The Nigerian Ship Owners Association (NSOA) is set to drag the Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, before President Muhammad Buhari over the refusal of the Nigerian Maritime Administration & Safety Agency (NIMASA) to commence the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF).
The end of year dinner of the NSOA last week in Lagos almost degenerated into a brawl when Engr. Greg Ogbeifun challenged the minister to show them where he derived his powers to hold back the CVFF. The funds are about $100 billion.
At the dinner, Amaechi had boasted that as long as he remained the minister of transportation, not one Kobo of the CVFF would be disbursed. The CVFF currently domiciled in NIMASA has become an issue of controversy as successive managements in the agency have failed to disburse the fund.
According to Amaechi, the prescribed way of disbursing the fund has no proper structure in place and to guide against past mistakes of disbursing funds into wrong hands, he claimed that “I will not release that fund until am removed tomorrow as the minister of transportation. We gave over N300 billion to businessmen in the aviation industry and they used the money to build banks in Ghana and Sao Tome and nothing has happened to them.
“If you teach me how to spend that kind of money, we will spend it but to give you that kind of money that we gave to aviation and the money disappeared, no, I will not, no matter what you do.
“Bank of Industry, for instance, is structured and if somebody doesn’t pay, they will grab him but in our own case, there is no structure. Once I pay you, you go. The law says recommendation from NIMASA and once I pay you, you go but how do I hold you back?
“They said its $100 billion but when I asked the NIMASA man (Dakuku), he said the money is not up to that. The former NIMASA man, Patrick Akpobolokemi had disbursed some to build the Maritime University.
Reacting, the president of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun said ‘the minister lacks the power to hold on to the fund’ noting that the “law requires that the minister sets guidelines for disbursement, the law does not allow you to sit on the money doing nothing which is the situation we are now and the ship owners are still contributing money to the fund.
“Our tonnage is going down, seafarers are going out of job and businesses are collapsing. In the midst of that, you are collecting money in a regime where our business is dying.”
Ogbeifun who expressed his displeasure over challenges facing indigenous ship owners and the turn of events in the industry, called for the immediate resignation of the DG of NIMASA. He said whilst past DGs were sacked over fraud, this is the time to have the political will to sack the present leadership of NIMASA for incompetence.
A top official of the ship owners association who confided in Shipping World said all options including legal action are on the cards to make NIMASA comply with the Cabotage Act.