Ishaku Mabushi Shekarau, former executive director, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), has frown at the poor implementation of the provisions of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act.
Shekarau also decried the long delay in the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) in spite of repeated promises by the concerned authorities to do so over the years.
Speaking in a paper presentation titled: ‘Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund: An Un-Utilized but Veritable Tool to Spring Maritime Economic Growth’, which was sent to newsmen, Shekarau expressed dismay that the maritime industry appears to be lagging behind owing to several reasons.
He called on the Federal Government to ensure that it addresses the issues hindering the disbursement of the CVFF to deserving shipowners before the end of this present administration.
“Given the almost two decades span of Nigeria’s Cabotage Law and the humongous sums so far contributed by the ship operators in the name of CVFF, it is a major embarrassment that not a single ton of ship has been added to indigenous shipping capacity via the financing of ships by this fund as intended. Initially, the underlining concern was that the Nigerian operators did not have cargoes to lift, even if they managed to secure platforms. This excuse is now anachronized by the fact that a good proportion of cargo in the petroleum industry inclusive of agro chemicals, construction, dairies, and so on is available for carriage by Nigerians,” he explained.
Shekarau, who is presently a maritime consultant, argued that besides the advantage of using the Cabotage funds to purchase vessels or construct shipyards, it will directly or indirectly create employment and training opportunities for Nigerians youths.
He wondered why the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) can sponsor agro dealers with money not contributed by them, and yet maritime operators are denied their statutory right to borrow from funds contributed by them.
“What alternate purposes are the funds being applied and what is the relevance of this application to our national maritime development objectives?” he questioned.
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari, Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation, and the management of NIMASA to recognise the CVFF as a specialised tool that should be applied only to its specific purpose.
He maintained that it would be a legacy of this present administration, if it breaks the ice and disburse the CVFF justly and equitably to the desired beneficiaries.
The Cabotage Fund was established alongside the Nigerian Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act of 2003, to empower indigenous ship owners by enabling them to acquire vessels in order to take control of the nation’s coastal and inland shipping business, otherwise known as Cabotage trade.
To grow the fund, the regulation of Cabotage Act 2003 mandates every shipping line trading within the coastal waters to remit 2 percent of the value of every contract awarded to it into the CVFF coffers.
Sadly, the fund has grown to over N136.5 billion and Federal Government recently said no to the disbursement of the fund after Mr. President has given approval, describing it as public fund.