Rotimi Amaechi.
Minister of Transportion, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi
  • House committee accuses transport ministry of secretly granting cabotage waivers to foreigners

Eromosele Abiodun

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, thursday revealed that certain individuals and vested interest profiting from the insecurity in the Niger Delta are frustrating the execution of the $198 million maritime security contract approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Speaking at a Maritime Stakeholders Interactive Forum held in Warri, Delta State, Amaechi vowed to publicly mention names of the saboteurs.

This is just as the House Committee on Marine Education and Administration has accused the Federal Ministry of Transportation of secretly granting cabotage waivers to foreign vessel owners, challenging the ministry to make available the number of waivers so far approved.

The Committee Chairman, Hon Mohammed Bago, said the process of granting waivers under cabotage was being shrouded in secrecy.

According to Amaechi, “The reason vessels will not come to the eastern ports is because there is war insurance due to insecurity in the ports here.

“The war insurance means if the goods cost N10, 000 in Lagos, it would cost N20,000 here because there is extra cost on it due to insecurity issues. Even as a minister, I can’t enter a boat ride from Warri to Port Harcourt due to insecurity issues, but I can move around Lagos at any time of the day.

“I once asked a former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, why people from Anambra State don’t import from Port Harcourt port, and he said it cost less to import from Lagos and move to Onitsha even with the price they pay on the road. It is cheaper to import from Lagos to Aba, yet Aba to Port Harcourt is 30 minute drive.

“For ship owners, you need to do a petition to the president. He approved a contract of $195 million for maritime security, but there are people in the system sabotaging the contract because it will restore security in the water. I won’t say who they are until it gets out of control. We are still battling for the contract to take place, but if it gets out of place, we will name them publicly, including the security people involved.

“There are people who make billions of dollars from the insecurity on the water, so they don’t want security on the water because if we secure the water, all their rubbish will go away. There are businesses which provide vessel for oil companies in the name of providing security. The moment we secure the water, they are out of jobs.”

Bago, however, said the law establishing the cabotage provides that waivers should be granted through a process, adding that that process must be adhered to.

He lambasted the ministry for denying the granting of waivers when foreign ships are operating on the country’s local waters.

The lawmaker said: “The Ministry of Transportation said it has not granted waivers to foreign operators in the last six or more years. If they haven’t, how are these foreign operators operating in Nigeria at the detriment of our indigenous operators, many of whom are here today?

“My message therefore is that if Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Federal Ministry of Transportation, in treating application for waivers under cabotage as provided for in section 9 to 14 of the Cabotage law, follow the requirement of articles 3 to 8 of the Executive Order, then the indigenous operators will be for the better.

“There will no longer be foreign ships scattered in our waterways operating without waivers.
“In addition, observance of the these articles would ensure that the expectation of the law attached to waivers such as the provision of plans by these foreign concerns to bring in indigenous will be met.”

Also speaking, the Director General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, disclosed that talks between the agency and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) are in advanced stage to provide 100 brand new cabotage vessels for indigenous operators in the oil and gas sector.

The NIMASA DG explained that the maritime sector is a multi-stakeholder’s industry, adding that “the maritime sector plays a very important role in the growth of the Nigerian economy. It may occur to you that without the maritime sector today in Nigeria, we cannot fund the budget of the country.

“In the maritime industry, all agencies are equally important, but it is only when we work in synergy that we can accomplish great results. For us at NIMASA, we have our eyes on the goal, and that is why even with the modest achievements we have recorded overtime, it is being down to collaborations with our different stakeholders. It is a pointer to this that we sent 298 cadets to do sea-time training in Egypt and the United Kingdom.

Reacting to the development, Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi noted that if these waivers were not granted, the presence of foreign operators in the country’s coastal waters will not be as it is currently is.