By Taiwo Hassan

 


THE Federal Government’s quest to increase indigenous participation in the nation’s maritime sector may have received a boost as the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar has confirmed that eight indigenous operators have been shortlisted as first beneficiaries of the Cabotage Financing Fund (CVFF), which has hit about $150 million (N23.2 billion).
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Umar, who disclosed this, during the commemoration of this year’s National Democracy Day and first anniversary of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in Abuja, few days ago explained that the four selected primary lending institutions- Sterling Bank, Fidelity Bank, Diamond Bank and Skye Bank were currently reviewing their recommendations on the eight screened indigenous operators for presentation to his ministry for approval before the final disbursement of the fund.

According to him, indigenous participation in major projects in the maritime sector was one of the key priorities of President Jonathan’s administration.

He said government was already looking into the funding challenges being faced by indigenous ship owners in the sector and their inability to lift crude one.

Speaking further, Umar said government was aware that petroleum products business in the country should be solely meant for Nigerians since the passage of the local content policy few years ago, but the issue of acquiring the required vessels for the operations has been the stumbling block facing the implementation of the policy in the country.

The minister explained that the main priority of the transport sub-sector under the infrastructure component of the transformation agenda of the Jonathan and the national Vision 20:2020 was to “develop an adequate, safe, environmentally friendly, efficient and affordable, integrated transport system within the framework of a progressive and competitive market economy.”

According to him, the transport sector has achieved a lot in transforming the nation’s economy during the first year of the President’s administration, adding that, the role of transportation in the economic, political and social development of any nation cannot be over emphasised as developments in all the sectors of the economy depend on the efficient performance of the transport system.

“It is with a deep sense of responsibility that I stand before you today to brief you on the programmes and achievements of the Federal Ministry of Transport in the last one year. Governance was a continuous process and therefore accomplishments in government may overlap between successful administrations. Some projects such as railways complete with their associated signaling and telecommunication system take relatively long periods to conceive and complete and therefore assessing them on a one year scale may not give comprehensive picture.

Umar continued: “In our transformation drive, the President was not only concerned with inputs into outputs from projects but also the outcomes and their impacts on the welfare and lives of the citizenry.”

The transport minister explained that the ministry with its oversights government agencies namely- Nigerian Railway Corporation; Nigerian Ports Authority; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency; Nigerian Shippers’ Council; National Inland Waterways Authority, Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology; Maritime Academy of Nigeria; and Council for the regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, have overhauled the nation’s transport sector with major projects that were aimed at delivering the mandate, policies, programmes and projects of President Jonathan’s administration.

According to him, government in its quest to improve cargo delivery to and from the hinterland and decongest the seaports has approved the creation of six Inland Container Depots (ICDs).

He added that the ICDs were being developed under Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) arrangement with Nigerian Shippers’ Council as the supervising agency.

Umar, however, hinted that more ICDs would be built under the same arrangements, adding that the scheme was therefore open to investors’ participation.

The six ICDs are Isiala-Ngwa in Abia State with capacity of 50,000TEU; Bulunkutu in Borno State with 10,000TEU; Heipang in Plateau State with 20,000 TEU; Funtua in Kastina State with 10,000TEU; Ibadan in Oyo with 50,000 TEU; and Kano in Kano State with 20,000 TEU.

 

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