By Chiazo Ogbolu, Lagos.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Mu’azu Sambo, says President Mohammadu Buhari has approved the disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) with immediate effect.
Sambo said this during the launching of the Batch B of the Third Phase of Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) TERRA 11 in Lagos on Saturday.
The NSDP is a platform provided by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to consolidate its position in the maritime industry through a solid seafaring manpower base.
“We will disburse these funds in days to come to the beneficiaries deserving of it, as we have made a case that the funds belong to shipowners.
“Mr president is a man who respects the law and he is on the same page with us that we should proceed with immediate effect.
“We will be liaising with the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to work immediately with the disbursement,” he said.
Sambo noted that NIMASA had assured the president that it would allow the funds to go into the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
He, however, said whenever the money hit the threshold of 50 million dollars, the CBN. upon recommendation from NIMASA and the Federal Ministry of Transportation, would inspect the transfer of the funds to the primary lending institutions.
“In this regard, five primary lending institutions have been approved by Mr President to do the disbursement.
“This milestone development, together with this ceremony, go hand in hand because there is a nexus between seafaring ship, capacity building and making sure ships are available.
“With this approval I am sure our indigenous capacity will grow higher and not even the sky will be the limit,” he said.
The minister noted that his predecessor had administrative challenges with the Federal Ministry of Finance, adding that was why he could not disburse the funds.
Sambo said that the agency had identify those gaps and that they had been addressed.
“The five banks selected for the disbursement are Union Bank of Nigeria, Polaris Bank, Zenith Bank, United Bank for Africa and Jaiz Bank.
“The banks were selected based on criteria set out in the guidelines, the enabling law and guidelines for the disbursement of the funds, as approved by National Assembly,” he said.
The minister said that to avoid the pitfalls of the past, the guidelines were very clear: the applicants for the funds would make equity contribution of 50 per cent, NIMASA 35 per cent and banks 15 per cent.
Sambo added out that NIMASA would put in place an administrative structure so that loan applications were professionally scrutinised.
“The approval for the disbursement got to my office late Friday and on Monday the NIMASA DG will take immediate steps to see to the disbursement,” he said.
Dr Bashir Jamoh, Director General, NIMASA, noted that the money at hand was in two folds; N16 billion or 350 million dollars.
Jamoh said the agency would develop an action plan with timelines, which would be made available to everybody, for them to know when the first cheque would be signed and issued to the beneficiaries.