Agbakoba Blames Non-Disbursement On FG’s Interference
There are fears in some quarters that members of the Nigerian Ship owners Association (NISA) may not be able to meet up with the year 2020 deadline given to them to change their single hull vessels to double hull vessels.
This is coming on the heels of the confirmation from Primary Lending Institutions (PLIs) that the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (VFF) has been depleted by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Recall that the Federal Government through the NIMASA had given indigenous ship owners up to year 2020 to change all their single hull vessels to double hull according to international standard.
The government had directed the ship owners to acquire the double hull vessels because of the pollution of the waters by single hull vessels due to susceptibility to leakages among other reasons.
The fear was expressed by one of the chieftains of NISA who declines hi name in print because he is not permitted to speak for the association.
According to him, the depletion of the fund may hamper the successful transition from single hull to the double hull within the given time because the fund would not be available for the members to access for the purchase of the double hull vessels.
In his words, “The effect is that it may not make us to be able to successfully move from single hull to double hull. By international expectation in 2020, we should be able to make Nigeria domesticate it.”
The effect of inability to transit to the double hull will mean that Nigeria vessels will not be able to trade in international waters as well not making it impossible for indigenous ship owners to lift the Nigerian crude.
He however said that it was difficult for anyone to be able to ascertain the true state of the depletion as a private individual.
“There is problem of being able to freely know what government agencies are doing when they dontn want you to know.
The people talking about depletion might have gotten the information from reliable sources,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of NISA, Engr. Emmanuel Ilori while speaking with our correspondent on phone, lamented that it would be a grave thing if the fund is no longer intact as it is being peddled but dismissed it as a mere rumour that has not been substantiated.
Engr. Ilori said, “Don’t forget it is a serious situation if the CVFF money has disappeared and if it is true, government should investigate to see if the money is there. As far as we are concerned, it is an unverified rumour and unsubstantiated allegation.”
He therefore advised that nobody should jump the gun by saying the fund has been depleted adding that nobody could establish the allegation yet.
In a related development, a maritime lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba SAN said the disbursement of the intervention fund failed because of undue government interference.
The legal luminary said that by reason of incompetence and inefficiency, the agency was unable to disburse the fund over the years.
“The reason CVFF and the ship acquisition fund is not going well is because of undue government interventions. It is not the function of the government to be a bank that is my point and manager of CVFF,” he said.
He however queried why NIMASA which is not a financial institution would be allowed to administer or determine which company that gets the fund.
Speaking further, he said, “Whether by reason of incompetence, inefficiency, the funds are not available, why do they collect it when they know they won’t disburse, he queried.
Continuing, he added, I said this because I know no one has benefitted from the fund so far.”
He therefore tasked the president-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that his government builds Nigerian shipping capacity through creating a National Guarantee Agency (NGA).