By Joshua Yousouph
Despite the assurances given by the Minister of Transportation; Mu’azu Sambo and the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Dr Bashir Jamoh to disburse the controversial Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) to indigenous shipowners by March, 2023, findings by Shipping Position Daily have revealed that ship owners may have to wait much longer.
We recall that the Minister of Transportation had promised severally that the CVFF would be disbursed before the end of his tenure in office. But, NIMASA has stated that the disbursement is no longer feasible in March and is likely to be done in the second quarter of 2023.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that during the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Mu’azu Sambo’s working visit to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council last month, he had stated that NIMASA has been given the freedom to operate in accordance with the laws and regulations guiding the disbursement of the CVFF. Sambo however assured that his administration would see to the disbursement of the fund to eligible applicants by March.
However, in an official document released recently to celebrate Dr Bashir Jamoh’s three years at NIMASA and which was obtained by our correspondent, a tentative new date was given.
The document specifically dropped the March date and announced that CVFF would likely be disbursed before the end of the second quarter (April to June) 2023.
The report noted that Jamoh’s administration has been able to obtain the President’s approval for the disbursement of the CVFF and has successfully engaged five commercial banks that will serve as Primary Lending Institutions (PLIs) for the disbursement. It specifically stated that the fund is now likely to be disbursed by the second quarter of 2023 as against the March promised by the Minister.
Shipping Position Daily recall that in January, the management of NIMASA met with indigenous ship owners to ensure an effective engagement towards a seamless disbursement of the CVFF as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in December.
Barely two weeks after, NIMASA met with selected PLIs and issued an ultimatum of 72 hours within which should they come up with modalities for the disbursement of the $350 million and N16 billion CVFF accruals. The PLIs are: Zenith Bank, Polaris Bank, United Bank of Africa (UBA),Jaiz Bank and Union Bank.
It is about three months since the CVFF disbursement was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, but ship owners are yet to meet with the PLIs, to even discuss modalities and guidelines that will guide the disbursement processes.
However, the Chairman Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Chief Isaac Jolapamo informed that the association has already set up a committee that will engage with relevant stakeholders to look into the modalities involved in the disbursement of the CVFF.
When contacted, the Chairman of the CVFF Committee set up by NISA, Dr. Edward Sowho stressed that they have met severally with NIMASA, but yet to meet with the five PLIs to iron out the final modalities for the disbursement.
Dr. Sowho noted that NISA has already requested for the modalities for CVFF disbursement as well as the duties of the PLIs through NIMASA. He however stated that there has not been any meeting with the five banks.
The committee chairman also lamented that the disbursement of the CVFF to indigenous ship owners is foot-dragging and time is running out.
He told our correspondent that: “The situation as of today is that we have met severally with NIMASA, but we are yet to hold our first meeting with the five PLIs to iron out the final modalities for the disbursement. We have actually requested for their duty through NIMASA and I think they are working on it. Once we hold the meeting with the PLIs, then prospective borrowers or stakeholders will start putting in their applications.
“You know we need to apply. We have to submit genuine documents. They will request for these and we would have to meet those conditions. They are not stringent conditions, but we need to apply and meet those conditions and we have a very short period to do that. Time is not on our side. But I must confirm to you that the DG is very keen that the CVFF is disbursed as quickly as possible.
“The DG NIMASA has done very well as regards the CVFF. He is very enthusiastic that the fund will be disbursed during the lifespan of this regime. I think the Minister has even come out to say latest by May, they would commence disbursement. NIMASA is doing everything possible together with the Ministry of Transport to see that that is done before this tenure winds down”.
On his part, the President of the Ship-owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung also confirmed that ship owners are yet to meet with the Primary Lending Institutions for the process of application and disbursement of the CVFF.
Dr. Onyung noted that there are a lot of intricacies surrounding the disbursement of the CVFF and according to him, NIMASA does not seem to be ready to break the jinx surrounding the disbursement to ship owners.
The SOAN President stressed that ship owners are still clueless, waiting for NIMASA to come up with a process for application and disbursement of the CVFF.
In his words: “We have not met with the PLIs. Everyone is waiting for the Government to do something. Is it because the tenure of the current DG is three years old, so we now begin to talk about CVFF? CVFF is an ongoing thing. Let them tell us what they are doing. Once they are ready they will tell us. I don’t think they are ready yet.
“If they say it is the second quarter, what do you want me to say about it? There is a procedure. So when they tell us the process, we will know. So ask them. Before now, people still don’t understand this issue of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund. Right now, it is NIMASA that we should ask. I have no information now, everyone is still waiting” Onyung said.
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