- Â House Accuses ministry of granting foreigners Secret waivers
Â by Eromosele Abiodun
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has 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 expose 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. The committee has therefore challenged 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.
But Amaechi had explained that the reason why vessels will not come to the Eastern ports is because there is war insurance due to insecurity in the ports here.
He said: “The war insurance means if the goods cost N10,000 in Lagos, it will 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 don’t import from Port Harcourt port, and he said it costs 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 shipowners, you need to do a petition to Mr. President. The President 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 get out of place, Wâ€Že 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. There are businesses, who provide vessel for oil companies in the name of providing security. The moment we secure the water, they are out of jobs.”
Bago said the law establishing the Cabotage provides that waivers should be granted through a process, further adding that that process must be adhered to.
He lambasted the ministry for denying the grant of waivers when foreign ships are operating on the nation’s local waters.
He said: â€œThe Ministry of Transportation said they have not granted waivers to foreign operators in the last six years 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?
â€œMy message therefore is that if 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, follows the requirement of articles 3-8 of the Executive Order, then the indigenous operators will be for the better.
â€œThere will longer be foreign ships scattered in our waterways operating without waivers.
â€œIn addition, observance of the these articles will 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 metâ€
Also speaking, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (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 industry adding, “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 Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“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 that, even the modest achievements we have achieved overtime as 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.â€
Reacting to the development, Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi noted that if these waivers were not granted, the presence of foreign operators in the nation’s coastal waters will not be as it is currently.