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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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House of Reps gives NIMASA green light to disburse CVFF –appoints audit firm to coordinate, monitor  disbursement

Hon. Legor Idagbo
The eyewitness reporter
The House of Representatives has given the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) a clean bill of health over the controversial Cabotage Vessels Financing Funds(CVFF) and consequently directed the agency to disburse the funds.
It would be recalled that the lawmakers, a few weeks ago, halted the planned disbursement after long and painstaking groundwork made by the Ministry of Transportation and NIMASA towards the disbursement process.
The House had raised concerns over the funds, said to be about #700m, and decided to ask its committee on Nigerian Contents Development and Monitoring to investigate the funds.
This followed a motion during its sitting last month on the matter and subsequently directed the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to stop the planned disbursement of the fund.
However, after concluding its investigation, the House found tenable the need to disburse the funds to the eligible indigenous ship owners.
Addressing journalists in Abuja Thursday, the Chairman of the committee, Hon. Legor Idagbo said that its investigations indicated that due process was followed, informing that the disbursement can now be made.
“The House of Representatives at its sitting on Tuesday, 4 May 2023, deliberated on a motion on the Planned Disbursement of $700 Million Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund, and investigate the Total Accrual of the Fund, and referred same to the House Committee on Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring to, amongst other resolutions, investigate and urge the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to immediately stop the planned disbursement of $700 million to Nigerian citizens and companies and to lay before the floor of the House, an audited statement of account showing all monies that have accrued to the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund not later than fourteen (14) days from the date of this resolution.
“The Committee requested the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and the Ministry of Transportation to provide detailed information on the total amount accrued to the Fund and disbursements since inception.
“The Committee met with the Minister of Transportation and the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency ({NIMASA) on Thursday, 11 May 2023 to find out about the details concerning the matter.
” After a thorough analysis of the various submissions on the matter coupled with the explanations given by the Ministry and NIMASA, the Committee discovered that due process was followed in the planned disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund.
“The Committee notes that the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) is a fund that was set up in 2003 by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act.
” The Fund was established for the purpose of developing indigenous ship acquisition capacity, and to provide financial assistance to indigenous shipping operators.
“The Committee further notes that there is a lack of Capacity amongst indigenous/ Domestic Coastal operators in Nigeria, thus the reason Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPC) still awards contracts to foreign shipping Companies in contravention of the Cabotage and Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act.
“Some of these awards have been previously investigated by the Committee which led to their cancellation.
“It was also discovered that the total funds of $360m in the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) represents 50%, while the remaining counterpart funds of 50% is from stakeholders and Banks which is 15% and 35% respectively.
“NIMASA should go ahead with the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) in compliance with the extant laws and laid down guidelines for the said disbursement.
“To ensure the disbursement does not violate any of the extant laws made by the National Assembly, the following persons were nominated to supervise the disbursement process:
“Rt. Hon. (Barr.) Legor Idagbo  – Chairman ii. Hon. Henry Nwawuba – Member iii. | Mrs. Kehinde Bolade Olaiya – Committee Clerk.
“An Audit firm, Stratford Hill and Co. was appointed by the committee as the coordinating enforcement auditor for the CVFF.
“The Committee applauds NNPC for its commitment to awarding the shipping contracts to indigenous companies that have built capacity to the level where they can successfully execute these contracts.
“The Committee is grateful to the leadership of the House for the confidence bestowed on it to carry out the investigation”.
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President Tinubu appoints Gbajabiamila Chief of Staff

Gbajabiamila , Tinubu
 President Bola Tinubu has appointed Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as his Chief of Staff.

An authoritative source in the Presidency confirmed the development on Thursday.

The source said the president finally made the decision after wide consultations on the contending candidates.

Gbajabiamila has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2012 and has just been re-elected to the House in the last elections.

The choice of Gbajabiamila by the president is not a surprise to many political pundits as he has been a very close ally to the president.

They are part of the brains behind the formation of the All-Progressives Party (APC).

He will now have to forgo his seat in the House of Representatives if he accepts the appointment.

Olufemi Hakeem Gbajabiamila CFR, is a Nigerian lawyer and foundation member of the APC.

He has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2019.

Gbajabiamila was born in Lagos in 1962 and attended Igbobi College for his secondary education and the University of Lagos as part of his education.

He is married to Salamatu Gbajabiamila.

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Maritime media, NUJ mourn as Ray Ugochukwu passes on to glory

Ray Ugochukwu
The eyewitness reporter
The media confraternity of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council and the maritime media, was thrown into a deep shock and mourning Thursday at the sudden demise of Mr Ray Ugochukwu, a crack journalist of international repute.
The entire members of the NUJ and the maritime media, his immediate constituency, received the news of his death, which was broken by Mr Leye Ajayi, the Chairman of the NUJ Lagos council, in a terse message posted on the council’s WhatsApp platform, with mixed emotion of sadness, shock and disbelief.
Shell-shocked, most colleagues of the deceased, who thought the announcement was a joke taken too far, make frantic calls to the NUJ council officials who confirmed the unfortunate incident.
As the rude reality of the death of the erudite maritime journalist sank in, many of them paid glowing tributes to the man widely regarded as the encyclopedia of the maritime press and a repository of wise sayings.
In its statement on the death of Mr Ugochukwu, Leye Ajayi eulogised the huge reportorial qualities of the deceased who has practised journalism for over 30 years
“With heavy hearts, we mourn the death of a media giant, a versatile Unionist and a brilliant journalist, Mr Ray Ugochukwu who passed on on Thursday.

“The death of Ray came as a big shock to the union.

“We are going to miss his courageous attributes and mentorship.

“He was also one of the pillars of the Lagos Council of NUJ and served the union meritoriously in his capacities as the Chairman of, the Seminar Committee; and as a Member, the Committee on Milestone Recognition of Media Icons In Nigeria.

“He spent most of his life in ensuring the advancement of Maritime Reporting as well as the welfare of Journalists.

“He worked in several media houses.

“Among his giant strides, he was a former President of the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN); President, Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN); and a former Chairman of the Daily Times Chapel of NUJ.

“The legacies of Ray are indelible and will exist forever.

“May God grant his soul eternal rest” the Lagos NUJ said in a statement signed by Leye Ajayi, the Council Chairman and Tunde Olalere, the Council Secretary.

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