*Outlines achievements in 100 days
By Eguono Odjegba
IN a bid to improve the accessibility of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, CVFF, the Federal Government is set to roll out a new framework for a relaxed risk hedging in the fund.
Disclosing this in a media chat, the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh, said the committee set up by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has concluded work on the new framework, adding that it would be sent to the minister this week.
Though he declined to give details of the new framework, Vanguard Maritime Report learnt the major changes were on the structure of contributions to the loan and the guarantee clauses.
It was further learnt that the committee removed most of the burden for de-risking the loan away from the participating banks.
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He expressed frustration that the CVFF has failed to deliver on its promises more than a decade after its conception.
Consequently, he said that with the view to making it responsive to the projected operational stimulus, risk control, financial responsibility and to adapt to present day reality, the federal government has subjected the CVFF to a review, further administrative processes and screening. This, he added, is with a view to enhance its viability, sustainability and implementation.
Jamoh, however, stated that he and his executive management resolved to be as practical as possible in getting NIMASA to pursue a portfolio of critical policy implementation that will redefine the objectives of the Agency, reset its value framework and obligations and to act expeditiously.
To this end, the NIMASA boss announced that his administration hit the ground running with a tripod mapping framework he dubbed, 3-S, namely Maritime Security, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development, essentially designed to rejig the maritime sector and redirect its primary aims and objectives to gain traction, while not neglecting its revenue making components.
Together with his executive management, Jamoh said NIMASA landed a total of 27 suspected pirates within its first 100 days in office, as a proof of its new orientation and strategies. Of this number, he said the Nigerian Navy apprehended 10 while 17 were arrested by the Nigerian Police, largely through improved intelligence network and information sharing in collaboration with NIMASA.
According to him the prosecution of the suspects under the new Nigerian anti-piracy law is expected to begin this week.
Fielding questions on CVFF, he said, “On the issue of Cabotage being the weakest score point in NIMASSA, I like to agree with you but the critical point of Cabotage is one, ownership. Today in Nigeria I don’t know how many people have the money to float new ships to participate in the Cabotage Act. Our ship registration has a lot of bottlenecks, so many people don’t want to register using our flag.
“The Cabotage Act provides certain guidelines; if you don’t have the money, this is what you should do. If you don’t have the ownership, this is what you should do. If you don’t have the manning or registration, this is what you should do. We are doing our best to activate the Cabotage Act. We are now reviewing the Act.
“You see when you draw up a policy, through the implementation you will observe a lot of lapses and loopholes, and you have to re-engineer the policy. We are now at the verge of re-engineering the Cabotage Act, because we have spent over ten years implementing the policy. So the Act is presently undergoing a review. At some point when we wanted to disburse the CVFF, the issue of single treasury account, TSA, policy came up and created bottleneck. So the Minister of Transportation is pursuing the review of the CVFF.
“I have been appointed the chairman of the CVFF Disbursement Committee by the Minister of Transportation. We are working to disburse the CVFF, maybe before October, we hope to be able to disburse the first leg of the fund to beneficiaries.”
On maritime security, Jamoh outlined a critical layout the implementation of which he believes will positively address maritime insecurity and bring down the curve.
He stated: “NIMASA is very much aware of what the issues are. The dearth of platforms is part of the reasons we are having security issues. We have discovered that there are criminal elements from other countries that come to Nigerian waters to carry out illegal activities. We have declared zero tolerance for maritime insecurity and fortunately for us, we now have the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences, SPOMO, Act to deal with maritime crimes.
“We are set to arraign the 27 suspected pirates. This is a test case of the workability of the anti-piracy act; a test case of Nigeria authority whether we can actually act or whether we are toothless bull dogs, who will arrest somebody and release him at the end of the day. This is what is giving the international community concerns.
“To make our anti-piracy law effective, we will be investing much on intelligence gathering. If you look at the three-Point S, we concentrated on our core mandates, the primary function of the agency is what we are looking at; revenue is secondary. Maybe before now we concentrated more on revenue but now, with the international community getting very concerned about maritime insecurity, how can we ride primarily on revenue?
“We will take our revenue in the course of discharging our responsibility. In terms of crude oil shipping, we will collect our sea protection levy, in terms of Cabotage we will collect our two per cent Surcharge, in terms of international shipping we will collect our two per cent Levy. Revenue is important but not the most important thing; maritime safety and security is.”
To provide greater traction, NIMASA management, according to Jamoh, has also reinvented the Agency’s tactical approach in the deployment of its infrastructure, assets, platforms and manpower. Jamoh stated that synergy and collaboration between it and sister agencies like the Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Ports Authority, are closing gaps, harmonising and synergizing to be able to have a more coordinated strategy, secure a common focus and increase results.
To this end, he said that NIMASA’s C4i, Nigerian Naval Falcon Eye and NPA’s C3i maritime security domain platforms will henceforth operate as a coordinated network for greater operational efficiency, effectiveness and for the common goal.
While admitting policy weakness in the duplication and overlapping of the security platforms and functions, he said the present government is committed to move away from such conflicting roles and focus on objectives and overriding national interest.
He stated: “We have the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, GMDSS, fully operational and our Deep Blue Project equipment and facilities are 80 per cent ready while we expect the remaining components to arrive the country soon, The Intervention vessels, the Special Mission Crafts and others are fully on ground and ready to go.
“Where NIMASA has more of the priority capacities, NIMASA should take responsibility; where NPA has more of the priority, NPA should take responsibility, and where National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, has the priority capacity, it should take such responsibility. We are not talking about insecurity only in our territorial waters but the entire sub region and the Gulf of Guinea, GoG, and the need to also act.
“NIMASA Regional Maritime Coordination Centre, RMCC, located at Kirikiri area of Lagos State is supposed to coordinate maritime information among nine African countries in the West and Central African region, and will resume functioning by September 2020. International stakeholders and African Maritime Administration are working out a proposal on joint monitoring. At our level in NIMASA, RMCC is operating four platforms in Kirikiri and TakwaBay, and RMCC in Oron and Bonny.”
Trade Transit Corridor
Further on new developments Jamoh said international maritime stakeholders are currently discussing with NIMASA and the regional maritime administration on enhanced security in the Gulf of Guinea, GoG, with the introduction of a Trade Transit Corridor, TTC, security infrastructure network.
Responding to questions of criminalities along the critical waterways and the lagoon in Bonny, Escravos and Bayelsa axis, Jamoh said, “There is a proposal by the international stakeholders on what is called Trade Transit Corridor, TTC. TTC means they will have trade on fast lane in terms of entering Nigerian territorial waters or going out.
“To participate, we will be deploying all our assets, human and material resources. So if you have a ship for instance and you are coming from wherever, we will now guide you on the safe route to follow that is fully protected by the Nigerian Navy and other participating security agencies.
“This is the aim of TTC, when they came up with this idea in January this year. It was discussed with the Minister of Transportation and theMinister of State for Transportation, and it was in turn discussed with the Nigerian Navy. The minister and I have discussed it with the Chief of Naval Staff, CNS.
“The CNS said he will set up a committee to look into the proposal. Maybe it will work. For the time being, the proposed TTC is supposed to operate in three zones, three waterways that can be used. They are the Central Zone that is Warri axis; Eastern Zone, which is Port Harcourt axis; and Western Zone, Lagos axis.”