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Disagreement between Ministers of Transportation, Finance stalls CVFF disbursement

— I am handicapped, Ameachi laments

— We are resolving the technical hitches, Jamoh assures

Eyewitness reporter
The distraught indigenous ship owners, who have gone wary of endless wait for over 17 years for the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessels Financing Funds (CVFFN) that never was, may have to brace for a long wait as the controversial funds will not be disbursed any time soon.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, has declared that the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has protested against the presidential approval to disburse the funds.
Speaking to journalists Friday in Lagos at the two-day ministerial retreat for agencies under the Ministry, Ameachi pointedly accused the Minister of Finance of truncating the disbursement of the long-awaited CVFF.
“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.
“But the Minister of Finance protested and said no, the money is a public fund and so cannot be dispensed.
“So what do I do?’ the Minister asked rhetorically.
“I am handicapped”, he confessed.
However, he asked the owners of the funds to take their own destiny into their own hands by protesting to the President through a letter which they should copy him to enable him to go back to Mr President on this case.
“The owners of money should therefore write to the President and copy me and I will then go back to the President.
“The law says the money is not public funds. The Minister of Finance does not have the right to advise that it is public funds.
“Now that the owners of the funds are aware, they should write to say ‘we are aware of the approval and we are also aware of the protest by the Minister of Finance.
“If I have the letter, I will go back to the President” Ameachi reiterated.

Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance

However,  the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) tried to mitigate the candour and forthright approach of the Minister to the bureaucratic bottleneck that has dogged the CVFF disbursement.
He acknowledged that there are problems of technicalities over the disbursement of the CVFF which his agency was working to resolve before the funds could be disbursed.
“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 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 from where the money has to be disbursed.
“NIMASA was not a party to that”
“The money is presently in the 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.
“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.

Bashir Jamoh, NIMASA DG

“So what did we do?. We still went ahead, advertised expression of interest.
“11 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 do you involve yourselves (PLIs) with this particular transaction without having the funds in your kitty?
“Or are you(PLIs)  going to talk to the CBN, after selecting successful companies?
“The CBN will then forward the money to the PLIs, that is, if a company succeeds in its application for the funds, the money will not be given to such company directly but go through the PLIs because PLIs have to contribute.
“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.”, concluded Jamoh.
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I was never in charge of maritime industry —Saraki

Senator Gbemisola Saraki, Minister of State for Transportation in a hearty discussion with Amaechi when the going was good


Eyewitness reporter

For three years after she was named the Minister of State for Transportation in 2019, Senator Gbemisola Saraki said she was never in charge of the maritime sector.
Her assertion contradicted the gentleman’s agreement between her and Rotimi Amaechi, who until his resignation from Mohammed Buhari’s cabinet to pursue his failed presidential ambition, was the Minister of transportation.
Amaechi,  as the then supervising Minister, in 2019, had delineated the duties of the two heads of the ministry to avoid any possible clash of interests.
At one of the public functions held in Lagos in 2019 at the beginning of his second term in office as the Minister of Transportation, Amaechi publicly declared that while he would focus his attention on railways due to the enormity of the project and its importance to the national economy, Saraki will be in charge of the maritime industry with his occasional supervision, especially as it concerns maritime security.
Ameachi had then acknowledged that he had abandoned the maritime industry for the rail sector when he first served as transportation minister from 2015 to 2019 but said his minister of state, Senator Gbemisola Saraki,  will fill the gap during his second term in office.
“In my first term as minister, I completely abandoned the maritime sector to the heads of agencies.
“This time around, that won’t be happening again as I have instructed that the Hon. Minister of Transportation for State should personally supervise the maritime agencies, while I just oversee what is happening” Ameachi had declared.
However, Senator Saraki subtly debunked the claim three years after when she said that she was never in charge of the sector.
The minister was reacting to an inquiry from the curious journalists last week Friday why it took her one year to the end of her four-year tenure to come on a familiarisation tour of the sector she was supposed to be superintending.
“I was never in charge of the maritime sector. I was asked to supervise road transport”  the Kwara State-born politician declared.
Her revelation confirmed the widely held belief among the stakeholders that there was a repressed and smouldering animosity between the two Ministers.
Though Saraki tried to downplay the cat and mouse relationship with her former boss, stakeholders however believed that the two Ministers never got along well with each other.
Sources pointed to instances when the two Ministers were tactically avoiding joint attendance at maritime events.
Impeccable sources whispered to our reporter that the festering feud became noticeable when Saraki began to boycott events in the industry with her former boss.
It was further learnt that the boycott of events in the industry by the Minister of state may be a subtle protest against the apparent arrogation by Amaechi of official duties of the junior Minister which has led to the redundancy of Saraki.
It was gathered that throughout 2019 and the better part of 2021, Amaechi allowed Saraki to take charge of events in the maritime industry.
Sources claimed that towards the end of last year and since the beginning of 2022 up till his resignation as the Minister, Amaechi may have reneged on the gentleman’s agreement between him and his minister of state.
“During this period, the Minister took over the functions hitherto reserved for the Minister of state.
”This development seems to have irked Saraki who felt the Minister was trying to make her reductant.
“That was when she started to boycott functions at the maritime industry where she and her principal were likely to meet” a source who was in the know confided in our reporter.The absence of the minister of State at major maritime events became noticeable during landmark events such as  NIMASA’s unveiling of wreck removal in 2021,  the World Maritime Day, 2021,  and the inspection of the Lekki deep seaport by President Muhammadu Buhari.

It could also be recalled that Amaechi had made a couple of visits to the Lekki deep seaport, even on a Sunday, before the presidential visit, none of which Saraki attended.

