The Chairman, Board of Trustees, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Chief Isaac Jolapamo has assured that the long-awaited disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) to indigenous ship owners will soon become a reality.
The CVFF was created under the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, otherwise known as the Cabotage Act, of 2003. It was set up as a pool of funds from where Nigerian ship owners can borrow money at single digit interest rate to acquire ships for coastal trade.
However, since its establishment more than 18 years ago and with more than USD250 million accruing into its account, no ship owner has been able to borrow from the CVFF due to lack of government approval.
Recently, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, announced that President Muhammadu Buhari had withdrawn an approval he granted earlier for the disbursement of the fund.
But speaking in Lagos on Tuesday, the NISA Board Chairman, Chief Jolapamo said contrary to the Amaechi’s announcement, information gathered by the association indicate that the presidential approval for the disbursement of the fund had not been withdrawn.
He said he has also written to the Minister requesting “the actual total amount of money that has been contributed to the fund since its advent in 2003”.
On comments by Amaechi that Nigerian ship owners don’t have ships; Jolapamo said, “I dont think I want to delve into that today. There have been propaganda in all the place that some ship owners don’t have vessels. I will want to put it to you today that a ship owner is a ship owner forever because before you emerge as a ship owner, you must have met some criteria.
“Many of us have vessels decades before the advent of Cabotage. We fought for the cabotage law with the hope that we will be better off. Some of us who had up to five to six vessels thought by the time the execution of the Cabotage fund would kick off, most of us would have gotten up to 20 vessels.
“And what government does is to achieve continuity but now, the reverse is the case just because of the unnecessary propaganda that have trailed the so-called Cabotage. This propaganda has crippled the purpose of the fund in that it has made it very difficult for most ship owners to continue to own vessels. You know, a ship owner is like a Senator of a republic. Even though, he finishes his tenure, wherever he goes, he is still being called a Senator,” Jolapamo noted.
Also speaking, a member of the NISA Steering Committee, Mr. Tunji Brown, said the association was back in the saddle to serve as the rallying point and voice of Nigerian ship owners.
“The essence of this briefing is to let the maritime public know that ISAN is back and active to its responsibilities. The intention is to come back and re-strategise in actualising the mission and vision of the association laid down by our forefathers.
“The constitution allows individuals from other sector of the industry to join the association. The only clause is that there are offices they can’t hold based on some criteria but the association’s door is always open to them,” Brown said.