Investigation by Shipping Position Daily has revealed that the multiplicity of ship owners associations in Nigeria may have affected the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF); this is even some ship owners have acknowledge that the division in the ship owners’ associations have contributed to the delay, others have denied that the multiplicity of associations has anything to do with the disbursement.
You will recall that in a bid to address the lack of financial power of indigenous ship owners to acquire vessels, the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) was inserted into the Cabotage Act of 2003. The Act made provision for 2 per cent contribution by indigenous ship owners from every contract executed to develop Cabotage fleet and local shipping capacity.
However, after about 18 years of promising to disburse the fund, top officials of the Federal Government have traded words as to whether or not the fund belongs to ship owners or not.
A source at the Ministry of Finance informed our correspondent that there is no strong will from the ship owners to fight for the money which he said may have necessitated the delayed disbursement.
In a telephone chat with our correspondent, a member of the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Prince Ayorinde Adedoyin, when asked if he thinks the multiplicity of shipowners associations may have affected the disbursement of the CVFF, asserted that the multiplicity of the shipowners associations in the country could have contributed to the factors that have delayed the disbursement of the fund.
He pointedly blamed those who decided to go and form another association following the election of new executives into the association that didn’t go down well with some members. while noting that the multiplicity of associations could be a reason the CVFF is being politicized.
He said: “Yes, maybe you know a lot of people left after the election because they felt that they did not win, which led to them going to set up another organization, but along the way, we realize that their own focus is totally different from what we want. What NISA actually stands for is everything shipping, from ship ownership to operators to clearing agency, so everything that got to do with shipping, and that is why we are now coming back to focus on the objectives of what NISA is all about, and part of it, is what we are trying to do, to work with some foreign people to get funding, that will basically focus on assets acquisition of Nigeria shipping industry”
“The local content has actually protected Nigerians, but if we don’t have money or assets, we really can’t fight, so that is where we are now and by his grace we are moving, You know everything is being politicized but God will help us” he said.
Also in a recent chat with our correspondent, Barrister Jean Chiazor Anishere noted that the CVFF is a legitimate entitlement of all indigenous ship owners in Nigeria following the statutes and relevant laws of the Cabotage Act enacted by the Federal Government. She however advised Ship owners to unite, take legal steps and seek redress for the disbursement of the fund.
In her words, “the Ship owners Association of Nigeria or Shipowners generally should approach a good Maritime Lawyer to advise them on the next step to take. I don’t know why they are afraid or what is inhibiting them from taking legal steps. We are not living in a Jungle. If an arm of the government is not doing what they are supposed to do in accordance with the statutes and relevant laws on the act that the Federal government has promulgated or enacted, then the proper thing for one to do is to seek legal redress”.
However, on his part, the President of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung debunked the claim that the CVFF has not been disbursed because of multiplicity of the ship owners’ associations, stating that there is no place in the law where it was mentioned that shipowners cannot have more than one association.
“The stakeholders that are thinking it is because of the multiplicity of associations, so be it, are we dealing with what people say or what people think, there is a law about the CVFF, the law is clear, did the law say we should not have two or 10 ship owners’ associations. People are joining SOAN based on the value that they can create for themselves, so the law didn’t say if you join this association or not, so that’s not what the law says” he said
Also speaking, Captain Taiwo Akinpelumi a ship-owner and member of NISA also stated that the multiplicity of ship owners’ associations should not be an excuse for why the CVFF should not be disbursed.
He also stated that everyone has the right to freedom of associations, he noted that what the ship owners’ associations are clamoring for is the disbursement of the CVFF and development of capacity.
“They cannot be using that as an excuse that we have many associations, its freedom of associations, if you have 100 associations they will be singing one voice to develop capacity to make cargo available accessible for Nigeria shipowners to have the right to lift cargo so what are they talking about” he questioned.
On his part, Barrister Osuala Nwagbara, said the disbursement of the fund shouldn’t be politicized on the basis of the multiplicity of the shipowners associations.
He argued that the Cabotage Act did not talk about associations, he however said he did not support that the fund be given to individuals, but said the CVFF can be given to consortium Nigerians or Nigerian Shipping Companies who seek to access the fund
“In my assessment it is not correct because the Cabotage Act, if you look at section 42,43,44, to 46; it did not talk about associations. It talked about Nigerians and Nigerian companies being entitled to the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund. It didn’t talk about associations. I will not support that an individual ship owner should be given CVFF to go and buy his ship.
“I will support that a consortium of Nigerians or Nigerian Shipping Companies should come together and access the fund because that would make for corporate governance. When a Nigerian is running a vessel, he sees it as his private business and decides what to do with the financial maintenance of the ship, the funds generated by the ship and when and how to pay back. That again will take us back to the vessel financing scheme that we had before ship acquisition and ship funding which we are.
“Nigerians should form a special purpose vehicle to access the fund and apply to NIMASA and NIMASA working through the ministry of transportation should be able to fast track the disbursement of CVFF to them” he said.
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On her part, Chairman of Nigerian Ship Owners Forum; Barr Margret Orakwusi, also denied that the multiplicity of associations may have affected the disbursement of CVFF. She stated that belonging to or not belonging to an association should not in any way affect the CVFF, while she also noted that the Shippers Forum is not a rival association but a forum for ship owners.
According to her, the forum is currently working to ensure the disbursement of the CVFF.
She said: “Shippers Forum is actually working to get the CVFF disbursed, but you know it will look as if we are doing nothing until we all see the result
“We will see the sources of the fund we will also see the beneficiary embedded in the law, the issue of whether they belong to this association or not is not there
“If you qualified, you get the money. I may decide not to belong to any association, I don’t see my belonging or not belonging to any association as an issue, we all know our selves any way, that’s just it”, she said.
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