Stakeholders urge Fed Govt to establish Maritime Bank – The Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have been urged to facilitate the establishment of a maritime bank to boost trade.
Stakeholders who spoke with the paper in a separate interviews have pushed for the establishment of the bank with the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) to address inadequate funding of the sector.
An exporter, Mr Demola Adelaja said such bank had become imperative because only few banks were responding to cargo owners, importers, exporters and manufacturers’ needs.
He said almost 15 years after the passage of the Cabotage Act, the sector was still under-funded.
The Federal Government, he said, should use the Cabotage funds domiciled with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to empower Nigerians wishing to acquire vessels.
He called on Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi and NIMASA Director-General Dr. Bashir Jamoh to facilitate the establishment of the bank.
Also, a maritime lawyer, Dr Dipo Alaka asked the Federal Government to consider creating a ministry for the maritime sector, just as the sector was moved out of the Ministry of Transportation.
Alaka, also a university don, said the creation of the Maritime Ministry will open up more opportunities to generate more revenue, create employment opportunities and help to solve most of the challenges facing the sector.
He said there are some departments in the Ministry of Transportation that are idle and redundant, adding that if the Maritime Ministry is created, some of these departments can brought out to function under the Maritime Ministry. He said it was high time government stopped lumping maritime industry from the Ministry of Transportation, saying that if it creates Maritime Ministry, African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) can be a implemented under the ministry.
An importer, Mr Lekan Agboke, said the bank would eliminate the funding problems in ports’development and operations, ship building and acquisition, ship repairs, marine safety and environmental protection, among others.
Agboke pointed out that the reason Nigeria could not compete in the supply of shipping services at the ports and in multi-modal transport services in the sub-region was yet to be addressed.
He said despite banks’consolidation, they were yet to appreciate the maritime sector’s peculiarity and adequately support its funding.
An industrialist, Chief Raphael Johnson, said it was time for the Federal Government, in collaboration with stakeholders, to drive the right policies that would enable Nigeria become a hub of ship finance companies as was presently the case in Singapore.
He stated a confluence of critical stakeholders, government, shipowners and the finance sector was imperative to induce the much-needed development in indigenous shipping.
Johnson said many stakeholders, government, banks, shipowners, who ventured into ship-financing either shied away from it or traded blames having had their “fingers severely burnt”.
To move the industry forward, he said parties should return to the drawing board and provide for holistic, unbiased appraisals, deliberations and resolutions geared towards the advancement of the sector.
“In Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States, they have maritime development banks that give out money to the industry at almost one per cent interest rate. But contrary to what is obtainable in those countries, in Nigeria, you have banks giving loans at interest rates of between 20 and 25 per cent per annum,” he said, adding: “Nigerian banks must forgo short-term profits and support long-term maritime projects.”
Banks, he said, must take long-term view of funding projects and recognise the value that sustained investments would have on the sector.