Indigenous shipowners have lamented abandonment and neglect of the shipping sector by the federal government before, during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking recently in Lagos, to announce the return of the association as one formidable body and intention to engage the government on its shipping policies, the chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Chief Issac Jolapamo, said the sector being capital intensive hasn’t enjoyed any government’s intervention nor incentives.
NISA also disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has not withdrawn approval for the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF), as widely speculated.
CVFF was set-up alongside the Nigerian Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act of 2003, to empower indigenous ship№ owners to take control of the nation’s coastal and inland shipping business, otherwise known as Cabotage trade.
Recall that minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi had recently accused indigenous shipowners of going behind to gang up against him after he fought for two years to secure approval for the disbursement of the fund. This, he said, led to the withdrawal of the approval for disbursement by the president.
However, Jolapamo said every other sectors of the economy have enjoyed government incentives in the past and even after the Covid-19 pandemic but none has come to the shipping sector.
He said, “No intervention or assistance for players in the industry from government. Only in Nigeria we see that maritime is not important, that is a sector that can fund Nigeria budget deficit yearly if properly harnessed.
“Funds were made available to other sectors of the economy especially during and after the Covid-19 pandemic but, none was made available to us. So many offshore vessels belonging to foreigners are working unabated with few Nigerians working onboard the vessels also, those working are low level officers so, Nigeria is losing out in capacity building as well,” he said.
Also speaking on the disbursement of CVFF, a member of NISA’s steering Committee, Capt. Taiwo Akinpelumi, said Shipowners will sought national assembly’s interpretation of the act establishing the fund to know whether its belonged to Shipowners or government.
He also affirmed that preliminary investigation by the group had shown that President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to withdraw his approval for CVFF disbursement.
Capt. Akimpelumi, who said the association has risen from the crisis that rocked the it for so many years said they are ready to fight and take possession of what belongs to them in the sector.
His words, “We have consulted widely and we realised that nothing like suspension of the fund but, we know there is an internal politics of moving the fund from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to the Primary Lending Institute.”
“We will take every steps to make sure the fund is disbursed, we contributed into the fund, I can assure that no withdrawal of approval but, on whether it is a government fund or shipowners’ fund, we will seek NASS interpretation but, going to court will be the last resort,” he said.
A former secretary general of NISA,Tunji Brown, who said shipowners supported the enactment of Cabotage act thinking it they will be better-off said poor cabotage act implementation has made the indigenous shipowners worse than ever before.
“Many of us has been in the shipping sector before Cabotage, we fought for the implementation of cabotage with the hope we will be better off but, that has not been possible.
He, however, disclosed that the factions in the group have all agreed to forge a common front to develop the nation’s shipping sector and maximise the potentials inherent in the sector.