By Stephen Ubanna
When President muhammadu Buhari, commissioned the $1.5 billion, Lekki Deep Port, on Monday, January, 22, 2023, Industry stakeholders were optimistic that it will spur the Bashir Jamoh led Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency , NIMASA, To initiate the process for the disbursement of the over $350 million and N16 billion , that had accumulated into the Cabotage Finance Fund, CVFF, over the last 17 years to the indigenous ship-owners , under the aegis of Ngeria ship-owners Association, NISA.
True to their optimism, the Management of the Maritime Regulatory Agency, were said to have met with the Executive Management of the five primary lending banks: UBA, Zenith, Jaiz, Polaris and Union banks, selected to manage and disburse the Funds, to assist the proposed beneficiaries of the Funds to procure ocean going vessels to participate in the country’s coastal trade currently dominated by the foreign shipping Companies.
As a prelude for the disbursement of the multi-million, North American country of the United States, US, dollars and the multi-billion naira, Funds, Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, had said that the agency will continue ‘’ to ensure effective communication with the NISA, CVFF Steering Committee.
Note that the CVFF is financed through a surcharge of 2% of the contract sum performed by any vessel involved in the coastal trade and monies generated from the Coastal and Shpping Cabotate Act of 2003, like tariffs, fines, and fees for licenses , waivers and other service charges that may be stipulated by the National Assembly from time to time. The Bill that was said to have been passed by the National Assembly that established the Coastal and Shipping Act, was into Law, by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003.
The money realised from the Cabotage regime was said to have been warehoused in the Single Treasury Account, TSA, opened with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, at the instance of the Federal government.
Emegng at a recent closed door meeting with the Management of the five selected banks that would manage the disbursement of the CVFF, Jamoh had described it as a major ‘’step towards the implementation of the disbursement of the fund as announced by Eng. Muazu, Jaji Sambo, the North central state of Taraba minister of Transportation in 2022.
An elated NIMASA , Chief Executive Officer, CEO, had said that their engagement of the banks was ‘’to ensure that the agency and the PLIs, are on the same page to ensure that the mistakes of the past disbursement of the Ship Acquisition and Ship Building , Fund , SSBF, did not repeat itself again .
He would want the lesson from the past experience to proof useful in the implementing the disbursement of the current Funds that will lead to the developing of the nation’s shipping sector and the Blue Economy, which is the in- thing the world-over now.
He noted that they are engaging the banks approved for the management and disbursement of the CVFF because they are the ones who have ‘’the Professional know-how in fund management and dispensing’’ , stressing that this will go a long way in ‘’helping the agency in the reduction of risk in order to avoid the same risks of SASBF, where the beneficiaries had diverted the funds to other uses instead of using it to procure ships, that could have increased the country’s tonnage.
Jamoh, who could not hide his feelings had said that the banks are expected ‘’to come up with the interest rate, tenor, collateral’’ and other requirements needed for the Indigenous shipping Companies to access the Funds.
Giving that shipping is an International business may have informed why the NIMASA, CEO, had aid that ‘’the interest rate should be of international best practices because the Fund being disbursed was in dollar denominated’’ and not in the local currency.
He may have gladdened of the Industry stakeholders when he stated that the CVFF regime is going to be ‘’a win-win’’ situation for all involved including the PLIs, urging the banks to look at the windows of opportunity inherent in the industry for the benefit of all the parties involved in the deal.
The seriousness of NIMASA Management this time around towards the disbursement of the Multi-million dollar, and naira denominated, CVFF, and to ensure accountability may have encouraged the PLIs, to applaud the initiative. Officials of the Banks, were said ‘’to have pledged their support towards ensuring judicious use of the Funds by the beneficiaries in order to ensure that accountability are guaranteed’’.
Sirajo Salisu, the Managing Director of Jaiz bank, may have spoken the mind of his Counterparts from the other PLIs, when he assured of prompt action towards disbursing the CVFF. Appealing to the interested Indigenous ship owners to be ready to access the Funds by abiding to the provisions of the Cabotage and Shipping Act of 2003, he disclosed that the banks would not compromise on that.
The Jaiz bank helmsman was said to have made it clear to those cares to listen, that they will ‘’try their best to partner with the proposed beneficiaries of the Funds. He would want the proposed beneficiaries of the CVFF, not see it as a grant but meant for a purpose to procure ocean –going vessels to participate in the county’s coastal trade which must be achieved
Mudassir Amray, Managing Director, Unio bank, Mrs. Emem Usoro, Executive Director, UBA, North, and Temi Ariboloye Change, Risk Officer, Polaris who were said to have also spoken at the all-important meeting between NIMASA and the PLIs, to prepare the ground for the disbursement of the CVFF, to the proposed beneficiaries, stressing their readiness for the disbursement of the Funds with proper supervision.
Osagie Edward, an Assistant Director and the agency , spokesperson, had given an insight to the Cabotage and Shipping Act of 003, which states that making the Funds available for the proposed Indigenous shipping Companies, NIMASA, would make available 50% of the Funds, while the PLIs are expected the project with 35% and the proposed beneficiaries and the remaining 15 % funds needed to make up for the acquisition of a vessel are to be contributed by the beneficiaries.