would continue to get it wrong” he said.
Also at a recent press briefing in Lagos by NISA, the association argued that the accrued fund is over $2 billion, rejecting the $350 million and N16 billion as stated by the Director General of NIMASA; Dr Bashir Jamoh.
The group also said there is a need to invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the amount.
Speaking specifically, Engr. Emmanuel Ilori, stated that the EFCC should be invited to carry out an investigation on the management or perhaps mismanagement of CVFF over the years.
Ilori lamented that ship owners were not carried along ahead of the impromptu announcement by the Minister. He however expressed his anxiety on why the government has suddenly decided to hurriedly disburse the CVFF in a few weeks.
However, in a sharp disagreement with the position of NISA, the President of SOAN, Dr. McGeorge Onyung said any ship owner who rejects the $350 million CVFF will stay hungry, while emphasising that the shipowner cannot continue to be spectators.
He commended the minister of transportation whose efforts have yielded result. He noted that over the years, other ministers have dribbled ship owners with regards to the disbursement of the CVFF, while some even said the money did not belong to them.
Reacting directly to the position of NISA, the SOAN President said: “They are entitled to their opinion, but I cannot be commenting on what they’ve said, there is freedom of expression. If the minister says it is $350 million, we take the $350 million like that, when it’s time they tell us what is remaining, if anybody says he doesn’t want, then he would stay hungry.
“The country is yearning for economic emancipation and development and the only solution is from the ocean, the wealth of the world is buried in the ocean and we have the ocean and we just look at the ocean, so we should be able to explore, this is the biggest business in the world, we cannot continue to be spectators”.
“Other ministers have dribbled us for 19 years, I am not a fan of anybody but the truth of the matter is that, for this pronouncement to be made sincerely other people said they will not disburse, they will do this, they will not do that, but the man has said he is going to disburse, and that we should hold him by his word and follow up with what he is going to do. I’m not here to criticize anybody, everybody is entitled to their opinion” he said.
Speaking also, a member of SOAN and Chairman Sea Transport Nigeria Ltd., Alhaji Aminu Umar, stated that he is elated by the news of the disbursement of CVFF, while stating that there is need to have very clear modalities for accessing the fund.
Umar, in a chat with our correspondent, expressed confidence that properly-structured modalities would encourage prospective ship owners and boost ship-owning capability.
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He said, “our expectation as ship owners is that modalities on how to access the fund should be put in place; like the DG promised, so that all potential ship owners who intend to access the fund should have easy access to the fund.”
He added that, with the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in place, there would be increased cargo movement within the African continent, with great prospects for shipping business in Nigeria.
He said that the demand for off-takers as a requirement for accessing the CVFF would properly situate cargo at the heart of shipping.
“It has been a good year for the shipping business in the whole world, and I believe that you will see it on many media publications. If you look at the outlook for West Africa, with the AfCFTA being signed, there is the access for cargo; intra-Africa cargo movement; a lot of cargo coming out of Nigeria to other West African countries.
“Nigerians have started commodities export very well, which means there is cargo. All these cargoes coming in and out of Nigeria require ships. So, there is huge demand for shipping. It simply means that the outlook is good,” he said.
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