By Eromosele Abiodun
As the federal government continues to falter on its promise to disburse the $100 million (N36 billion) Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF) in the first quarter of 2019, ship owners in the country have pledged to fight for the disbursement of the fund.
The fund, which is domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), is meant to be used to help indigenous operators acquire vessels to gradually take over from the foreign operators who dominates the business.
Newly elected President of Shipowners’ Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Mkgeorge Onyung, while speaking to journalists in Lagos, said the association would constructively engage the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Federal Ministry of Transportation over the disbursement of the fund.
He said the intervention fund was created to aid Nigerian ship-owners to boost operational capacity and compete strongly in cargo freightage and that the fund must be disbursed for that purposes.
He said: “The CVFF is created for the benefit of indigenous ship-owners and the fact that it had not been disbursed means that something is definitely wrong somewhere. So, I will come back with my team to look at what are the possibilities and what is the real nagging problem so that we can address it squarely for the benefit of the country.
“It is not my job to ensure CVFF is disbursed but I believe government is working on the disbursement but we will create a team that will address all issues that affect our members and the CVFF is one of them.”
He said executive members would look at the best way to ensure that CVFF is disbursed to our members.
Onyung, said the task ahead for the new executive was enormous, adding that its members would support NIMASA’s five years’ waiver cessation plan for the actualisation of Cabotage Act.
The newly elected president also promised to build an association that would engage stakeholders in the sector constructively to enable Nigeria become the hub in the West and Central Africa region.
He added: “The task for the future is very enormous; I want to see a very smoother relationship with our stakeholders and regulators. The shipping industry to be moved to the next level and creating a formidable team that will engage stakeholders. l will work with them and engage them positively.”
Also speaking, the immediate past president of SOAN, Greg Ogeifun, expressed regret on the non-disbursement of the CVFF by the government.
He said the non-disbursement had affected activities of ship-owners to compete favourably in the sector globally.
“I think Nigerian maritime sector has grown tremendously and the Nigerian content act is working with NIMASA to give opportunities to Nigerians who want to be ship owners. The challenge still remains that the funds that is statutorily designed to help the acquisition of ships by Nigerians is still being locked up by NIMASA and the ministry of transport.
“That fund has to be released to be able to allow Nigerians acquire the ships and be able to take their rightful position, otherwise the opportunities for foreigners will continue to be there, “Ogbeifun said.
He pledged to dedicate his contacts, time and resources, to the success of the incoming leadership.
Members of SOAN newly elected executive are: Eno Williams (1st Vice President); Sonny Eja (2nd Vice President); Babalola Adefarati (Financial Secretary/ Treasurer); Lucky Akhiwu (Chairman, Technical Committee); Wisdom Nwagwu (Chairman, Training and Capacity Building Committee; ) Dr Louis Ekere, Chairman, Ethics and Privileges Committee amd Iroghama Obuoforibo, Chairman, Finance and Membership Committee.