Few hours after the House of Representatives mandated the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency to stop plans to disburse $700m from the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund, shipowners and master mariners have said they will engage the lawmakers for further clarifications.
Media had reported that at the plenary on Tuesday, members of the House of Reps resolved to direct the Committee on Local Content to “immediately commence investigations of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund to determine all monies that have accrued to the fund since its establishment in the year 2003 and report to the House within 14 days”.
The Reps also directed the committee to engage an external auditor to audit all contracts that had been entered into in the Cabotage regime and report same to the house within 14 days.
The lawmakers further resolved to invite the Minister of Transport, Muazu Sambo; and the Director-General of NIMASA, Bashir Jamo, “to report to the House Committee on Local Content on the state of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund and how the funds have been applied over the past 20 years”.
The resolutions of the House of Reps were sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion of urgent public importance moved by a member of the House, Henry Nwawuba, titled ‘Urgent Need to Stop the Planned Disbursement of $700m Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund, and Investigate the Total Accrual of the Fund’.
Meanwhile, shipowners kicked against the lawmakers’ decision to halt the disbursement of the Cabotage fund and said they would be engaging the House of Reps to know the reason for their actions.
Speaking exclusively with our correspondent on Wednesday, the President of Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association, Mr Sola Adewumi, said that members of the association will be holding a virtual meeting on the development after which they will know when to engage the House of Representatives.
“We are holding a virtual meeting to talk on this. But like I told you on Tuesday, these are people that will be leaving the office in less than four weeks time. I will continue to say it, they have made a law, which the President has accented on. Can they through ordinary resolution cancel the law? It is not possible.
“So, I do not know why they are coming up with that, but definitely we are going to engage them to know why they are coming up with that resolution. Then, their resolution or motion cannot change what the President had accented on. We still engage them. How many weeks do they even have? But for continuity purpose, we will engage them because their resolution cannot be binding on the 10th Assembly. It is not possible,” he stated.
Also speaking, the President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, Captain Tajudeen Alao, said, “We have come this far, and we hope that this money would be disbursed only for this development. We need to engage them to know the reason.
“This is a political period and, therefore, you do not rule by decree. We have to engage them. We are ready to access the fund to boost the maritime sector. So, this thing came as a shocker. The banks are ready, the regulatory agencies are ready, the players – shipowners, operators, everyone is ready. We do not want our hopes to be dashed; therefore, we need to engage the National Assembly to know why.”