The prolonged non-disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund, (CVFF), has been labeled as one of the biggest setbacks for indigenous shipping development in Nigeria.
Despite the humongous sums so far contributed for close to decades by the ship owners, not a singleton has been added to indigenous shipping capacity via the financing of ships as intended by the fund, a problem that maritime consultant, Ishaku Shekarau has said could further deteriorate the nation’s shipping sector.
Shekarau stated that the underlining concern was that the Nigerian operators do not have cargoes to lift even if they managed to secure a platform adding that the excuse was hinged on the fact that a good proportion of cargo in the petroleum sector inclusive of Agro Chemicals, Construction, Dairies, etc are available for carriage by Nigerians.
He also questioned the move by Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, (NSIA) and the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) to have sponsor Agro-dealers with money not contributed by them, and then deny maritime operators their statutory right to borrow from funds contributed by the operators.
“To what alternate purposes are the funds being applied and what is the relevance of this application to our national maritime development objectives?” he quizzed.
While commending the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari for the gains recorded in the transport sector, oil and gas, ensuring food security through the Presidential Fertilizer Initiatives (PFI), the maritime consultant described the CVFF as a critical sore-point Buhari’s administration that must not be left unattended before the end of Buhari’s tenure.
He also said that besides the advantage of using the funds to purchase vessels or construct shipyards, it will directly or indirectly create employment opportunities and training opportunities for the teeming Nigerian youths.
He, however, urged Mr. President, the Minister of Transportation and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA), to recognize the CVFF as a specialized tool that should be applied only to its specific purpose.
Shekarau also noted that non-attainment of 24 hrs cargo clearance target at ports and terminals, vehicular congestion at the ports and non-competitive port charges compared to neighbouring countries are pertinent issues ravaging the maritime industry.