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Finance, Transportation Ministers fight over CVFF

Amaechi pleads handicap, as Jamoh clarifies issues


HMOT Amaechi

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Fresh facts emerging indicate that indigenous ship owners are in for a much longer wait to access the Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund (CVFFN), a tripartite financing vehicle established 17 years ago to support indigenous shipping development and capacity participation in coastal transportation of crude and allied products.

Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi hinted that the Fund has been placed under ministerial detention at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), despite presidential directive for its disbursement.

Looking genuinely concerned, Amaechi lamented his handicap in getting the Funds to the primary end users, who constitute one leg of the contributory tripod.

The transportation minister who was fielding questions from the maritime press, after much efforts to  evade the issue of CVFF, opened up, saying the Fund is tied down and not available for disbursement, following opposition from his counterpart at the Ministry of Finance; who wants the fund disbursed by the CBN, , contrary to the Cabotage Act.

Apparently unhappy about the development, Amaechi explained that the matter is presently out of his control, noting that the ship owners are at liberty to seek windows of resolution, and may complain to the President of the Federation if they so wish.


This is even as the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh clarified that the matter is undergoing rigorous inter-mediation process between the CBN, the Federal Ministry of Finance and Transportation, NIMASA and Primary Lending Institutions (PLI), shortlisted for the transaction.

The following dialogue ensued between Amaechi and maritime reporters, who practically waylaid him after much waiting at the venue of a two days ministerial retreat for agencies under the transportation ministry at Oriental Hotel Lagos, Friday.

 Hon. Minister Sir, what can you say about the ongoing retreat, what are the highlights?

The meeting has not ended, you just said so, until the meeting ends, l cannot give you a position. You are asking me to summary a decision that has not been made.

Okay can the minister give us a synopsis of what is happening?

I cannot, you too know what is happening here. We are not here to play, if l am looking for a place to place, there are many places in Abuja. We gathered here for appraisal of our activities, to llok at what we have done right and what is left to be done.  What have we done to make success of what we set out to do? We are gathered here despite Covid-19 for this things and l wouldn’t want to expose somebody’s life to danger, so we are here for serious business. So wait, two papers have been presented, when we are through with the others, l can then tell you what and what we discussed.

HMOT Sir, one of the issue of CVFF has dragged for so long, l know that is one of the issues you will be discussing here, when are you going to disburse the fund?

Wait until we finish and l can then tell you what you want to know.

 Why is the CVFF taking so long?

Government is working on the disbursement, l hope that very soon, it will take place.

As transportation minister, what would you say are the major things happening in the maritime industry?

As maritime reporters, you cannot tell me you don’t know what is happening in the industry. Some of you have dealt with the maritime industry more I have, and you are closer to players and operators more than l am. Part of the reason we are here is to see if we can take the maritime industry to the height we have taken the railway. We want to ensure that investments are working.

There’s still much maritime insecurity and you have less than three years to go

I think we have been addressing maritime insecurity. The reasons vessels are unable to go to Port Harcourt, Warri and other places is because of the high cost of insurance as a result of insecurity. So, if we address the  root cause of insecurity, the high cost of insurance will reduce, which means more ships will go to those places l mentioned, and it means more businesses.  You were there when we launch the DBP Assets, now we are monitoring to see how much it would translate into. We said we will turn NIMASA from contract awarding agency into a regulatory, performing agency, we have achieved that.

Last year you said you have directed that the CVFF should be disbursed, you keep shifting the goal post to the extent some people are thinking that there is money in the Fund, and that government have spent the money.

Spent the money how? l don’t know about that.

So where is the money, why are you always playing hide and seek with the money, ship owners have been waiting for 17 years.

So you want know where the money is, to write what government have done with it. The President has approved, he said go ahead and disburse.

The Attorney- General of the Federation said the law says it is private funds and you can go ahead and disburse. The Minister of Finance protested that it is a public fund and therefore cannot be dispensed. What do I do?

Is the minister saying he is handicapped?

Exactly, I am handicapped.

What will be the fate of the ship owners who contributed part of the fund?


 The owners of the money should therefore write to the President and copy me. Then I will go back to the President. The law says the money is not public funds; the minister of finance is the one holding it down. Now that the owners of the funds are aware of the approval, and aware of the protest of the minister of finance, they should write.  If I have the letter, I will go back to the President.

Reacting however, Jamoh waxed diplomatic, as he attempted to ameliorate the political impact of his boss’ confession, explaining that the dealy associated with the disbursement is technical, and that all the critical stakeholders are working to achieve a common front before disbursement of the fund is undertaking. Jamoh also clarified that NIMASA was not party to the delay or in agreement with the finance ministry to detain the fund.

His words, “The Minister said he spent two years to get the approval from the President for the disbursement of the funds. But he was made to understand that between the Ministry of Finance and NIMASA that approval has been tinkered with. There were changes to the approval given by the President and that changes have to do with where the money has to be disbursed. NIMASA was not a party to that.

“The money is presently in the treasury single account (TSA) and the directive we were given was to disburse the funds from the commercial banks. So when the Minister sought the approval of the President to disburse the funds, the Finance Ministry rejected the option of disbursing the funds through the commercial banks. So the approval came in the second time but that the disbursement has to be made from the TSA, that is, the CBN.

Amaechi, ministry’s top chiefs and CEOs of parastatals

“What the Minister was saying is that the guidelines stipulate that the money should be disbursed through the Primary Lending Institution (PLIs) and the CBN is not a PLI because it is not a commercial bank. The approval that came in now says disburse it through the CBN. What we are doing now is to find out how we can wriggle ourselves out through the utilisation of the TSA, that is, CBN and without tinkering with the existing laws or the guidelines by the National Assembly which says the funds should come through the commercial banks.”

Jamoh noted that in spite of the stalemate, NIMASA has worked around the clock, trying to rework the processes to align with the guidelines, in order to ensure that the delay is reduced.

“So what did we do?. We still went ahead, advertised expression of interest, eleven banks applied. We have sent the names of the 11 banks to the minister. According to the guidelines, the minister will be the one to select the four PLIs among the 11 banks sent to him. In doing so, he has directed me to clear some issues which I have already made clear during my presentation at the retreat.

“These are the things he wanted me to do and by the time am finished with the directive, I will revert to him with the answers. From that answers, if the Minister is cleared about them, he would now appoint the four PLIs from the 11 shortlisted banks sent to him. With the PLIs approved, NIMASA and stakeholders will sit down and say ok, you PLIs, the money is not with you, but with the CBN. How does the PLIs get involved with this particular transaction without having the funds in your kitty?

“We still abide by the Federal government directive because we are sending it to the successful companies through the PLIs because we have to recover the money; banks have to recover the money. This is where we are going. That is why the Minister said there was a problem with the disbursement of the funds.

“That is the problem. There are technical hitches. The first approval to the Minister was that he could go ahead and disburse. He then came and said ok, let us transfer the money in the TSA from the CBN to the commercial banks. But the Ministry of Finance said no and they went to the President and said the money should be disbursed directly from the TSA which is domiciled with the CBN.”

Efforts to cross check with the office of the finance minister failed, as telephone call to the ministry’s director of media failed to connect. Also text message sent in respect of the matter was not replied as at the time of going to press.


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