Senators probe abuse of Cabotage Act, summon Amaechi, others

Civil societies demand probe of Amaechi’s $195m maritime security contract

Rotimi Amaechi

 

The Senate joint committees on local content, downstream petroleum and legislative compliance has summoned the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, to explain the influx of foreign vessels on Nigeria’s waterways.

The chairman of the committee on local content, Teslim Folarin, said the committee has also invited the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva and the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari to appear before it on the same matter. 

The trio are also expected to give explanations over the alleged abuse of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003 and the Nigerian Content Act 2010.

The panel is currently investigating the breach of Nigerian laws by foreign vessels in the coastal region of the country.

The joint committee has been asked to carry out the investigation after the Senate deliberated a motion on the urgent need to investigate breach of Nigerian laws by foreign vessels in coastal shipping of petroleum products in downstream sector of the Nigerian maritime industry in December 2019.

The lawmakers had expressed worry that the influx of foreign vessels into Nigerian downstream sector is against the Cabotage Act, which restricts vessels engaged in domestic coastal trade, such that, only wholly-owned, manned and registered Nigerian vessels can engage in the domestic coastal carriage of petroleum products within the coastal and inland waterways.

The Senate had also mandated the panel to investigate foreign ship owners of freight associated with downstream activities repatriated overseas by NNPC to the detriment of the local economy.

“The Senate discovered that foreign vessels are still dominating the maritime industry and the local companies are saying Nigerians must have first option. Also, COVID-19 has exposed this so-called globalisation.

“For instance, the issue of waiver, all the foreign vessels plying our waterways, what is the criteria for their operations? Also, the two per cent paid to NIMASA after any business is done, will help develop the local industry. The money is being banked and we found out they have not spent a penny. So we want to invite the minster and GMD NNPC to help us out and tell us why the business is being dominated by foreigners,” Folarin said. 

The invited parties are expected to appear before the committee after the Senate’s annual recess.