NIMASA to ship owners: CVFF belongs to FG, you cannot surcharge yourself

  • NIMASA Director-General, Dr. Bashir Jamoh (right), Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, Victor Ochei, and Head, Corporate Communications, Philip Kyanet, during the media conference in Lagos

By Anthony Nwachukwu

Seventeen years after the fund was created, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has clarified that the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) does not belong to Nigerian ship owners but the Federal Government.

Fielding questions on the issue during a media parley in Lagos over the weekend, the NIMASA Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, Victor Ochei, described that belief as a misconception and clear lack of understanding of the provisions of the Cabotage Act.

According to Ochei, private funds do not go into government coffers, and the two per cent surcharge paid by shipping services providers into the CVFF is like tax and “you cannot surcharge yourself.

“It (CVFF) is the two per cent surcharge dedicated to financing coastal vessels, it does not belong to the ship owners and is not paid to their accounts but to the Federal Government accounts.

“The Federal Government enacted the law in order to surcharge every contract on coastal trade by 2 per cent. The CVFF account is not under NIMASA’s control, we cannot spend the money.”

Speaking on the disbursement challenges, the NIMASA Director-General, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, explained that it follows a process and “so far, with the way the Cabotage Act 2003 is, disbursement of the fund cannot happen now because of realities of operating from the TSA.

“All government agencies pay into TSA, so we have to follow this process. As at the time we came into office over a year ago, I called for the fund and we had $209 million and N32 billion.”

“From when the TSA was introduced, all funds by whatever name called have moved into the TSA. By that national arrangement, NIMASA is not even in charge of the CVFF. This is the reality which maritime stakeholders have to come to terms with.

“Like I said, the CVFF is warehoused in the TSA. Payments made by International Oil Companies and others go straight into the fund and we do not get daily updates. As it is, even if we want to do anything with or through the CVFF, we will have to apply for and get approval before doing it.”

Jamoh further disclosed that certain sections of the Cabotage Act might not allow easy disbursement of the CVFF because they are no longer in tune with modern realities, therefore the Ministry of Transportation is taking the law back to the National Assembly for a review.

“We have a law, but for 17 years we didn’t implement it, and didn’t see its strengths or its weaknesses. In 2019, the Minister of Transportation set up a committee to review the guidelines, maybe we would have to review the Act, Jamoh explained.

“There are lots of things in that law that might stand as hindrances or bottlenecks in terms of implementing the CVFF disbursement. Whatever it is, we must go back to the National Assembly for the review of that Act.”

Meanwhile, NIMASA is seeking that the disbursement be done with the law as it is, to reveal where the shortcomings are. According to Jamoh, disbursement of CVFF is a major challenge to the agency.

That notwithstanding, four undisclosed primary lending banks and 11 beneficiary companies have made the shortlist following the agency’s advertisement for expression of interest in its disbursement, he added.

“We have made our presentation to the Ministry of Transportation to oversee the four primary lending institutions as required by law, and come up with guidelines so that we can disburse. After this, the stakeholders would be asked to come up with the specifications of vessels they want to procure.”

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