The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has said that despite the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari authorising disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) to eligible ship owners, the money accrued to the fund will not be disbursed because of a stumbling block mounted by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
The Cabotage Vessel Financing fund (CVFF) was established under the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, 2003. The law empowers the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to disburse the fund to Nigerian ship owners through select financial institutions with the sole aim of increasing indigenous ship acquisition capacity. Disbursement of the is, however, subject to the approval of the Minister of Transportation upon recommendation by NIMASA.
Monies accruing into the fund is made up of a surcharge of two percent of the contract sum performed by any vessel engaged in Cabotage trade in Nigeria as well as tariffs, fines and fees for licenses and waivers granted to vessels.
It is believed that more than USD250 million has so far accrued into the CVFF account.
However, more than 18 years into the implementation of the Cabotage Act, no Nigerian ship owner has benefitted from the CVFF despite several promises by the present and past Ministers of Transportation and Directors General of NIMASA.
“Concerning the disbursement of the Cabotage fund, the President made an approval saying we should go ahead and disburse. So also the Attorney General, but the law says it is private money. However, the Ministry of Finance has protested that it is a public fund, so what would I do? I’m handicapped,” the Minister told reporters on the sidelines of a two-day retreat organised by the Federal Ministry of Transportation in Lagos on Friday.
Amaechi advised ship owners, whom he called “owners of the fund” to write a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to protest its non-disbursement.
“The owners of the fund have the right to write the President and copy me. Then I’ll go back to the President. The law says the fund is not public. The Ministry of Finance does not have the right to upturn the law and say the money is public which is against law.
“Now that the ship owners are aware that the fund has been approved for disbursement, and they are aware of the protest from the Ministry of Finance, they have the right to write to the Presidency, and if the President gives me a go-ahead, nothing would stop us from disbursing. But for now, the technicality of the law is hindering the process,” he said.