The issue of the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has again assumed the front burner.
It is on record that a lot of assurances have been given by the agency through its various Directors-General and Chief Executives in the last four years that the fund will soon be disbursement, yet we have not seen any beneficiary.
The CVFF was created solely to empower indigenous operators in the shipping sector to enable them complete favourably with the foreign counterparts, but, till this moment, there is no hope in sight that the fund will ever be disbursed soon, in spite of the several promises by the NIMASA Management on the disbursement of the fund.
There will be no point trying to discuss the various assurances given by the agency in the past, but the latest assurance came two weeks ago when NIMASA said that a total of 14 companies have again been shortlisted to benefit from the fund.
Director-General of NIMASA, Mr. Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, who was represented by agency’s Director, Cabotage, Mrs Oruwa Etete, at an event in Lagos said that the 14 firms were recommended by the primary lending institutions(PLIs) selected by the agency for the disbursement of the fund.
Akpobolokemi explained that the disbursement of the fund was delayed to ensure that those who will finally get it are those that will make judicious use of it.
It was good piece of news to hear, but, with the benefit of hindsight, one to be taken with a liberal pinch of salt, because SHIPS & PORTS DAILY had reported last year that six indigenous companies have been selected as those that will be the first set of beneficiaries CVFF after emerging from the screening of proposals submitted to the four PLIs.
At another forum, the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, said that eight companies have been selected and are waiting for his approval.
These were indeed two confusing statements, but many stakeholders were expectantly-happy that, after such a long time, the fund was to be eventually disbursed.
However, as the eager stakeholders waited for the disbursement of the fund, another twist was added to it, to the effect that the disbursement of the fund was not to be, allegedly on the ground that the companies recommended were not those shortlisted by the PLIs.
Arising from the earlier statement of NIMASA that six companies were selected based on the recommendations of the PLIs, and the latter conflicting statement that they were not those recommended by the PLIs, how are we sure that these 14 companies that NIMASA has lately said would now benefit from the fund are those that the PLIs have recommended?
NIMASA claims that 14 companies have been selected, but information has it that applications for the beneficiaries of the fund are presently before the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, so where did NIMASA get the 14 companies?
The Minister’s Media Assistant, Mr. Innocent Ebirin, confirmed that the Minister is currently involved in the screening of the applications for the CVFF.
A reading of the situation is indicative of a depressing communication gap between the Federal Ministry of Transport and its parastatal, NIMASA. The resultant effect is the Minister and the NIMASA Management working at cross-purposes in such a critical issue as the disbursement of the CVFF.
A lot of politicking has played out between various parties over the disbursement of the fund, and is clearly still playing out between the Ministry and NIMASA. Unfortunately, it is so and so much at the detriment of the development and growth of the Nigerian maritime industry.
For over six years, NIMASA has been warehousing the fund and has been quite voluble in reeling out statement of account regularly, yet no Nigerian has benefited from the fund.
While certain structures have been put in place for the disbursement of the CVFF, such as the PLIs arrangement, to avoid the issues that surrounded the disbursement of Ship Acquisition and Ship Building Fund (SASBF) superintended by the defunct National Maritime Authority (NMA), it is obvious that the PLIs and NIMASA have issues between them, resulting in the unnecessary delays in effecting real-time disbursement of the fund.
Therefore, the Federal Government, through the Presidency, should move in to save the country of this embarrassing situation by ensuring that the fund is disburse promptly.
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