The Rector, Certified Institute of Shipping (CIS), Rev. Dr. Alex Okwuashi has blamed the delay in the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on politics.
Speaking in an interview with Primetime Reporters at Badagry recently, Dr. Okwuashi wondered why the fund which ought to have taken off earlier before now was yet to take blaming the problem on the conditions spelt out by NIMASA and the participating banks which according to him was too cumbersome for the indigenous ship owners to meet.
He regretted that up till this moment, nobody had benefited from the loan which was supposed to build the capacity of Nigerians in the shipping sector and those who may soon develop interest to participate in the international shipping business wondering how the sector would grow with the authorities manipulating the entire process.
He said,” we have discussed this somewhere and we believed they are not doing the right thing. It is like stacking the money in one bank for some people to trade with it. Cabotage was established in 2003, this is the eleventh year of Cabotage and it is not functioning”
“Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund ought to have taken off five years after the establishment. I believe five years is enough for working out the parameters for giving out this loan but the conditions spelt out by NIMASA and the banks that will administer this fund are too cumbersome and that is why today, nobody is benefitting from the fund because it is supposed to be a revolving loan. If you don’t give this loan, how can the sector grow? Cabotage Act is a capacity building process”.
“Don’t you see that it is a rape of luck, somebody is playing politics with the money and tomorrow, you will see this fund will not be there. The question is, all the billions that are now accruing from that loan, because NIMASA is supposed to put in some percentage into that fund, who is holding it and what is doing in that place about eleven years now?
He posited that a lot was going on that the stakeholders no longer want the manipulations calling on NIMASA and the Federal Ministry of Transport to scrap off the fund and invest it in other maritime infrastructure if they don’t want to disburse it even as he said that they cannot continue give lack of trust as excuse.
“If you know you don’t want to give the loan, then scrap the fund and invest it in other maritime infrastructure or activities because you cannot continue saying that you don’t trust People, that you gave out in the ship building and ship acquisition and they used the money to marry so many wives, bought many cars and so on. Then scrap the fund because a lot of people will tell you, government don’t have business funding this and funding that”, Okwuashi stated.
On the National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) of NIMASA, the Rector opined that NIMASA should train people based on the need and not just to be seen as doing something otherwise it would amount to a mere waste of time.
While stating that manpower development is based on the specific area of need, he questioned the rationale behind the training of seafarers when the efforts should have been geared towards training of engineers that would build the ships which the Seafarers to be trained thereafter should work in.
According to him,” in cabotage, you are talking of cabotage vessels built by Nigerians, crewed by Nigerians. You need to build it first before you crew. So, train the basic resource that you need to provide what you need. We can’t be training seafarers, they are bringing out what we called the output first before the input. The first input NIMASA will do is to train people that can sit down, disband these things and provide the infrastructure”.