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Investor flees Nigeria after being paid N32b for vessels

Written by Maritime First
  • As Emefiele blames naira fall on US policy, importation

An investor got N32 billion for vessels, which he never delivered, a minister said yesterday.

Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi said the unnamed investor fled after collecting the cash during the Dr. Goodluck  Jonathan administration.

The money was paid from the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), which indigenous ship owners last month urged Amaechi and Acting Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director-General  Haruna Baba Jauro to speak on.

The CVFF was created by the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, 2003 to promote ship acquisition by supporting ship owners.

Section 42, Part VIII of Section 44 of the Act empowers NIMASA to collect and administer the fund, under guidelines by the Minister of Transport, after approval by the National Assembly.

The fund was established to boost local content in the shipping industry.

Amaechi, who spoke yesterday in Abuja when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Marine Transport, did not name the investor.

Amaechi said about N300 billion  was released to encourage investors in the maritime sector by the last administration but the many went down the drain.

He said: “In fact, there is a particular man who collected N32billion and left the country. I don’t think that the Federal Government needed to release N52bn to investors in the maritime industry.

“What we are considering is to facilitate a partnership arrangement between the operators and foreign investors in which case we can support Nigerians who had shown serious interest in the business with about 40 percent of the investment while their foreign partners bring 60 percent. That will assure us that we would recoup our investment.

“One of those who collected the aviation bailout who has done nothing with the money is walking freely on the streets of Nigeria; his airline is dead and he did not even deem it fit to inform the ministry.

“I am protecting the maritime funds and we could only disburse it after we have seen the President,  the foreign investors who will partner with the Nigerian investors that meet our guidelines. We have the N52bn in the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of NIMASA.”

He told the committee that as a result of massive fraud, NIMASA may be scrapped.

The minister said the Federal Government might be forced to approach the National Assembly to repeal the Act establishing NIMASA, if its management fails to justify the utilisation of the huge resources at its disposal.

Amaechi lamented that NIMASA had nothing to show for the N63billion revenue it generated in 2015.

He cited the instance of lack of equipment at the agency’s search and rescue unit meant to monitor movement of vessels and provide treatment for injured personnel.

He said: “Currently, the way NIMASA is, if you look at it very well, it was worse in the last administration. It was as if it was established just for the purpose of collecting money and nothing more. What we need to do is to ensure that NIMASA discharges its core responsibilities.

“If NIMASA outsources its core responsibility, then it has no business existing. If it is just to collect money from individuals, anybody can do that.  We can hire a tax collector to collect money from maritime operators on behalf of Federal Ministry of transport.

“So, it is either NIMASA sits up and carries out its own responsibility or we come to the National Assembly to repeal the Act setting it up and allow the department of marine security in the ministry of transportation to discharge the responsibility currently being discharged by NIMASA.

“We are not going ahead with the university project proposed by NIMASA because we have an institution in Oron, we have Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology, Zaria, and we have the Nigerian College of Aviation in Zaria which we could upgrade to a University status and NIMASA is proposing to build a new one.

“Who will attend the University? How many parents will allow their children to go to such place where it proposes to site the University? What is the aim of the University that we cannot achieve in Oron where they have all the necessary infrastructure.

“I don’t think we are proceeding with the university being proposed by NIMASA because it is a waste of resources, and unfortunately a lot of money had already been released for the University project hence there is no structure on ground but just the feasibility study.

“Whoever that is holding on to the money should better return it. The Chinese company contracted confirmed that only the feasibility study was in place.”

Former President Goodluck Jonathan approved that the NIMASA University should be located at Okerenkoko, Warri South West Local Government.

Amaechi also explained that an arrangement had been put in place to ensure that the dollar revenue accruable to NIMASA was paid directly to the Federation Account to boost foreign exchange for the country.

Meanwhile, the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, explained to the Senate on Tuesday that some harsh monetary decisions taken by the United States and Nigeria’s over dependence on foreign goods were responsible for the continuous fall in the value of the naira against major foreign currencies.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, stated this when he briefed journalists at the end of the closed-door meeting with the CBN boss.

Emefiele was said to have stated that other factors like the declining commodity prices and the geo-political tensions along important trading routes were equally injurious to the naira value.

Abdullahi said, “He (Emefiele) touched on the global economy conditions in which he informed us that we are not immune from external shocks that are currently going on in the world.

These shocks include the following: declining commodity prices, geo-political tensions along important trading routes and tightening of monetary policies in the United States of America. “The Senate appreciated the need to support the various policies being formulated to strengthen the currency.”

Abdullahi added that the Senate also acknowledged the pains that many people were experiencing currently, especially in the light of the shortage of foreign exchange for legitimate businesses.

He, however, said that having carefully considered the policies of the CBN, the upper legislative chamber would like to commend and support them because they were mostly geared towards increasing local production, creating jobs in the country, safeguarding the commonwealth and expanding economic opportunities and growth.

Abdullahi stated, “It is, therefore, critical that we all join our hands together to seek both short-term and long-term solutions to our underlying problems of non-diversification of foreign exchange earnings and revenues rather than pointing fingers at who did what and who’s to blame.

“The Senate believes strongly in the resilience of the Nigerian economy and the ingenuity of the Nigerian people, and as such, we are confident that we will all pull through these difficulties and come out as an equitable and prosperous nation.”

Abdullahi anchored the meeting with the CBN governor on the section of the CBN Act, which required that it should brief the National Assembly on periodic basis.

He said, “This appearance by the CBN governor and his management team is in line with Section 8 of the CBN Act, 2007, which requires that the governor of the bank provides the National Assembly periodic updates on the activities of the bank as well as the performance of the economy.

“In view of the above, the CBN governor presented a detailed, comprehensive and lucid account of the performance of the Nigerian economy in the last one year.”

The Senate spokesperson noted that Emefiele explained the occurrences within the Nigerian economy, especially with respect to the over 70 per cent decline in oil prices from about $116 per barrel in June 2014 to about less than $30 presently.

He said “The CBN governor also gave us an insight into the bank’s analysis and understanding of the situation and, therefore, the rationale underlining the various policy actions the bank has taken over the past couple of months.

“He also provided an insight into other countries that are facing similar difficulties and how they have dealt with them. Based on these analyses, it is clear that Nigeria is not doing badly, and I think we are on course to see how we can bring back Nigeria into the path of economic prosperity.

“After the presentation, of course, there were questions from distinguished senators on many issues, especially the stoppage of foreign exchange to the Bureaux De Change, the gradual rise in inflation, and the fallen foreign exchange reserves, among others.”

Nation with additional report from Punch.

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