Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has said that some vested interests benefiting from illegality and insecurity in the nations waterways are those behind the call for cancellation of the $195 million maritime security contract recently awarded to an Isreali firm.
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Petition had last week recommended an outright cancellation of the contract, which it said would lead to a capital flight of over $200 million.
The committee had also demanded that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) should stop funding the contract immediately as it was not appropriated by lawmakers.
But speaking at the launch and public presentation of the book, “Beacons of Nigeria Maritime Industry” in Lagos on Thursday, Ameachi argued that the nation’s waterways will be better secured and free from all form of insecurity if the contract is approved.
According to him, “There are too many interests that are benefiting from illegality and insecurity. They are the people fighting it. Give Isreali and Nigeria six months, the water will be free from any form of crime. Some people want the killing and the piracy to continue so that they can be making more money to the detriment of the Nigerian people, but we will not allow that.”
On the non-disbursement of the controversial Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), Ameachi said ship owners must comply with the law regarding the disbursement of the fund before they can access it.
“The cabotage fund is there for them (ship owners) to access. But then they must meet the requirement for them to access the money. The cost of a vessel is three times much more than the cabotage fund. So they must show evidence that they have their own contribution before we can make the money available because we can’t make it available to one person. So it is either they come together because it will be difficult to share the money,” he said.
In her remarks, Chairman, Shipowners Forum, Mrs. Margret Onyema-Orakwusi, advocated for the establishment of a maritime bank with the proceeds of the Cabotage fund to enable ship owners have easy access to fund.
“What the foreign have that we don’t have is access to ship funding. Shipping is funding and whereby these foreigners are able to access funding from their various countries as low as two percent interest rate, how can you compete with them with about 20 percent interest rate?
“I understand the fear of the minister because in the past, some people have gone to take this money and they used it for every other purpose other than developing the industry. But you learn from that mistake and plug all the holes,” she said.
Co-author of the book, Hope Orivri, said the book features the story of 50 personalities in the industry who have laid solid foundation for their success and impacting positively on the society.
She said, “As journalists, we have been privileged to hear, observe and write so many stories. But for the stories in this book, we knew that they needed to be documented in a more enduring format of a book that would serve as a reference when they talk about people in this industry for many years to come.”
The book was reviewed by Head of Department, Mass Communication Department, University of Lagos Prof. Abigail Ogwezzy Ndisika.