By Isaac Anumihe
After 14 years of non-implementation of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), which is now over $100 million, the Federal Government has begun the review of the scheme with a view to disbursing the fund to qualified shipowners.
President of the Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Mr. Greg Ogbeifun, also told newsmen during a briefing to kick-start the association’s end-of-year Workshop and Dinner for Shipowners, in Lagos, at the weekend, that the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, is now looking at the guidelines for the disbursement of that fund with a view to either adopting the guidelines he met or reviewing it for presentation to the National Assembly before the implementation of the scheme.
Contrary to the expectation of stakeholders that the shipowners should take up arms against the authorities over the non-disbursement of the fund, Ogbeifun said that the association will rather engage the authorities constructively until that is achieved.
“We will continue to engage them so that if it is not in our own generation of shipowners, subsequent shipowners must access that fund. Having said that, I am optimistic that within the lifetime of this present administration, we should see the successful implementation of that fund. We are continuing to engage the government without being belligerent. Everybody wants us to go and fight and make noise. We don’t think that is the right attitude. We are engaging constructively on that,” he said.
He described as false, allegations that no shipowner qualified to access the fund, saying that six of the shipowners met the guidelines. The president wondered why those six were not given the fund after taking them through some rigorous processes.
“The allegations that the shipowners did not meet the conditions were not true because at the risk of modesty, the whole country knows that the last administration of government went through the process of implementing the guidelines of disbursement through its agencies – that is NIMASA and Ministry Transportation – to a point where six companies met the conditions. I know that my company was one of those six.
“Subsequently, I and my shareholders were invited to Abuja for biometrics at the SSS where we spent the whole day because, according to them, the then president wanted to confirm the true owners of the companies.
“Secondly, the last Minister for Transportation, Umar Idris, was invited by the National Assembly to come and explain why CVFF wasn’t disbursed. Again, six of us were invited to that hearing where the Minister himself read out his report that six companies had been found eligible and that the list had been sent to the president for his accent.
“Any person insinuating that no shipowner was eligible is a liar. It is not all the shipowners that applied. There are clear guidelines for the application of eligibility. If I am a shipowner and I don’t have any project that necessitates my buying a ship, I don’t have to apply for a ship.
“Our position in SOAN is that we are not even saying the whole six should be given; start the process. So, it is not about numbers at all. Break the jinx. If they give it to one person, all of us will celebrate. It will be the first in 14 years,” he said.