•Disagree  on amount contributed in 17 years

From Idu Jude, Abuja 

As Nigerians and indegenous ship owners await Federal Government’s fulfilling it’s promise of disbursing over N2 billion cabotage fund, there are concerns over the real amount so far contributed  was as many are alleging that the figure may  have been tampered with by the government.

While the ndigenous ship owners iare saying that the $2 billion cabotage fund declared  by the Federal Government was far less compared to their contribution  over the past 17 years, others are saying that it may indeed be far less than what the government has declared. The Federal Government, recently announced that  arrangements were on to actualise the disburse the much-delayed Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) before President Muhammadu Buhari vacates office on May 29, 2023.

It was also recorded that the fund has accumulated to $350million and N16 billion in 17 years.

 To ensure a smooth disbursement, Minister of Transportation, Alhaji Muazu Sambo; the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA), Bashir Jamoh; members of the Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA) and Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), among others it was learnt have been discussing on how to ensure fair disbursement of the fund. 

Some of the major factors highlighted for fair disbursement of the fund include the establishment of the CVFF disbursement committee by the government; the need for an audit of the fund; issues of unrealistic guidelines for disbursement; disunity among shipowners; and the issues of equity contribution, among others.

Reports also had it that to ensure a transparent process, the DG NIMASA, Jamoh has been engaging stakeholders to ensure effective communication for seamless disbursement of the fund. Jamoh, during the meeting with NISA recently reassured Indigenous Shipowners of the commitment of the agency under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, to implement the presidential approval for the disbursement of CVFF.

Daily Sun gathered that debate between the ship owners and the Federal Government may spark disagreement and possibly stall the disbursement of the accrued money, which many have tagged non-existence.

Dr. Ibrahim Maihutu,  an industry player, told Daily Sun in telephone chart that there are more to cabotage funding under the present administration. 

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Maihutu, said that the money may be on papers but practically non -existence. “ What are they talking about and when you journalists call to ask this kind of questions, I feel disappointed. It is obvious that Nigeria has been highjacked by a certain cabal that decieve millions of people with their lies.

I can tell you categorically that the money in question is not there. The reason why the money is being mentioned, is because it is election period and that they seek people’s votes. It is time for political lies. So that many Nigerians will once again cast their votes for them. Another reason is that they couldn’t hide their face after the exposition of the former Minister of state Senator gbemisola Saraki, who at the verge of leaving office, revealed that lots of money is there waiting in the cabotage funding savings. Before that revelation, no one knew that such money is accrued and ready for disbursement. They have always denied such huge amount of money. 

My fear now is that many people are confused the more about the money and timenof disbursement owing to conflicting statements from government agencies, which is a sign that the money is already gone”.

A senior, Director Ministry of transportation, whose spoke to our correspondent in confident, said, “I heard of caboutage funding disbursement as a surprise. This is because Iam in the dark about the whole thing and I can tell you that in my capacity and position in that ministry, I suppose Iam in the position to know of such file in such huge amount of money must pass through my table. But in subconsciously, I heard the Minister of Transportation Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, my own minister recently in Lagos talking of disbursement of caboutage funding to indegenous shipping companies. For me it does not make sense because people may be carried away that money is on the way. And to the fact that a FEC member has spoken”.

Our source, further noted that what portends danger here, was the sudden announcement for disbursement with no prior knowledge of such by senior Directors in the Ministry, who possibly should prepare the paper work readiness for disbursement. 

According other sources, the ship owners at a different meeting led by the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the association, Chief Isaac Jolapomo, noted that the association has sent a delegation to NIMASA to seek clarity following the controversies surrounding the disbursement of the CVFF.

The Director General  NIMASA Dr. Ibrahim Jamoh in respect to the news making the round on disbursement, reportedly informed that $350m is currently in the dollar account though he cannot give the exact figure of the accruals in the naira account, as it is yet to be reconciled. He also noted that the $350m has been allocated to five financial institutions.

The minister was said to have listed banks  Union Bank, Polaris, Zenith Bank, United Bank of Africa and Jaiz Bank.

He added that the guidelines for the funds are very clear, saying that applicants will contribute an equity of 15 per cent, NIMASA 35 per cent while the balance of 50 per cent would be provided by the approved banks.