By Godfrey Bivbere
The Federal Government has effected a change in its trade policy switching from the regime of Free-On-Board, FOB, to Cost Insurance and Freight, CIF.
Disclosing this development, Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Barr. Hassan Bello, in an interview with one of the private television stations, also said that the Federal Government has expanded the National Fleet Implementation Committee with the inclusion of the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Nigerian Import and Export Bank (NEXIM), in what is believed to be government quest to have a guaranteed, timely and robust strategic recommendation to kick start the new national carrier.
The initiative which is championed by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Transportation close to two years has failed to materialize owing to what insiders term protracted conflict of interests, unviable proposition templates, and weak steering team spirit among others.
The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, had told select maritime journalist who visited him in Abuja that the problem was how to secure local funding for the project, having identified willing foreign investors with their counterpart funding, in place.
Amaechi said Nigerian ship owners did not have the required capital to meet their side of the financial obligation, and were looking up to the banks for bail out.
He however lamented that Nigerian lending institutions were not willing to get involved, but declined to state the reasons.
Speaking on the expanded implementation committee, Bello said, “There is an initiative by NIMASA which the Shippers’ Council the Executive Secretary/CEO of Nigerian Shippers’ Council is involved and NNPC is also changing the Free-On-Board (FOB) policy to Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF). ‘‘Preliminary meetings have begun and a committee has been set up and Shippers’ Council is also a member of that committee.’’
Bello who doubles as the chairman of the committee expressed confidence that ship owners and other operators would invest in the national fleet because the committee according to him, will come up with an attractive package that will immediately stimulate players and operators interest. He said the mistakes of yester years where unwarranted free services, tax and duty holidays were the order of the day for departments of government and friends of government will have no place in the present arrangement.
“Once we have a national fleet, we would accord it the status of a national carrier according to NIMASA. The implication is that for the carriage of all cargoes coming to Nigeria, that carrier would have national priority for the federal government, state government and local government cargoes and this is substantial because all imported items for power, rail and other projects that would be carried via these ships”, he said.
Bello further stated: “The agreement guarantees profitability for the investors. There are also other exemptions, in the past we didn’t pay duties on the ships that we import but we will pay now. We want that waiver to be given to the ships in the national fleet. We have studied how the process is done in other countries where it is very liberal. This is because owing and maintaining a ship brings significant benefit to a nation’s economy. The freight to be earned would be spent here in Nigeria.”