I am ready to stake my integrity over disbursement of CVFF—-Sambo
—Vows to resign if cabotage loans are given out for political patronage
—-spells out tough eligibility criteria to access loan
The Eyewitness Reporter
The Minister of Transportation, Engr. Muazu Sambo is trying hard to convince a large army of cynics among the maritime stakeholders who are apparently skeptical about the latest approval he secured from President Mohammad Buhari for the disbursement of the controversial Cabotage Vessel Financing Funds(CVFF).
Sambo broke the news of the approval in Lagos on Saturday, December, 10th, 2022 at the flag-off ceremony of the third phase of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme(NSDP).
Since what could have been the cheering news broke out, most of the stakeholders, especially the indigenous operators, who are the direct beneficiaries of the funds, scoffed at the approval, betraying a heavy dose of disbelief and skepticism apparently due to the long weary wait and delay for the disbursement of the funds for over 17 years.
Their cold attitude and skepticism were rooted in what they described as a vain but similar presidential approval which the immediate Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said he secured but never took off.
However, Sambo, who expressed undisguised passion and commitment towards the disbursement, said he was ready to stake his integrity and 35 years of civil service career to show the government’s genuineness and sincerity over the controversial disbursement of the loans.
”I don’t blame people for being skeptical or pessimistic. I can’t come in public and tell people lies.
”Hold me responsible if this fund is not disbursed. I am staking my integrity on approval granted by Mr President”, the Minister vowed.
He explained that the reason why the approval secured by his predecessor did not yield the desired result was due to what he called administrative challenges between the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Finance.
It would be recalled that Ameachi has then cried out that the disbursement of the funds was sabotaged by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Usman Zainab who he accused of laying landmines on the path of the disbursement.
”Under my predecessor who also secured presidential approval to disburse the funds but could not execute the approval was because of some administrative challenges which the Ministry of Transportation had with the Ministry of Finance.
”We have identified those gaps and ensured that in our prayers to Mr President, we addressed those gaps. So our prayers were all-encompassing” the Minister declared.
He revealed that five banks, Union bank, Polaris, Zenith, UBA and Jaiz banks were selected through a rigorous and transparent process as the primary lending institutions(PLIs) to drive the disbursement process.
He said that these banks were selected based on the criteria that were set out in the guidelines
Explaining the guidelines for the disbursement and eligibility of beneficiaries to access the loans, he said the process is anchored on two major planks: the coastal and shipping act which is the enabling law of 2003 otherwise known as the Cabotage Act and the second plank is the guidelines for the disbursement of the funds as approved by the National assembly.
”There are criteria surrounding the choice of the banks and these banks were recommended to Mr. President based on the guidelines which Mr President has approved”, the minister declared.
The minister also explained the steps to recover the loans as embedded in the guidelines for disbursement and eligibility.
”The guidelines are very clear. The applicants for the funds will make an equity contribution of 15 percent, NIMASA will contribute 35 percent while the PLIs, that is the disbursing banks will provide the balance of 50 percent.
”Other additional criteria for legibility will include but are not limited to such things as a contribution to the funds. Those who do not contribute to the funds as two percent of their contracts executed under the Cabotage as provided under the guidelines will not be eligible for the funds.
”Another condition to accessing the funds is the issue of ”off-taking”. If you do not want your loans to go bad, the easiest way to prevent this is to ensure that the applicant has off-takers for his vessels.
”He does this by showing you his contract, the banks carry out due diligence to verify that such a contract is true and genuine and irrevocable. That way, the banks will ensure that all the proceeds from such contracts go straight into the applicant’s loan account which will domicile with the PLIs. The banks call the process domiciliation of payment.
”So under a tripartite agreement, the domiciliation of payment will be guaranteed. So the proceeds from the off-taker on behalf of the beneficiary of the funds go straight into that loans account. That is the way we can guarantee that the loans will be paid back.
The minister said the applicants must have 50 per cent of the money they want to borrow.
”I, the permanent secretary and the incumbent NIMASA management are men and women of integrity and I don’t think any of us will want to be associated with bad loans.
”The other thing we are going to do is to make sure that we have an administrative structure in place. This will not take more than three days in such a way that loan applications are thoroughly and professionally scrutinised to prevent this money from being doled out as a largesse.
”Rather than be part of doling out the loans as largesse, I will reign my office. I cannot have spent 35 years of my life serving this country only to be messed up in one year.
”At my age, I think I want to go back to my creator with clean hands and a conscience”, the minister declared.
On his part, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh disclosed that the funds have naira component and dollar component.
According to him, the funds have acrued up to N16 billion in the naira component and $350million in dollar component.
The minister also disclosed that the presidential approval for the disbursement of the funds came to his office late Friday, December 9th, 2022 while attending a function in Lagos but chose to divulge the information at the flag off ceremony of the third phase of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme(NSDP) held on Saturday where the indeginious ship operators, who are the primary beneficiaries of the funds, would be in attendance and to show the nexus between the ceremony and the disbursement of the funds.
”On Monday,December 12th, 2022, the NIMASA DG will get formal communication from me conveying the approval of Mr President and I expect him to take immediate steps towards the disbursement process”, the Minister directed.
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NIMASA collaborates with NCC to regulate submarine cable operation for enhanced navigational safety on Nigerian waters
The eyewitness reporter
Apparently alarmed by the indiscriminate laying of communication cables and pipelines underneath the Nigerian waters by telecommunications operators and other allied professionals which has the potential of harming the safe navigation of ships, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA) has engaged the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in a strategic discussion to forge a formidable synergy with other relevant stakeholders with a view to developing a regulatory framework to provide operational guidelines for submarine Cable and Pipeline Operators in Nigeria.
Officials of both organs of Government in Lagos reached this agreement at a pre Audit meeting on submarine cable regulation.
The Director General of NIMASA Dr. Bashir Jamoh, who chaired the meeting, which also had the Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) Mr. Dasuki Arabi in attendance, noted that the Agency is committed to the Ease of Doing Business while implementing International Conventions which Nigeria has ratified and domesticated.
He noted that with Nigeria now a destination for global communication players, the time has come to prevent unregulated underwater cable laying, which might become hazardous to shipping.
According to him, “It is worthy to note that marine cable laying has been ongoing for over two decades in Nigerian waters.
“Our focus is to ensure the safety of navigation of shipping in Nigerian waters with all these underwater cables being laid.
“NIMASA is actually developing the guidelines to regulate submarine cable operators in line with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS; which we have ratified and NIMASA is the Agency of Government in Nigeria responsible for its implementation.
“Collaboration is a key component of ease of doing business in the best interest of the country and we will work closely with the NCC to achieve this”.
On his part, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, who was represented by the Director, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement, Efosa Idehen, noted that the stakeholders’ dialogue strategy adopted by NIMASA in developing the guidelines would ensure a win-win situation, urging NIMASA management to include the Ministry of Justice, a request NIMASA DG immediately granted.
Also speaking at the meeting was the Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms Mr. Dasuki Arabi, who commended NIMASA and NCC for adopting effective Inter-Agency collaboration to avert a potential challenge for the country in the future.
NIMASA had notified submarine and cable operators in Nigeria of a soon-to-be-implemented regulatory guideline for submarine cables and pipelines in Nigeria, in line with the provisions of UNCLOS.
NIMASA and the NCC agreed to identify and resolve areas of likely regulatory overlaps, ensuring a regulatory framework based on consultation to engender the attainment of Nigeria’s digital economy transformation.
Officials of the Federal Ministry of Environment and representatives of Submarine Cable operators in Nigeria were also at the meeting.
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