The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi and the Director General, Nigerian Maritime and Administration Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh are in tango over the issuance of waiver to foreign vessels operators in Nigeria’s territorial waters.
The no love lost between Amaechi and Jamoh came to the fore when the former told members of the Senate in Abuja to hold the management of NIMASA responsible for alleged indiscriminate waivers given to foreign vessel operators in breach of the provisions of the Cabotage Act.
Amaechi was unequivocal when he told members of the upper chamber of the National Assembly that the Ministry of Transportation has no iota of knowledge of any waiver approval to foreign vessels operators in Nigeria’s territorial waters.
The Minister’s assertion was in response to questions from members of the Senate Joint Committee on Local Content, Downstream Petroleum and Legislative Compliance who summoned him to explain his roles on the issuance of waiver to foreign vessels operators in Nigeria’s territorial waters among other issues.
The committee is investigating the breach of Nigerian laws by foreign vessels operators in coastal shipping of petroleum products in downstream sector of Nigeria’s maritime industry.
Amaechi in his submission before the upper chamber of the National Assembly Committee maintained that he was not aware of any waiver given to the vessels by Jamoh.
His words: “I have never interfered with the process of governance of any structure that I superintend over. So if NIMASA says I know what they are doing, I don’t know. I became awareness when they wrote to me and said I should answer the Senate.
“I have not approved any. He (Jamoh) should run to me if he wants waivers approved. There is nothing on my table from 2015 till date. I don’t have any waiver on my table. First they claimed that none had been issued”.
On whether there was such a request in the ministry before he became minister, he said: “I have not checked that. I have to confirm that by asking the Permanent Secretary to do a study to find out if there is any before we came”.
Continuing, the erstwhile governor said: “In 2010, 168 persons applied for waivers. In 2011, 208 applied not before me. In 2012, 333 persons, in 2013, 448, in 2014, 377, in 2015, 413 persons applied. I came in 2016. In that year, 374 persons applied but I didn’t see their application”.
He reiterated his readiness to work with the National Assembly Committee to ensure that Nigerians had the maximum benefits in such relationships.
“There is first the need to call NIMASA and see what is going on. What is the status of the vessels that are operating in Nigeria. The basic thing in Nigerian waterway is not even those foreigners. It is the level of insecurity and the fact that the National Assembly has refused to pass the law approving the setting up of coast guard which would have been the saving grace of all these. It is the coast guards that would have found who is operating and who is not”, the minister added.
The Chairman Senate Committee on Local Content Senator Teslim Folarin has earlier recalled that in December 2019, the Senate debated a motion to address the matter.
“The motion was titled “Urgent need to investigate the breech of Nigerian laws by foreign vessels and coastal shipping of petroleum products in downstream sector of the Nigerian maritime industry which was sponsored Senator Olamilekan Mustspha.
He said that the committee was mandated to carry out an investigation with a view to unraveling the influx of foreign vessels in the coastal region and the level of patronage of Nigerian shipping companies.
The Chairman said that other mandate of the committee was to investigate the flagrant abuse of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act 2010 and the Cabotage Act 2003 by the operators and stakeholders in the maritime industry.
Others are ship-to-ship transfer of coastal foreign vessels as well as investigate foreign freight associated with downstream activities repatriated overseas by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the detriment of the local economy or patronage.