After 18 years of promising to disburse the N136.5 billion Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) to deserving ship owners, the Federal Government on Friday backtracked, describing it as public fund.
Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, who disclosed this during a ministerial briefing in Lagos, said after approvals by President Muhammadu Buhari and the attorney-general of the federation for the fund to be disbursed to ship owners, the minister of finance has now advised against it, and the fund would no longer be disbursed as earlier proposed.
This development has dashed the hope of indigenous ship owners to secure cheap and interest-friendly funds to enable them acquire ships in order to compete favourably with their foreign counterparts.
This is coming barely one month after the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said it has selected 11 indigenous ship owners to benefit from the fund, and four Primary Lending Institutions (PLIs) to midwife the process of the disbursement after the development of its guidelines.
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.
Meanwhile, Amaechi has advised Nigerian ship owners to write a protest letter to Mr President and copy him.
“The President made approval to go ahead and disburse the fund, and the attorney-general also gave go ahead because the law says it’s a private fund, and then, minister of finance protested that it is a public fund, so it cannot be spent. So, the owners of the fund should then write to the president and copy me. Then, I will go back to the president because the law says it’s not public fund,” Amaechi said.
On maritime security, the minister said vessels were berthing at Port Harcourt, Warri and other Eastern Ports due to the high cost of insurance resulting from insecurity on the waterways.
“If we address the issue of insecurity, which is the root cause of high insurance premium, we will reduce the cost of insurance on cargo and more businesses will go to the South-south where we have other seaports,” Amaechi added.
Recall that the NIMASA had in March said it received the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) to qualified indigenous maritime operators in line with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy and the CVFF Guidelines of 2006.