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Indigenous Ship Owners Express Shock, Confusion Over Amaechi's Comment On Waivers

Indigenous ship-owners operating in the Nigerian maritime sector have expressed confusion and shock over comments made by the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, over shipping waivers application since 2016.

Recall that the Honourable Minister of Transportation, while appearing before a Joint Senate Committee on Local Content, Downstream Petroleum and Legislative Compliance investigating alleged breach of Nigerian laws by foreign vessels in coastal shipping last week Thursday, stated that since he was appointed Minister in 2016, he is yet to approve any waiver application.

Reacting to the Minister's statement on waiver, former Chairman of the Nigerian Ship-owners Association (NISA), Mallam Aminu Umar explained that according to the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, only the Minister has the powers to approve waiver application.

“When I read in the news that the Minister of Transportation said he has not approved any waiver application since he came to office in 2016, I was shocked. The Act is clear on this, without the Ministers authorization, no waiver can be issued.

“Something must be wrong somewhere. If the Minister has not given approval for waivers since coming to office, and in 2016, 374 waiver applications were made, and the Minister is claiming not to have seen any of the applications, then something is definitely wrong somewhere. In 2016, the current leadership of NIMASA was not in office, so we need questions to be asked concerning waiver application that year,” the former NISA Chairman who also double as the Managing Director of Sea Transport Limited told the Nigerian Tribune.

Also speaking on the development, an indigenous ship-owner who wouldn't want his name in print demanded for an audit of the nations shipping waivers processes. In his words, “How can the Minister say he has nit seen waiver applications since coming to office? That is ridiculous. We need to get to the root of this issue. Something is definitely fishy somewhere.”

Amachi, while fielding questions from the Joint Senate Committee investigating waiver breach in the nation's oil and gas/maritime sector explained that, “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. 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 just saw it when they wrote to me and said I should answer the Senate. I have not approved any. He (the Director-General) should run to me if he wants a waiver approved. There is nothing on my table from 2015 till today, I don't have any waiver on my table.

“First they claimed that none had been issued; I do not even know until recently that you have to issue a waiver. For you to know as a Minister, the Director-General is supposed to write to request for approval. And now, no request for approval is on my table or that has been on my table since 2015 till today.

“But from the day I assumed duty in 2016 till today, I have never sighted any request. In 2010; 168 persons applied for waivers. It wasn't before me. 2011 – 208 applied not before me; 2012 – 333 applications; 2013 – 448 applications; 2014 – 377 applications and 2015 – 413 persons applied. I came in 2016. In that year, 374 persons applied but I didn't see their application.”