From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
Risks on the loan from the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) to interested indigenous shipowners will be on the yet-to-be-designated lending banks, the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, has said.
Amaechi spoke in Lagos during a meeting with maritime stakeholders, where he set up a new committee saddled with drafting new guidelines towards its disbursement, with the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, as chairman.
Justifying a new committee for the same purpose, which implies beginning the entire process afresh, Amaechi said the old guidelines were jettisoned because they “will not be favourable to every party involved.
“Our commitment towards ensuring the disbursement of the CVFF remains unwavering, hence we are setting up this committee to look at the guidelines and come up with a workable one that will suit all parties involved.”
He told newsmen afterwards that the committee would forward to him the proposed guidelines, which he would afterwards send to the National Assembly for approval before eventual disbursement to eligible stakeholders.
While the committee will determine the percentage interest on the facility, Amaechi stated that to guard against the beneficiaries not returning the loan as expected, “banks will be involved in developing the criteria for the disbursement of the fund, so the risk would be borne by the lending institutions.”
Meanwhile, Peterside has stated that only contributing shipowners will benefit from the fund, which he disclosed to be $200 million presently, adding that after the committee’s work, “the minister would study this draft and pass on to the National Assembly for approval, in line with the Cabotage Act.
Foreclosing the Federal Government’s assurances last December that shipowners would get the fund in the first quarter of 2020, Peterside explained that the time for disbursement depends on “how soon the National Assembly approves the draft guidelines.”
According to him, the provisions “will have to be followed religiously by the participating banks. Stakeholders have to meet these requirements before the disbursement of CVFF.”
He added: “Our utmost goal is to grow the maritime sector and encourage more indigenous participation. We are working with the Ministry of Transportation and also discussing with the Central Bank of Nigeria to see the possibility of granting loans to qualified operators at single-digit interest rate.”
Members of the committee include a former Director General of NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye, Chairperson, Nigerian Shipowners Forum, Margaret Orakwusi, and Managing Director, Sea Transport Services Nigeria Limited, Aminu Umar, among others.
Meanwhile, ahead of the drafting of the guidelines, Orakwusi, who expressed hope of a judicious use of the fund, has canvassed a long spread of the interest, as ships have a lifespan of over 30 years. She insisted that “it should be single digit interest and a lower figure.”