Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, appears to have been under undue pressure from indigenous ship owners to start the process for the disbursement of the Cabotage Finance Fund, CVFF, d omiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
The Fund which is a two percent deductions from every contract awarded under the Cabotage regime had been domiciled in the CBN, over the last 17 years it was established by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and subsequently sustained by succeeding Administrations including the present Administration of President Muhammed Buhari, a retired Army General.
The pressure on Jamoh to embark on the disbursement of the Fund, by the ship owners became more pronounced foryear much of last and now. This is because the NIMASA boss who had made a Commitment to do so before the tail end of December, 2020 but failed to keep to it.
He may not have taken some factors into consideration before making the unfulfilled promise to disburse the Fund. Many believe that his avowed intention to ensure the country’s fleet expansion as obtained in other maritime nations may have encouraged him to make the promise to win the heart of the industry stake holders. He got it wrong.
But coming into terms with the reality on ground that there are Legal defects in the implementation of the act, which needed to be reviewed by the National Assembly before the agency could go ahead to disburse CVFF. This may have informed why Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of Transportation and a former governor of Rivers state had to push for a review of the Act and which is currently being done. The NIMASA Director General may have alluded to this at a briefing in Lagos, on Friday, June 25, 2021, to give his scorecard of his one year office.
Describing the Cabotage Act as one of the agency challenges at present in the disbursement of the CVFF, the NIMASA , Chief Excutiv Officer, CEO, is optimistic that’’ once the Lawmakers could quickly review the Act by the National Assembly.
As a prelude to ensuring that the Credit facility that would be granted to the indigenous shipping Companies would be Judicious used without being eroded by the continuous devaluation of the naira in the Foreign Exchange Market, the NIMASA officials were said to have made a case make case for a Concessionary foreign Exchange rate incentives for the industry stakeholders to be able to procure new vessels to beef up their fleet. The agency officials were said to have suggested that Companies going for ships with second hand value should be made to pay higher duty which could afford to build new ships should be allowed to pay less duty while those who go for fairly vessels should be made to pay higher duty.
It could not be ascertained whether Godwin Emifiele, the CBN, governor has agreed to do so. There are indications that 11 shipowners had been penciled down to access the 17 year -old Fund but that was how far the agency could go pending the review of the ACT , by the National Assembly.
Note that CVFF, which has a naira and dollar component in the apex bank as at June 25, 2021, had about N132 billion and $209 million. That much was confirmed by Victor Ochei the agency Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Service at the instance of Jamoh, the Director General. Unknown to many it was a projection by the Jamoh led Management t keep the ship owners hope alive.
For those who think that the disbursement of the CVFF this time around would be like the much abused Ship Acquisition and Ship Building Fund, SASBF, which was scrapped by Late General Sani Abacha, a former Head of State in 1995, may have to bury the thought and think of other better things to do.
Recall that Amaechi, the minister of Transportation, had repeatedly made clear to the ship-owners, that those who are putting undue pressure on the NIMASA, Management to allow them access the Fund that ‘’every beneficiary would be held accountable for the credit facility’’. Hear him: We will not allow people to take money from the Fund without proper Framework to service their Loans, noting that if it is not serviced by the beneficiaries the purpose of establishing the Fund would be defeated as the nation’s bFleet expansion would be stunted.
This may have informed why the minister had said that for effective monitoring of the disbursement of the CVFF, the parties have agreed to set up a Committee that will draw up the guidelines for the disbursement of the CVFF so that people who borrow from the Fund would know that they have an obligation to return it for others to borrow in other to grow the country’s shipping sector.
Given an insider information to the workings of guidelines for the disbursement of the Fund, he had told those that cares to listen that the guidelines that would be drawn up by the Committee would be taken to the National Assembly for ratification. It could not ascertained whether the Committee had be set up with the ongoing review of the Cabotage Act by the National Assembly.
