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Finance Minister frustrates disbursement of $200m Vessels Intervention Fund – Amaechi

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…as NIMASA set to berth N50bn floating dock at NPA’s facility

Abiola Seun

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, yesterday said the ministry of finance is 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 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.

Saidly, the agency is yet to disburse the over $200 million accumulated in the fund into the acquisition of vessels for local shipowners who have been struggling to survive due to access to fund to run their business.

Speaking at the 2020 Federal Ministry of transportation ministerial retreat in Lagos yesterday, Amaechi said President Muhammadu 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 it is a public fund and 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?” he asked rhetorically.

He, however, advised shipowners to write a protest letter to the President seeking the disbursement of the fund and explain 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 its 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 this, I will go back to the President,” he assured the shipowners.

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,” he said.

Also speaking, the Director General, NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh said the agency is 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 need for rehabilitation.

The DG 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.

So, Continental Shipyard facility where we can berth the floating dock is not strong enough as it is old and rusty. The shipyard needs a very huge investment for us to berth that particular floating dock there but we have been talking with the manufacturer of the floating dock and the owners of the continental shipyard and just three days ago,  we had meeting with companies that can handle the berthing of the floating dock there.

“We will award contract to strengthen that particular place because as you know the floating dock will be receiving other vessels, so there is no reason whatsoever we should risk the possibility of allowing the floating dock not to be berthed firmly because gigantic ships will be coming in.”

“In summary, we are just trying to see how we can effectively and safely get a place we can berth the floating dock and commence operations but, every other thing about the floating dock is complete except where to berth the vessel,” he said.

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