After withholding the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund for 17 years, President Muhammadu Buhari has finally approved the disbursement of $ 350 million Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF) to local Shipowners.
Speaking yesterday at the flag-off ceremony of the third phase of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Program (NSDP), held at the Naval dockyard in Lagos, the minister of Transportation, Engr Mu’azu Sambo, disclosed that the president approved Five banks, Zenith, Polaris, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Union and Jaiz as the Primary Lending Institutions for the disbursement of the fund.
LEADERSHIP reports that the CVFF was an intervention fund created to enable indigenous shipowners to build capacity, maintain existing vessels and also to acquire new ones. The fund had grown to $350 million in 17 years of its existence.
Speaking, the transportation minister said President Buhari, further approved that the fund should be further disbursed to shipowners immediately after it hit the $ 50 million threshold in the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
Sambo said “President Muhammadu Buhari has approved my request for the disbursement of the CVFF Fund. Finally, we are breaking the 17-year-old jinx.” He continued, “we have made a case that the fund belongs to the Nigerian shipowners and the president who is a respecter of the law, therefore, approved the disbursement of the fund with immediate effect.”
“We shall approach the minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), for the immediate disbursement of the fund.
Sambo assured that even though the CVFF Fund which has hit over $ 350 million is warehoused in the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of the federal government, it would be transferred to the approved primary lending institutions for disbursement.
“We have pledged to the president that they would continue to allow the funds to go into the TSA, however, whenever the money hit the threshold of 50 million dollars, the central bank of Nigeria upon recommendation from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the federal ministry of transportation, would ensure the transfer of the funds to the primary lending institutions,” he stated.
However, the minister, stated that the implementation of the Cabotage act by NIMASA has further increased the demand for seafarers in Nigeria.
He stated that the NSDP initiative targeted training globally competitive officers that will erase the unfortunate discrimination that exists between local and foreign-trained officers in practice.
His words, “ the implementation of the coastal and inland shipping policy increased the demand for Nigerian seafarers which as at that time was in gross shortage. In addressing the aforementioned shortfall the Federal Ministry of Transportation and NIMASA midwife the Nigerian Seafarers’ Development Programme (NSDP) in 2008.
“The program as an intervention was designed to train Nigerian youths to become seafarers. The choice of foreign Maritime Training Institutions (MTIs) was mainly based on the capacity and certification of the Institutions in the area of maritime training (STCW) by IMO. The initiative targeted training globally competitive officers that will erase the unfortunate discrimination that exists between local and foreign-trained officers in practice. However, efforts are ongoing in the area of upgrading local Maritime Training Institutions to enable them to take up the NSDP training in the near future.”
Speaking earlier, the director general of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, stated earlier that the program was designed to train Nigerian youths in Marine Engineering, Nautical Sciences and Naval Architecture in some of the best Maritime Training Institutions (MTIs) abroad.
He stated that the training was to position the cadets and make them compete effectively in the global Maritime Industry.
“It was noted that the number of Nigerian seafarers on ocean-going vessels before now had depleted over the years and the urgent need to boost it adequately for effective implementation of the coastal and inland shipping policy of the government, informed the initiative.
“At some point, it was said that Nigeria had less than ten (10) Seafarers on ocean-going vessels, while countries like the Philippines had over Four hundred thousand (400,000), and currently earn over Six billion U.S dollars ($6,000,000,000.00) in forex inflow from their seafarers employed around the world.
“Countries like India, Indonesia and China also have their nationals all around the world working in the maritime industries. It is hoped that with continuous progress made and better projections in the NSDP, Nigeria will soon be among the major players in the global maritime sector.”
“It is important to note that from inception to 2020, the program has enrolled 2,041 students, while 892 are now licensed deck and engine officers including naval Architects, the rest are in the final stage of the program. It may please the minister to know that about 486 of the graduates are now gainfully employed and sailing in both coastal and ocean-going vessels.”