- Explains loss at IMO
By Ray Ugochukwu
The Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh, on Friday in Lagos, cleared the air on the controversies surrounding the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), saying the facility is still intact.
This is contrary to speculations making the round that the CVFF, a fund set aside for shipping development in the country, has been diverted to other projects by government; hence the inability to disburse it to potential beneficiaries.
Jamoh said the money was quite intact in the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) where it was being warehoused.
The NIMASA boss made this clarification while briefing the media on the agency’s scorecard in the last one year, saying that a lot of political and technical hitches had caused the inability to disburse the fund to beneficiaries.
“Let me observe here that there has been a lot of misconception about the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund. The money is intact at the TSA of the Central Bank. Nobody has touched it. It is there.
“The problem is that there are political and technical issues hindering its disbursement. You know, even in your house there is politics; everything we do in life there is politics. I agree that there is some politics surrounding the Fund but the main problem is technical, resulting from the guidelines which I believe with time, will be sorted out”, Jamoh said.
He gave a hint on part of the technical problem where he said the guidelines specified the percentage financial inputs of the disbursing banks, the beneficiaries, the agency, among others, before its disbursement, which constituted a big obstacle. He however expressed optimism that over time, the nagging issues would be sorted out and the Fund properly administered.
The Director General indirectly made it clear on the ownership of the facility, which is the government, adding that that was why beneficiaries would have to apply for it and even when the vessel had been procured, its management would be monitored by government. He said such vessel could still be withdrawn from the fund beneficiary if it was discovered that the ship was not properly managed.
On why Nigeria could not succeed in its bid to secure the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Council seat in the last election, he blamed it on the poor image of the country among the international community. He regretted that where there was any maritime crime around the west coast today, for instance, the proceeds of such acts would be traced to Nigeria, a development he said had made the country a pariah of some sort.
In his words, “People are asking why we failed in our bid to win the IMO election; I don’t know why people hate Nigeria so much. We tried as much as possible to canvass for votes but unfortunately the name Nigeria is always associated with criminality. Even our neighbours don’t like to hear about Nigeria. It’s that bad!
“If there is piracy or kidnapping, say in the waters of Togo, you’ll discover that the proceeds will be found in Nigeria. So, the mention of Nigeria is synonymous with criminality”.
Jamoh however vowed that his administration would begin to put measures in place that would ensure that subsequent regimes of NIMASA sailed through in the return to the IMO Council.
He said this would be achieved through the improvement of bilateral relationship with other countries, embarking on training and retraining of personnel; sponsorship of technical bills that would make impact in the organization as well as trying to correct the poor image of the country among member states.
He however wondered why the country’s failure to clinch IMO seat had overshadowed its recent success of heading the Maritime Organisation of West African Countries Association (MOWCA). To him, he said this was a great achievement as Nigeria, since its inception, had remained the most benefactor of the organization and yet had none of its citizen as even an ordinary staff.
The Kaduna born NIMASA boss raised an alarm over the poor outing of seafarers that sat for Certificate of Competency (CoC) examinations in 2020/21, saying the agency was investigating why the poor showing.
In the officers’ cadre, for instance, he said 829 sat for the examination in 2020 with only 264 scaling the hurdle, showing a 32 per cent pass while in 2021, candidates that passed were 246 and had their certificates revalidated with 565 failures.
According to him, the same scenario played out in other seafarers’ cadres for which he said NIMASA would be liaising with the various training institutions in order to find ways to mitigate the situation.
“You can see very serious and negative features in terms of our students sitting for professional examinations of different certificates. The agency is liaising with the various institutions to see how we can address this gap. There are so many factors attached to this, and we hope that before the middle of 2022, we will overcome these challenges”, Jamoh said.
He regretted that by the poor showing of students at examinations, there had been rejection and discrimination against Nigerian seafarers both locally and internationally. He added that that was why the agency had to introduce online seafarers’ Certificate of Competency verification platform that allowed shipowners to access the candidates that passed the examinations from their offices.
Nigerian seafarer cadets
On the contentious issue of the Floating Dock procured by the previous administration, the NIMASA boss made it clear that ordinarily, the agency should have no business with such a facility. He however, said since it had been brought, it had become Nigeria’s asset and should not be allowed to waste.
He therefore said before the end of the first quarter, it would be deployed to use under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. He added that presently they were negotiating with a managing partner for its share of ownership, even as he said the agency already had the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) as copartner, who would provide the infrastructure for the project.
Jamoh said these steps were being taken to avoid the agency bearing the humongous cost of the venture all alone.
On revenue generation, the DG disclosed that NIMASA had tripled its contribution to the Federation Account as it remitted the sum of N31.83 billion in 2020 while N37.7 billion was also paid in 2021. For 2022, Jamoh hoped that the agency might reach the “Promised Land” but did not disclose any projected figure.
He explained that the agency was not a revenue generating one but the Act establishing it made it mandatory for such annual remittances.