maritime Transport

Demand for forensic audit of cabotage fund intensifies

Borderless Ltd/Gte, a Nigerian content advocacy group, has called for a forensic audit of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) account, following discrepancies in the accrued funds as disclosed by the Federal Government (FG) and the transaction details presented by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Recall that indigenous shipowners had faulted the FG’s claim that the fund has risen to about $350 million for the dollar component and N16 billion for the naira component after 19 years of remittance. The disclosure was faulted by the shipowners who claim the money contributed so far is over $2 billion.
The advocacy group, through its law firm, Kusamotu Associates, had on October 5, 2021, sought a court order to back a freedom of information request on the issue. It was learnt that after the court order to release the information, only details of the CVFF were released, while two requests were left unanswered, while the group sent a reminder to the agency on full compliance with the court order of October 21, 2022.
The group had requested that the agency makes available information on if “the CVFF been misapplied and/or misappropriated, at all, since inception: if so, how much has been disbursed outside its objectives and to whom as well as how much has been disbursed from the fund thus far, for what purpose, and who are the beneficiaries?”
The Deputy Director of Legal Services, NIMASA, Peter Agbaminoja, on January 16, 2023, sent the agency’s response to the advocacy group. It states: “Concerning the first part of your questions, we wish to state unequivocally that the CVFF has neither been misapplied nor misappropriated since its inception. Similarly, we respond to the second part of your questions by stating that it is public information that the CVFF has never been disbursed and there is consequently no list of beneficiaries to provide.”
Meanwhile, the CVFF document from NIMASA, made available to The Guardian by the Founder, Borderless Ltd/Gte, Tunde Kasamotu, as well as calculations made by the group, reveals discrepancies in the funds.
The Head Legal Services/ Board Secretary, NIMASA, Mrs. Aisha Idris Yakubu, sent the account balance document duly marked as “Analysis of Cabotage Vessel Financing from January 2007 to October 2022.”
For the Naira collection, according to the document, the amount transferred from local banks to Treasury Single Account (TSA) is N20,613,344,488.8 amount paid directly to TSA is N16,953,322,635.17, while the total naira collection (NGN) is 37,566,667,123.97.
For dollar collections, the amount paid directly to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)/Access Bank is $257,228,760.32, amount with OAGF is $12,147,632.66, while the total dollar collections (USD) is $269,376,392.98.
Dollar collections converted to Naira (USD269.38million at NGN410.15/USD) is N110,484,727,580.75, while the total balance in Naira for both the naira and dollar collections is N148,051,394,704.72
According to NIMASA, the November 2022 data is yet to be concluded, adding that the financial information provided is subject to reconciliation.
But the NIMASA boss, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, disclosed that the funds available for disbursement were slightly over N16 billion naira and $350 million. Also, different figures have been quoted as the amount accrued in the CVFF account.
The law firm said the inability of NIMASA, Ministry of Transportation and CBN to state the exact amount accrued in the account calls for questioning and as well raises suspicion of whether the money is still in the account and intact.
The firm said calculations made from the document were conflicting. The founder of Borderless Ltd/Gte said the CVFF is for the development of domestic maritime fleet as the multiplier for the economy, adding, it is important to ensure the funds go where it is needed, otherwise, the country ends up in the same position where there is no development.
He said it is critical to ask for accountability and ensure those that get the funds utilise it properly, adding that an audit of the CVFF account is to ensure all necessary resources that are supposed to be earmarked for the purpose it is meant for are accounted for.
“The information NIMASA gave us is irregular and it shows there is something fishy and that is the basis upon which we insist that we look at the account.
“The shipowners are calling for a forensic audit of the CVFF account. It is just having a forensic auditor go to the bank and get details about all transactions in the account. To trace inflows and outflows as well as those who contributed.
“There were some of the payments made to NIMASA United Kingdom account. We need to get the people that paid into the account and make sure they paid the right amount.
“The most important thing is for those who are charged with managing the funds to account for those funds and for us to know where it is,” he stated.
Kusamotu said the law makes provision to grant a request for information to stakeholders, noting that giving incorrect information about the funds is a crime and an offence.
Also recall that the Chairman, Board of Trustees, Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Dr. Isaac Jolapamo, had lamented that Federal Government and its agencies were not truthful in stating the amount accrued in the CVFF account.
He said several letters had been written to NIMASA and the Ministry of Transport to request the total sum collected under CVFF due to the confusing figures released.
“We want the Federal Government to account for that money, because it should be more than $2 billion and I am being conservative.
“It was because the former Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki, mentioned $350 million that changed the narrative. Nobody has ever mentioned a figure higher than $150 million to $190 million. The money is minimum and we want to get to the root of it,” he said.
Also, the Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer, Ocean Pearl Maritime Limited, Emmanuel Ilori, said there is no more time to sit back and watch, stating that, while the government should account for the fund, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should probe the CVFF.

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