Federal Govt Directs CBN To Provide Forex For Shipowners At Official Rate - Naijarecent
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Federal Govt Directs CBN To Provide Forex For Shipowners At Official Rate

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been instructed by the Federal Government to give shipowners cash for the purchase of ships at the official rate rather than at the excessive black market rate.

The Federal Government has also exempted local shipowners from paying import duty on brand-new vessels, according to Dr. Bashir Jamoh, Director General of the Nigerian Martime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), who was speaking at the Shipowners’ Association of Nigeria’s (SOAN) end-of-year dinner and gala night in Lagos.

To strengthen their fleet and combat foreign hegemony over the country’s coastal trade, he urged indigenous shipowners to take advantage of the incentives and the anticipated disbursement of the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF).

According to him, the incentives provided so far for indigenous shipowners are yet to lead to the acquisition of vessels into the country, saying Nigeria will lose the major gains of the huge investments in the Lekki Deep Seaport if the indigenous stakeholders do not take advantage of the Federal Government’s incentives to acquire vessels.

“The government has approved zero duty for imported new ships, with older ones attracting higher duty, while the second incentive was the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) monetary incentive that guarantees forex at the official rate for ship acquisition, rather than at the exorbitant black market rate and the recent approval for the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF),” he added.

The NIMASA boss also assured shipowners that the agency under his leadership would sustain all efforts to ensure a conducive operating environment for the Nigerian shipowners, saying no shipping country would thrive without being supported by the government.

“So, I try as much as possible to weigh the kind of assistance the Nigerian Government can offer the ship owners in the environment they operate,” he said.

Speaking on CVFF, Jamoh asked interested stakeholders to liaise with Mr Aminu Umar of the Nigerian Shippers Association (NISA) and help build fleets for the nation rather than quarrel over the actual amount in the fund.

Worried at the different opposing views that have marred unity of purpose on the CVFF issue over the years, he asked, “what do the ship owners really want?”

According to Jamoh, foreigners are milking the country because they have the capital to come into the country with their ships and make and take the money away.

“However, it is high time we came together and ensure we benefit from what God has given us, and stop foreigners from taking over the coastal trade,” he advised.

He assured of transparency and merit in the CVFF disbursement, insisting that neither NIMASA nor the ministry would bear any liability in the whole arrangement, adding that anyone getting the fund will get it on merit, mutual understanding, and based on the agreement with the bank and NIMASA.

Jamoh further dismissed the fears that the CVFF was being diverted to other ends, or not being fully declared, stating that in terms of the amount in the CVFF, public funds are statutorily subjected to audit every year, and the CVFF is not exempt.

“It is subject to auditor-general’s audit, FMoT audit and external auditors’ audit, so it is open. Instead of fighting to see the balance, concentrate on seeing how we can disburse what is available, increase our fleet and benefit from this trade that is very precious.

“All the investments at Lekki deep seaport will be useless if ships do not go there. So, why don’t we put our heads together, get the funds, acquire the ships and make our own ports lively instead of struggling to quarrel and fight?

“If you say your money is 10,000 and somebody says no, it is 5,000, collect the 5,000 and follow him to collect the balance of 5,000,” he stated.

Earlier in his welcome address, SOAN President, Dr McGeorge Onyung, commended NIMASA and Navy, saying that without peace, safety, security, and calm nothing can work.

He further thanked NIMASA for getting the NNPC to allow indigenous vessels work in the industry, thereby changing the narrative of past decades “when only foreign companies were working for Nigeria.

His words: “Now our members are in that contract and trying to settle down, in spite of the hiccups, and in the end we will be able to benefit from the ocean.”

Onyung urged members to cooperate and draw down the CVFF to enhance the nation’s economic prosperity through non-oil export, explaining that if NNPC produces crude oil for export, shipping produces non-oil export through freight, because when crude oil is exported, the shipping aspect is non-oil export.

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