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By Innocent Orok

Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation addressing Newsmen

Again, the noise of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) disbursement of the controversial Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund ( CVFF) is renting the air in the Maritime industry.

Gbemisola Saraki, Minister for state of Transportation

Reports last week has it that the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi has set up a Committee to work out the modalities for the disbursement of the fund, which the present NIMASA management claims is only N200bn.

The Committee is headed by the Director General of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku
Peterside who is also the chief custodian of the fund.
The Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund (CVFF) was renamed from the Ship Building Financing Fund ( CBFF) when the NIMASA Act was enacted in 2007.

The Cabotage law affects ships sailing or doing business solely within the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone.
Such operators pays 2% levy to NIMASA as their savings for further disbursement to them for either Maintainance or buying of new vessels. The operators includes of Cabotage in Nigeria waters includes, Bunker barges,Coastal Tankers, Offshore Supply Vessels, Private Security Boats, Escort Vessels, Crew Supply Vessels, Ferries, Oil Platforms/storage facilities, Crew Contracts, Tugs etc.

The fund was established under the Inland Shipping Cabotage Act 2003 to provide finance to operators to maintain their vessels or purchase new ones.
Cabotage is the carrying on of trade along a country’s coast; the transport of goods or passengers from one port or place to another in the same country waters.

Since 2003 (19) years now when the Cbotage Act was enacted and 2007 (13) years now since the NIMASA Act was enacted into law, the CVFF has been a fund of political manipulations, abuses and a subject of spending spree by various NIMASA regimes without a dime expanded to the beneficiaries.
Within this period, the various administrations at the agency have been brandishing various figures that has accrued to the Cabotage account.

It has become a tradition for every DG of the NIMASA to keep the actual figures deposited into the CVFF as top secret . While the vessel owners are also in the dark of how much has actually accrued into the Cabotage account since 2003.

A stakeholder who did not want his name mentioned told our correspondent that NIMASA is using the various duty collection banks to manipulate the Cabotage funds collection.
According to him, while the vessel owners pay in Dollars to the banks , NIMASA only issued receipts to very few payers . And at the end of the day is only the receipts issued by the agency that is accounted for. While the actual payments in the banks and interest is hugely different from the books kept by the account department at NIMASA.
The extra amount in the banks according to our source not accounted for is even bigger in amount than the ones receipted. This according to the source is the cartel running NIMASA finances.

Many stakeholders have decried the politics which the agency and the various ministers of Transportation have been playing with the fund. From the regime of Mrs Mfon Ekong Usoro, as the pioneer Director General of NIMASA, to Ade Dosunmu, Temisan Omatseye, Patrick Akpolobokemi and now Dr Dakuku Peterside it has been intrigues, power play and confusion over the disbursement of the fund.

It could be recalled that in 2014 the then Indigenous Shipowners Association of Nigeria (ISAN) and the Nigerian Chambers of Shipping (NCS) had dragged the then Minister of Transportation, Senator Idris Umar to court over the non disbursement of the CVFF to deserving ship owners.
Embarrassed by the shipowners action, the then DG of NIMASA, Patrick Akpolobokemi hurriedly started to work out modalities for the disbursement of the fund.
The agency under Akpolobokemi then said the fund is in excess of N200bn. Under him the sharing formula of 40% ( NIMASA) , 35% ( Banks) and 15% for( Fund beneficiaries) disbursement structure for the CVFF was formulated.
Before he left office in June 2015, ‘Akpos’ administration had shortlisted six vessels owning firms with various Dollars amount to be disbursed out to them from the fund. Unfortunately he was sacked before the funds hits the various beneficiaries account.

On resumption of duty in 2015, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the Director General of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside were telling stakeholders at various stakeholders meetings that the Jonathan regime has squandered the funds for elections.
Some rumours had it then that the CVFF was used to established the Nigeria Maritime University, at Okerekoko, Delta state. But sooner , the fund was discovered to have been domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In the last four years of the Rotimi Amaechi’s regime as Minister of Transportation, various permutation has been formulated to spend the fund. Amaechi has initially said , the fund will be used to established a national shipping line. In another fora with the ship owners, the Minister was quoted as saying he will not disbursed the fund to any ship owner.
The ding dong affair with the CVFF disbursement debacle has been on for the past four years under this regime without a possible headway.
The latest disbursement drama now is the setting up of a Committee headed by the NIMASA, DG to fashion out modalities for the disbursement of the fund.

This latest move by Amaechi has created another game plan to frustrate the expectations of ship owners, that the fund will be given to deserving beneficiaries. Many maritime industry stakeholders have questioned the sincerity of the Transportation Minister and his political son, in this new moves to disburse the fund. Only time will tell.

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