The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, on Thursday said a committee has been put in place to work out modalities and develop guidelines for the disbursement of the USD200 million (N72 billion) that has accrued under the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF).
Ameachi had announced at the Nigerian Shippers’ Council Appreciation Night in December 2019 that the Federal Ministry of Transportation had received the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to commence disbursement of the fund by January 2020.
Addressing newsmen shortly after a closed door meeting with stakeholders including indigenous shipowners in Lagos, Amaechi said the committee would determine the interest rate to be applied on the CVFF.
Noting that this would be the first time CVFF would be disbursed to Nigerian ship owners to acquire vessels, Ameachi said the responsibility to ensure that no shipowner walks away with the fund will be transferred to the lending institutions.
“What we have agreed is to set up a committee chaired by the DG of NIMASA with other stakeholders as members that will come forward with proposed guidelines which the Minister will take to the National Assembly.
“It is the committee that will determine whether it will be single digit or not. The essential element in it is that the responsibility will be transferred to the lending institutions so nobody will just walk away with the fund.
“It means that you must be held responsible for the funds that are accrued to you. That risk will be borne by the lending institution. The lending institution will give the guidelines necessary for borrowing the money so if you don’t have it, you can borrow the money.
“There must be rules by which anybody will qualify to borrow the money. After that you approach the lending institutions that in turn will put their own expectations in place because if you just allow people to go and take the money and walk away, we will not get it back.
“The idea is to enhance the development of the maritime industry and to do that, people must borrow and return for others to be able to borrow and that will grow the economy,” he said.
The Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Petreside, said the committee was set up based on the recommendation of the stakeholders.
Speaking on the timeline for disbursement of the fund, the NIMASA DG said, “One factor will be how soon the National Assembly approves the proposed guidelines and the second would be that the provisions of the guidelines will have to be followed religiously by the participating banks. If stakeholders meet up the requirements placed by the banks, then of course, it would be disbursed.”
In her reaction, the Chairperson of Shipowners Forum, Mrs. Margret Onyema-Orakwusi expressed delight at the development, stating that she was looking forward to the disbursement of the fund and a better shipping industry.
“It should be single digit interest and a lower figure for the single digit. There would be new guidelines and a new committee has been set up to develop the guidelines. Shipowners from other countries have access to two percent interest rate funding and they are competing with them. So all these will be taken into account but I suggest that we wait and see what the committee comes up with as the guidelines,” she said.
Members of the committee include Orakwusi; a former Director General of NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye; and former President, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Aminu Umar, among others.