The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, last night in Lagos disclosed that the Federal Government has approved the disbursement of money that accrued under the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) to Nigerian ship owners to acquire vessels.
The Minister, who disclosed this during the 2019 Stakeholders’ Appreciation Night organised by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), also said that he was ready to fight “war” with pirates and oil thieves.
He said a situation where Nigeria loses more than $7billion annually to oil theft and where vessels are attacked with impunity will no longer be tolerated as long he remains in charge of the Transportation Ministry.
The Minister said a $195million maritime security contract signed by the Federal Government with an Israeli firm, HLSI Systems, is to put an end to issues around piracy and other irregularities on the nation’s territorial waters.
He said the implementation of the contract will put an end to revenue leakages caused by security challenges and other illegal activities on Nigerian waters.
Amaechi said criminals must be chased out of Nigerian territorial waters to make the waterways safe and attractive for foreign investment.
He appealed to lawmakers especially the relevant Senate and House of Representative committees to support the contract to put an end to the menace.
On the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), the Minister said he would meet with relevant government agencies under the Federal Ministry of Transportation as well as indigenous ship owners to work out the modalities and process of disbursement.
Nigerian ship owners, under various groups, have severally expressed anger over their inability to access the cabotage find, which is believed to have accumulated to more than USD120million since inception in 2004.
The fund was established under the Cabotage and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003 to provide finance to operators to maintain their vessels or purchase new ones. According to the Act establishing the fund, the Minister of Transportation is empowered to establish guidelines for the disbursement of the fund to eligible operators.
Several promises made by government officials in the past on the disbursement were not kept.