Ship owners in Nigeria have said, they won’t protest the non-disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), following the recent statement of the Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi, that the disbursement is being withheld by the Minister of Finance.
Recall that the Minister had during a two-day ministerial retreat for agencies under the Ministry of Transportation, revealed that despite securing the approval of the President and the Attorney- General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to disburse the CVFF, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, protested against the disbursement.
Amaechi had said that the Finance claimed that the CVFF is a public fund, hence it shouldn’t be disbursed to private sector operators.
Consequently, he had urged the indigenous ship owners, who are owners of the fund, to write a protest letter to the President explaining why the fund is a private fund to enable him (Amaechi) to present the matter again before the President.
However, reacting to the statement, the President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung, in a chat with our correspondent, informed that the Minister can not call them to protest, stating that ship owners are not ‘freedom fighters’ and as such can’t be lobbied to protest the non-disbursement
According to him, “the CVFF is created by law, and I think you journalist should have asked the Minister what he meant by what he said, the Minister cannot call us to go and protest, are we EndSARS? That’s not what the law says, we are not freedom fighters”.
Also speaking, a member of the Nigeria Indigenous Ship Owners Association (NISA) Mr. Tunji Brown criticized the statement of the Minister, stating that if indeed the President has given approval for the disbursement, he sees no reason the Minister of Finance will refuse to disburse the fund.
He urged the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Finance to come up with a position paper as to why the fund cannot be disbursed, rather than calling for protest from ship owners.
In his words: “I don’t think that statement is what I will like to align with, they work with the same government, if truly that is true, they are supposed to come up with a position paper as to why the money should not be disbursed, not for us to go and protest if truly the President has given ascent to it, the President is the final authority, if he gives approval, I don’t think anybody can stand in the way to give a counter position, I don align with that statement”, he said.
On his part, former Director General of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Temisan Omatseye, lampooned the Minister of Finance for her refusal to disburse the CVFF, stating that the CVFF is the contribution of ship owners that was allowed to be managed by NIMASA, but said due to the Treasury Single Account (TSA), it was transferred to the TSA, noting that the fund does not belong to the federal government.
“CVFF is collected by virtue of two percent levy, which is charged on charter rate, it is a levy collected by the ship owners and the fund are kept in a dedicated account to be managed by NIMASA, it never said anything about it to be managed by the government, it is like Esusu, which you contribute, the Esusu money does not belong to the Esusu owner, it belongs to the contributors, so the Minister of Finance with all due respect, is very wrong on this, and I think the reason the Minister mentioned protest is for us to make sure she sees that she is making a wrong error, people needs to explain to her, the legal position the legal issues and ensure she has the right understanding of what the whole thing is all about. It is totally and absolutely wrong for the Minister of finance to refuse to disburse the money, but I am sure somebody has advised the minister of finance and I believe they are working on it” he said.
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