The much expected Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund(CVFF) will soon be disbursed by the Federal Government to enable indigenous shipping operators compete favorably with their international counterparts.
Minister of Transportation, Mu-azu Jaji Sambo stated this last week when he visited the National Inland Waterways Authority, Area Office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
No time is fixed to this plan, considering that it has been repeatedly said by past ministers of transportation, Sambo is however convinced that the government can pull it through this time before the end of this administration as he moves to resolve the encumbrances from the Ministry of Finance and Budgeting as well as Ministry of Justice.
Industry observers are of the belief that CVFF disbursement will be the greatest legacy of President Mohammadu Buhari’s led government in the economy if consummated.
The CVFF is an intervention fund created by the Federal Government for the development of indigenous shipping capacity in Nigeria to enable them maintain existing vessels or purchase new ones.
Describing the CVFF as a low hanging fruit, the Minister said it would support maritime activities which is the gateway to the nation’s economy, adding that “if we get our acts right, the maritime industry can replace the revenue from the oil” .
The fund now in the neigbourhood of over $300million has been a subject of controversy between the contributors, who are ship owners and the government. While the government lays claim to the fund as statutory revenue to it, operators cite the extant law which spells that it should be disbursed.
Findings have also shown that the growth of shipping industry in Nigeria is tied to lubricating the indigenous operators to own and run vessels which invariably will provide crewing and sailing opportunities for the army of jobless seafarers in the country.
Sambo, who was also the former General Manager, NIWA, visited the National Inland Waterways Authority’s Area Office in Port Harcourt where he commissioned two Patrol Boats (PB – Gusau and PB – Jalingo) as well as a 32- Seater Passenger Ferry Boat to enhance operational efficiency and encourage water transportation.
The Minister disclosed that while he was at the helm of affairs there, he did not only maintain the amount of revenue set by his predecessors, but surpassed it.
“When I came here, a lot of people were wondering if we are going to succeed. But I did not only sustain the level of revenue that was sustained by my predecessors, but I even surpassed them,” he said.
He commended the Managing Director NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu, for the giant strides attained, saying: “Seriously, MD, l am happy I came here today. If I didn’t come, I would not have known the strides you have achieved. Without doubts, I think you have made the greatest impacts of all the Managing Directors that have served the Authority”. “Your tenure has moved the Authority from level 5 to Level 9”.
He described inland water way transportation as the cheapest and safest means of moving goods and persons and key to development of any country, especially that endowed with water.
Furthermore, the Minister observed that Nigeria is blessed in that regard as 28 States of the Federation can be accessed by water, hence the need to develop the sector.
While promising to provide support in any capacity, he called on the MD to quickly operationalize the Marina Area Office in Lagos which has been identified as a hub for trans- shipping cargoes from Lagos through the Inter-coastal routes like Warri and Onitsha.
Earlier, the Managing Director, NIWA, Dr. Moghalu, informed that in less than a year, the Agency commissioned more than twenty patrol boats, as well as a house boat, tugboat and water ambulance for distribution to various Area offices of the Authority.
According to him, the act is part of the Agency’s vision to ensure that the nation’s Inland waterways provides a truly safe, efficient, cost effective and alternative mode of transportation of goods and persons as well as become competitive and attractive.
Speaking further, Moghalu said:”The huge opportunities that abounds in the nation’s Inland waterways can only be maximized if concerted efforts are geared towards the development of infrastructure and proper funding to make the waterways attractive and competitive to players”.
While answering questions from newsmen at the BUA Ports and Terminal Limited, situated at the Rivers Port, the Minister expressed delight at the progress of work, saying: “we are making good progress, bringing this place to a world standard,” but urged the operators to ensure completion by 2025.
Furthermore, the Minister assured that as part of the railway modernization policy, rail lines would be linked to the seaports for effective and efficient haulage of cargoes.
The Minister was accompanied on the trip by the Director, Finance and Accounts, FMT, Umaru Hassan who represented the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, Directors, MSD, Legal Services, Rail, Press, Babatunde Sule, Pius Oteh, Jimoh Yusfu, Eric Ojiekwe, respectively.
Others were: Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bello-Koko, Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Fidet Okhiria and the Registrar, Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding, in Nigeria, Sam Nwakohu among others.