14 May 2014

Nigeria: N50 Billion Cabotage Fund Idle As Shipping Industry Fizzles Out

The Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund (CVFF) which hit N50 billion in January this year has not been disbursed, a year after six indigenous shipping firms were selected by the Ministry of Transport to benefit from the fund.

This is in spite of the poor health of many local shipping companies for which the fund was set up under the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003, commonly known as the Cabotage Act. The process for the disbursement of the fund started since 2012.

The fund is currently in the custody of four banks approved as primary lending institutions for the long-awaited disbursement of the CVFF. The banks are Skye Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc and Sterling Bank Plc.

The CVFF is however managed by the transport ministry through the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The chief executive officer of one of the selected beneficiaries of the fund, Star Marine Ltd, Mr Greg Ogbeifun, said he was at a loss about the current situation or level of processing of the fund.

"We have provided all documents that we were asked to provide but we have not heard from NIMASA since then, and that is over 12 months now," Ogbeifun said.

NIMASA, disbursement agent keep mum

When LEADERSHIP met with the NIMASA director-general, Mr Patrick Akpobolokemi, at an industry programme in Lagos on Monday to know the state of the fund, he declined comments.

Chairman of the Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA) Dr Isaac Jolapamo said he had no knowledge of what the apex maritime regulatory agency was doing with the fund.

"The last time I heard about the CVFF was when the minister (Idris Umar) said they had shortlisted six indigenous shipping companies that would get loans from the fund. One of the six companies is our member and the company has not got any loan," Jolapamo said.

The CVFF is a special fund set aside by the Cabotage Act 2003 to help develop the local shipping industry; 11 years later, the Cabotage Act has not been enforced by NIMASA and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Although petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke last month said 60 per cent of oil lifting contracts were awarded to indigenous shipping companies for 2014, the NISA chairman faulted the claim, saying the minister might have not understood who the indigenous shipping companies were.

Nigeria's indigenous shipping company, with potential to employ about five million people, has remained the poorest in sub-Saharan Africa, as the operators swim in the pool of indebtedness. Jolapamo said his members owed banks about N480 billion.

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