Unnamed 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.