Call for disbursement guideline
By Godfrey Bivbere
FOLLOWING the Federal Government decision to commence disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, CVFF, next month, stakeholders have called for the auditing of the fund to ascertain the actual amount in it, even as they faulted the announcement with guideline for the disbursement.
They are, however, in disagreement over who benefits from the fund. While some want priority to be given to those that have contributed to the fund over the years, others say it should not be restricted to ship acquisition alone.
Speaking to Vanguard Maritime Report, immediate past president of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, SOAN, Greg Ogbuifo, called for the auditing of the fund to ascertain how much is in it claiming that no one seems to know for sure what the fund is worth.
Ogbuifo also said consideration should be given to those that have contributed to the fund over the years, adding that measures should be taken to prevent diversion of the loan by the beneficiaries.
In his words: “It is a very welcome development that the president has given the approval but I think it is necessary for things to be done properly. Number one, it is important that the actual amount in that account be established because nobody seems to be very sure as to the actual amount that is in that account and to do that, my sincere opinion is that the minister should get the NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Commission) to appoint a world class accounting firm to carry out audit of that fund from inception to date.
“That way we will know the exact amount that is supposed to be in the account because the minister cannot say he wants to disburse money if he does not even know how much money is in there. So this exercise is the most important exercise to be carried out. My company has been contributing to that fund for more than 10 years and we have the record of every dollar and cent that has been collected from us by our charterer for the fund.
“And I am sure other ship owners would have their own records; NIMASA who receives the fund should have their records, the banks’ records should be there. The International Oil Companies that collect the funds at source from us should have their own record. So it is quite easy to do that. When that is established, then they will know to what extent that money can go to meet the requirement of the ship owners. When that is done, for me, any ship owning company that has not contributed to that fund yet should not be in the first batch of people to be considered.
“Those who have contributed to that fund over the years should be given the first consideration. Then the applicants must present viable, verifiable transactions that they want to be funded and those transactions should be such that have the ability to pay back the money. The minister working with relevant financial experts can now sit down and workout the guidelines and modalities to ensure that the fund is protected and the recipients use the money for the purpose for which the money is meant.”
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Skelas Group, Olayiwola Shittu, speaking to Vanguard Maritime Report, faulted government announcement of the plan to disburse without first putting the guideline in place. Shittu who is the immediate past National President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, said the announcement has left the door open for those with connection to begin lobbying to be amongst the beneficiaries.
According to him: “Have they released the guidelines or are they going to call Shittu and give him a cheque? Consultation or not, all those things should have been done before announcement. With the announcement, everybody will start putting pressure, using who they know to be a beneficiary, especially when they do not have anything at stake and that is how they are going to rubbish that laudable effort.
“The minister should have met with the stakeholders, done the due diligence, done the guidelines and everybody should have contributed to it before announcing the disbursement. Look at today’s date now and look at January. They like these fire brigade approach. This thing has been lying down all these years, they were not doing anything. They want to appease people by saying we are going to disburse the CVFF. Are they doing us a favour by releasing the money? Have they given the guidelines? These are the things we should be looking at.”
Founder of the Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics (LADOL) Base, Oladipo Jadesimi, said the decision is a welcome development because of the benefits if the fund is properly disbursed to actual users. The LADOL boss said that government should also consider ship repairs and shipbuilding when disbursement of the fund commences next year.
He stated: “I think the emphasis should not be on ship acquisition alone but more emphasis should also be on developing shipbuilding and ship repairs. All the government needed to do is to give incentives to private operators that have the capacity to do so.”