The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has denied having any knowledge of a waiver approved by the ministry for foreign vessels operators.
Amaechi made this declaration when he appeared before the Senate Joint Committee on Local Content, Downstream Petroleum and Legislative Compliance on Thursday.
The committee is investigating the breach of Nigerian Laws by foreign vessels in coastal shipping of petroleum products in the downstream sector of the Nigerian Maritime Industry.
In his submission, the minister said that he was not aware of any waiver given to the vessels by the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
“I have never interfered with the process of governance of any structure that I superintend over.
“So if NIMASA says I know what they are doing, I don’t know.
“I became aware when they wrote to me and said I should answer the Senate.
“I have not approved any. He (the Director-General) should run to me if he wants waivers approved. There is nothing on my table from 2015 till date. I don’t have any waiver on my table.
“First they claimed that none had been issued.
However, on whether there was such a request in the ministry before he became minister, Amaechi said:” I have not checked that.
“I have to confirm that by asking the Permanent Secretary to do a study to find out if there is any before we came.
“In 2010, 168 persons applied for waivers. In 2011, 208 applied not before me.
“In 2012, 333 persons, in 2013, 448, in 2014, 377, in 2015, 413 persons applied.
“I came in 2016. In that year, 374 persons applied but I didn’t see their application,” he said.
The minister pledged to work with the National Assembly Committee to ensure that Nigerians had the maximum benefits in such relationships.
“There is first, the need to call NIMASA and see what is going on, what is the status of the vessels that are operating in Nigeria.
“The basic thing in Nigerian waterway is not even those foreigners. It is the level of insecurity and the fact that the National Assembly has refused to pass the law approving the setting up of coast guard which would have been the saving grace of all these.
“It is the coast guards that would have found who is operating and who is not,” he said.
Earlier, Chairman Senate Committee on Local Content Sen.Teslim Folarin recalled that in Dec. 2019, the Senate debated a motion.
“The motion was titled “Urgent need to investigate the breach of Nigerian laws by foreign vessels and coastal shipping of petroleum products in downstream sector of the Nigerian Maritime industry which was sponsored, Sen. Olamilekan Mustapha.
He said that the committee was mandated to carry out an investigation with a view to unravelling the influx of foreign vessels in the coastal region and the level of patronage of Nigerian Shipping Companies.
Folarin said that other mandate of the committee was to Investigate the flagrant abuse of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act 2010 and Cabotage Act 2003 respectively by the operators and stakeholders in the maritime industry ship to ship transfer of coastal foreign vessels.
“Investigate foreign freight associated with downstream activities repatriated overseas by NNPC to the detriment of the local economy or patronage.”