The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has revealed that the Ministry of Finance was frustrating the disbursement of the $200million Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF).
Recall that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had in March said it received the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to disburse the Fund to qualified indigenous maritime operators in line with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy and the CVFF Guidelines of 2006.
However, the agency is yet to apply the over $200 million accumulated in the Fund into the acquisition of vessels for local shipowners, who have been struggling to survive due to lack access to funds to run their business.
Speaking at the federal ministry of transportation’s 2020 ministerial retreat in Lagos on Friday, Amaechi said President Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), have approved the disbursement of the fund but the minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed, protested against the disbursement of the fund, saying public fund shouldn’t be disbursed to private operators.
The minister said, “the president made approval saying go ahead and disburse, and the attorney-general said go ahead, the law says its a private fund but the minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed protested that it is a public fund and cannot be spent, so what will I do?” Amaechi asked rhetorically.
He, therefore, advised shipowners to write a protest letter to the president, seeking the disbursement of the fund and explaining why the fund is a private fund.
The minister said, “the owners of the fund should write to the president and copy me, then I will go back to the president. The law says it’s not a public fund, now that they are aware they should write to say we are aware of the approval, and we are aware of the protest by the minister of finance and if I have all these, I will go back to the President,” he said.
The minister also disclosed that with the commissioning of the Deep Blue Project, vessels unable to visit the eastern ports can now do that without fear of any attack or hijack.
“I said we will address the issue of security in the maritime sector because the reasons why vessels are not able to go to Port Harcourt, Warri and other places is because of the high cost of insurance.
“High cost of insurance is as a result of insecurity, so if we address the issue of insecurity which is the root cause, then, the high cost of insurance will reduce and more business will go to the South-South where we have other seaports.
“Since we launched the equipment for the security architecture, we are now monitoring to see how much improvement and this is going to reduce because there is presence of equipment and human being managing them,” Amaechi added.
Also speaking, the director-general of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh, said the agency was doing everything possible to put the floating dockyard into use.
According to him, the quay to berth the floating dock at Continental shipyard is weak, rusty and old, hence the need for rehabilitation.
Jamoh said, “concerning the floating dock, where we are right now is finding space to berth the facility in Continental Shipyard because we have an agreement with NPA and we have advertised with the managing partner and the NPA.
“We are going to use the NPA’s continental shipyard, but the problem has to do with continental shipyard because you know when you are bringing in ship, you must find a place where you can berth that particular ship.”