The House of Representatives has ordered the immediate suspension of the planned disbursement of $700 million Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund to Nigerians and companies by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance brought before the House by Henry Nwawuba.
The House also asked the Minister of State for Transportation and NIMASA Director-General 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 House also directed the agency to present an audited statement of account showing all monies that have accrued to the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund within seven days.
In the same vein, the lawmakers directed its Committee on Local Content to engage an External Auditor to audit all contracts entered into in the cabotage regime and report the same to the House within seven days.
The Committee was also mandated to commence immediate investigations into the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund to determine all monies that have accrued to the Fund since its establishment in 2003 and report to the House within 14 days.
In his lead debate, Hon. Nwawuba said: “the House notes that the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, 2003 to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity by providing financial assistance to Nigerian operators in the domestic coastal shipping.
“The House is aware that in addition to monies allocated to the fund by an Act of the National Assembly, the fund draws from two percent (2%) of all contract sum performed by any vessel engaged in the coastal trade, and all monies generated pursuant to the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, 2003;
“The House is concerned that since the establishment of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund, there have been no reliable data as to the total amount that has so far accrued to the Fund and thus, there is no certainty as to the actual worth of the fund at the moment.
“The House is also concerned that since the establishment of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund in the year 2003, there is no record of any Nigerian citizen or company who have officially benefited from the fund as stated in the Act.
“The House recalls that in 2018, the then Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Dr Dakuku Peterside said the agency had concluded necessary documentation needed for the disbursement of the CVFF. He gave the accruals from the fund at that time to be in excess of US$100 million however, there is no record of such disbursement.
“The House also recalls that Mr. Rotimi Amaechi (the then Minister of Transportation) said in December 2019 that Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund disbursement would commence in January 2020; however, the funds were not disposed as promised.
“The House further recalls that Dr. Bashir Jamoh, Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, on April 4, 2023, during the Institute of Maritime Studies’ first annual lecture at the University of Lagos in Akoka, said that the government will disburse the sum of $700 million to Ship Owners before the end of the current administration.
“The House is worried that the matrix, procedure and condition of the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund is obscure and not transparent and not wholly in accordance with the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, 2003.
“The House is also worried that more than 20 years after the enactment of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, 2003, the Ministry of Transportation in collaboration with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) have misappropriated the funds designated to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, and that the Act has not achieved its objectives,” he noted.
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