Jamoh may have taken advantage of the briefing in Lagos to speak on the multi-million dollars failed Global Maritime Distress Safety System, GMDSS, radar installations in Kiri, Takwa Bay in Lagos, Escravos Bonny, Rivers state and Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Akwa ibom state. The Satellite facility, if it had been completed, Jamoh had said would have been a major boost to the country’s maritime domain awreness response capability. He noted that it could have also been used beyond Nigerian waters as its services could have extended to the Gulf fofGuinea, to identify ship positions in real time which can greatly enhance ‘’search and rescue, plot search and rescue patterns, detect vessels that swtch off their automatic identification system, AIS, as well as navigate the satellite image for information.
Giving his insider information, the NIMASA boss, had said that the agency had achieved 70% of the project. Hoowever, he said the contract may not have not fully executed because different contractors were engaged to supply different equipment instead of awarding the GMDSS, contract to single Company to handle. Again, it was one of the challenges that was said to have been inherited by the previous NIMASA Management headed by Dakuku Peterside. Note that Jamoh, was part of the Team in his capacity as the Executive Director, Finance and Administration. He is optimistic that the next two months the Takwa Bay installations in Lagos would be completed.
He was said to have also used the opportunity of the briefing which may see as reeling out his scorecard in the last one year in office to speak on the 195 Deep Blue project. Note that the contract was awarded to the Isreali security firm, HLS International Security Systems and Technologies Limited. Though, the contract was awarded by the Buhari Administration in 2017, based on contract –Financing agreement in 2017, but the NIMASA, boss said the contraisreali firm actually started the project in 2018. He disclosed that based on the agreement, the government makes a monthly payment to the firm to facilitate the project.
He may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he disclosed that most of the maritime security assets arrived the country towards the tail end of last year. The security items that were said to have been delivered by the company included 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol, two Special Mission vessels, 17 interceptor boats, two Special mission aircraft for surveillance of Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic zone, , EEZ, three Special mission Helicopters for Search and Rescue operations and four unmanned Aerial vehicles.
Note that Coordinating Maritime efforts the agency had set up a central Command and Control centre at Kirikiri, Lagos, popular, 4ci. The centre is also expected to liaise with other regional security efforts. The NIMASA helmsman had said that 600 personnel drawn from the military, Department of State Securty , DSS, NPF, Nigerian Civil Defence Commission, NCDC, including the agency personnel have been trained to man the Assets by the Isreali firm.
He had confirmed that the International Chamber of Shipping, INTERTanko, Intercargo and BINCO as well as Oil Companies and and Internatonal Marine Forum, were said to have expressed their views that ‘’it will seriously on the ability of the Pirate Groups to attack Merchant vessels.
With the deployment of the maritime Assets last February , the NIMASA , boss who could not hide his feeling had said that between January and now , there reduced cases of attack on ocean going vessels unlike what the situation was in the past. Given a breakdown of the monthly attacks, he had said that in Janauary, there was only one recorded incident of attack in Nigerian waters, February, no incident, March one and May two incidents of such attacks. Jamoh, may have gladdened the heart of ship owners and indeed, Nigerians, when he said that his target is to achieve zero attack on Merchant vessels in Nigeria waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
Given the news making the rounds in international maritime circles that Nigerian waters is the most dangerous to Navigate in the world and trade, Jamoh, who is determined to eliminate the stigma on Nigeria with the promising drop in Pirate activities , had asked Lloyds Insurance and other International Insurance Companies to stop charging War Risk Premium, on Nigeria bound cargoes. He was said to have made it clear to International insurance Companies that ‘’the Nigerian waters are no more dangerous and therefore, should be declassified’’ to bring down the cost of doing business in Nigeria. Although Foreign Insurance Companies appear not ready to bow to the NIMASA Authority pressure to stop the high premium on Nigerian bound cargoes but Jamoh has vowed ‘’ to continue to talk to the International Insurance Companies until they reduce the charges’’ .