By Frank Odinukaeze
After waiting for seventeen years for the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), potential beneficiaries may have to still wait a little longer as the Nigerian Indigenous Ship- owners Association (NISA) has concluded plans to delay the disbursement of the fund over lack of trust for the present government to equitably disburse the fund.
This stand was taken by the group in a meeting in Lagos on Thursday.
The Chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT), NISA, Chief Isaac, Jolapomo ,noted that the fund is likely to go into wrong hands hence their resolve to delay the disbursement.
” We know that that money will go into wrong hands,if this present government is allowed to do it.So we will delay them ,so that we can know how much is there” he said.
The group which also threatened strike action to drive home their demands noted that the association hand written both the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA),and the Federal Ministry of Transportation,via its Lawyers ,seeking disclosure of the current amount in the CVFF account,however neither the NIMASA) nor the Transportation Ministry responded.
According to the Chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT), NISA, Chief Isaac Jolapomo,
“Last year, a letter was written to NIMASA and the Transport Ministry while Hon. Rotimi Amaechi was the Minister. NISA sought the total sum collected under CVFF because we hear confusing figures. We want the federal government to account for that money because it should be more than $2billion and I’m being conservative.”
“CVFF was setup for a specific purpose. Ship-owners won contracts and got paid for their services and a percentage of their earnings was collected to enable but vessels. So, the question of ownership of the fund isn’t debatable”
In an interview with Jegede Paul,he expressed concerns over the total amount collected so far for the CVFF
His words,” The first step is to really know how much is the fund. This is because we’ve had different figures from different Ministers. Some will say it is just 200 million, others will say, 400 million. And this has been on for more than 17 years. How much is this money?” he said
Jegede also expressed worry over the modalities for sharing the CVFF fund
“Another thing is, what are the modalities for sharing this money among the contributors? This money belongs to shipowners. It is from shipowners’ contracts. It is not government money. So, we need to know how much and they need to give shipowners the opportunity to come out with suggestions on the modalities for disbursement so that nobody would feel cheated. So that you don’t find a situation whereby a company who is just two or three years old , taking part of the money, using political influence. That will not be right” he stated.
Jegede argued that the Minister that is presenting the CVFF for disbursement is not a Maritime person. Stressing that,” Recommendation from shipowners is important to make it meaningful, otherwise the money will not have any substantial addition to the industry”
High point of the meeting was the constitution of a six-man steering Committee, to explore all avenues to ensure accountability in the CVFF disbursement, while also demanding an audit of the CVFF collection since inception in 2003.
Members of the committee are: Paul Jegede,Rev.Feyisola Famutimi, Engr.Emmanuel Ilori,Dr.Edward Sowho, Sola Adewunmi and Goke Ojo.
Dr. Edward is the Chairman of the ommittee.
NISA,will hold its next next election on January 26th, 2023,even as the group admonished the Steering Committee to reach out to all aggrieved members in order to bring them into the fold before the elections.