Amidst a lull in the government’s action about disbursement, indigenous ship owners have expressed readiness to re-ignite efforts towards securing the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) by December.
The CVFF, which was conceived almost two decades ago to provide critical financial support to indigenous shipowners for vessel acquisition, has been a central issue in the discourse in Nigeria’s maritime industry. The fund was established with the noble goal of boosting local participation in coastal maritime trade, reducing the country’s reliance on foreign vessels, and fostering economic growth.
Checks by Shipping Position Daily revealed that despite assurances and promises made by successive governments, the fund’s disbursement has remained elusive. However, indigenous ship owners are gearing up for renewed engagement in December as they eagerly anticipate that such consultations will be a potential turning point in the long-awaited disbursement of the CVFF.
Speaking with our correspondent last week, the Chairman of the CVFF Committee set up by the Nigeria Ship owners Association (NISA), Dr. Edward Sowho exclusively informed that since the appointment of the new Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, ship owners have not been able to engage the ministry concerning the CVFF.
While expressing an understanding of the new government’s settling phase, Sowho stressed that no substantial progress has been made regarding the disbursement of the fund.
Sowho noted that the dialogue has primarily been with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), serving as a conduit to reach the concerned ministry. He stressed that despite the project’s presence at the NIMASA level; direct communication and clarification from the Minister’s office regarding the CVFF have not been established, creating a state of inactivity and uncertainty.
Signaling a proactive approach, Sowho outlined the ship owners’ strategy to re-ignite discussions on the CVFF in December. He believes that the new government should have settled after nearly six months in power, outlining the ship owners’ committee plans to re-engage with relevant stakeholders to push for the fund’s disbursement.
According to the Chairman of the CVFF Committee of NISA, the strategy involves renewed discussions with NIMASA, the Ministry, and the National Assembly committees responsible for maritime affairs.
“From what I understand, there’s nothing yet being done. The way I look at it, the government has just started settling down. We have not been able to engage the ministry yet. You know, we are engaging with NIMASA and through NIMASA to the ministry. So at the NIMASA’s level, the project is there. But we have not been able to at least get the Minister’s position on this.
“I don’t think anything has changed. There’s no disbursement. Nobody has applied that we are aware of. Everything is just quiet, because it is a new government. We don’t know the direction the government is facing yet. Well, the government is just under six months.
“Very soon our own Committee is going to start engaging them because we believed they have settled down now. So we are going to start again with the discussion on the CVFF. We are going to kick start it again because it is the ship owners who actually were agitating and I think because of the new government, we wanted the new government to settle. The new government has settled now. So we are going to start again” he said.
Expressing concern over the prolonged delay, a prominent ship owner and chieftain of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN); Captain Eno Williams echoed worries about the extended timeframe for the CVFF disbursement.
Captain Williams noted that the expected momentum in the disbursement of the fund did not materialize, prompting uncertainties about the underlying reasons.
Speculating on potential factors influencing the situation, Williams hinted at the possibility of bureaucratic complexities, alluding to the infamous “Nigeria factor” potentially hindering progress.
Expressing apprehension about the likelihood of the fund falling into unintended hands and emphasizing the necessity of safeguarding the fund for its intended purpose, Williams fervently urged Government to ensure that the allocation remains exclusive to genuine ship owners who have diligently contributed to the fund.
In his words: “I’m equally worried that it’s taking too long. We thought when the new minister would take over office, the thing will go into overdrive having wasted so much time. I have no idea of what is going on. Maybe the Nigeria factor has entered it again. At the end of the day, it might end up going to the wrong hands who are not ship owners.
“I pray not, but that’s all I can say for now. I pray that they do the right thing by ensuring that it’s only ship owners that get access to the fund. Not people who want to buy ships and are not ship owners. The idea is that this should be for ship owners who have contributed to the fund” Williams noted.
On his part, the President of NISA, Otunba Sola Adewumi lamented the lack of substantial updates on the disbursement progress, attributing the prolonged inertia to the new government’s extensive restructuring processes.
Otunba Adewumi highlighted the absence of continuity from the previous administration, indicating a fresh start that has left the CVFF discussion dormant.
He said: “There is really no update as regards the CVFF, because it’s like the new government is just putting so many things together. They are not starting from where the old government ended it and nobody is talking about it. But to the best of my knowledge, I learned there is a technical committee that they are putting up that will look into all those things. That is what somebody made me to understand”.
“There are intervention funds in other areas of the economy. So, why is it difficult for us to have intervention funds in shipping? Because there is nobody that will go and borrow money at about 28% and say they wanted to do shipping. Where will you make the money from? You can’t compete with our foreign counterparts that are borrowing money at the single digits interest rate. It’s not possible. For now, there is nothing on it” he noted.