Concerned maritime stakeholders claimed that the recent action of Ameachi, who is widely regarded as the ”Lion of the Niger Delta” may appear bossy to Gbemisola Saraki, who is also a strong-willed woman.
“The two Ministers are of strong-willed personalities who don’t brood nonsense.
“We all know the political antecedents of Amaechi who has a domineering posture.

” Gbemi is also made of sterner stuff given her role in the “Otoge” political tsunami in Kwara which eventually swept off  Bukola Saraki, her blood brother, from the political dominance in Kwara politics, a role which earned her the present position in the present dispensation.
“So, I don’t see how Amaechi, who has domineering posture could lord it over Gbemi, who is equally a woman of strong character, without skirmishes” a knowledgeable analyst declared.
However, stakeholders were skeptical if Senator Saraki could achieve much of the promises she made during her week-long tours of Lagos ports last week given barely one year she has as a member of the Buhari Administration before it is wound up.
The Minister came on the tour in the company of some Directors in the ministry.

“Today is my fifth week of assuming the leadership of the Ministry of Transportation”, she declared last week Friday in Lagos.

“We came to take stock of the sector. We had taken the stock of the Road sector,” she said.

Giving her summation of her findings at the end of the tour, she declared” Apapa and Tin Can ports are in terrible need of repairs.

“We will go and come back for repairs.

“We have the short, medium, and long-term plans for this. We need to start with rehabilitation here. Another problem here is power”

The  Minister met various groups who are stakeholders in the industry.

Among them are women groups in maritime, terminal operators, stevedores, maritime workers union groups, haulage, and transport operators, maritime lawyers, freight forwarders, and maritime press.

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We have political will to ensure CVFF is disbursed—-Saraki

Senator Gbemosola Saraki, Minister of State for Transportation
—- expresses sadness over unending delay
Eyewitness reporter

The Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Rukayyat Gbemisola Saraki has expressed willingness to muster the necessary political will to ensure the controversial Cabotage Vessels Financing Funds (CVFF) are disbursed before she leaves office.

She expressed sadness over the delay in the disbursement of the interventionist funds, 19 years after it was set up which she said was critical to the empowerment of the struggling indigenous ship owners.
The Minister made this commitment Friday during the interactive media parley she held in Lagos to round up her week-long tours of Lagos ports.
The Minister, who was fielding questions from journalists, declared that her ministry would work with the National Assembly to expedite action of the disbursement process.
She disclosed that she was part of the senators who passed the Cabotage Act in 2003 which gave birth to the CVFF and it was disheartening that 19 years later the funds are yet to be disbursed.
 “It is really very disheartening that the fund has not been disbursed but we will work with the National Assembly to ensure its disbursement.
“Just watch, it has to be disbursed, especially with the coming on stream of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“In the course of this visit, I have also interacted with so many stakeholders, including the indigenous ship owners.

“I know the number of vessels that Nigerians had 10 years ago and I know how many they have now.
“The funds is very critical for the empowerment of indigenous ship owners and we know many of them have gone under”

“It is really a shame that this fund has not been disbursed, I learnt the value is $350 million now and I am not sure any part of it is missing.

” We will work with the National Assembly to pass the guidelines. It is not really about the Federal Ministry of Finance but I think it is more of the political will to disburse it and I think we have the political will to do so.”
The Minister disclosed that the guidelines for the disbursement of the fund have been formulated and awaiting the approval of the  National Assembly.

She added that the disbursement would follow the approval by the National Assembly after beneficiaries must have been shortlisted.

According to her, the approval would soon be secured and the fund disbursed in no distant time.
She regarded the non-disbursement of the CVFF as a national shame and embarrassment.
CVFF is a two percent contribution by indigenous ship owners on every Cabotage contract executed and is meant for fleet expansion and empowerment of the shipping capacity of indigenous ship owners.
Since 2003 when the Cabotage Act was enacted and 2006 when the CVFF guidelines were enacted, no disbursement was made as the funds have become a subject of controversy and subject to serial abuse.
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P&ID fraud : Court convicts, winds up Marqott Nigeria Limited.

Owolola Adebola

Justice D.U Okorowo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has convicted and wound up Marqott Nigeria Limited,  one of the 30 companies associated with the  Process and Industrial Development Limited, P & ID,  for money laundering.

The company was convicted on Thursday,  June 16, 2022, after being found guilty of four-count charges bordering on money laundering preferred against it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Count one of the charges read: “That you, Marqott Nigeria Limited, being a designated Non-financial Institution; and Giovanni Beccarelli, Valentina Fantoli, and Dimitri Duca, being directors of and signatories to the bank account of Marqott Nigeria Limited, sometime in September 2014, in Abuja, within the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, failed to comply with the requirements of submitting to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, a declaration of activities of Marqott Nigeria Limited contrary to Section 16(1) (f) read together with Section 5(1)(a)(ii) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011(as amended and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.”

Count two read:  “That you, Marqott Nigeria Limited, being a designated Non-financial Institution; and Giovanni Beccarelli, Valentina Fantoli, and Dimitri Duca, being directors of and signatories to the bank account of Marqott Nigeria Limited, sometime in September 2014, in Abuja, within the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, failed to develop programs to combat money laundering and other illegal acts, to wit: failure to designate at management level a compliance officer within any strata of Marqott Nigeria Limited, contrary to Section 16(1)(f) read together with Section 9(1)(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act”.

At the point of the first arraignment on February 7, 2022,  the defendant pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, setting the stage for a full trial.

In the course of the trial, the EFCC presented many witnesses and tendered many documents as exhibits.

In his judgment,  Justice Okorowo found Marqott Nigeria Limited guilty of all the four-count charges and convicted it accordingly.   He also ordered that the company be wound up  and its entire assets forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Marqott was first arraigned on Monday,  February 7, 2022, for being an accomplice in the $9.6bn Gas Supply and Processing Agreement between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and  P&ID.

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