The pioneer president of the Nigerian Ship-owners Association (NISA) and ship-owner, Chief Isaac Jolapomo, has revealed that bad debts from ship financing have risen outrageously and hangs between three to five billion naira in Nigerian banks.
Jolapomo who spoke with newsmen in his office in Lagos recently, said that in spite of stringent appraisal processes and due diligence adopted by financial institutions in ensuring that only experienced shipping professionals have access to funds, many banks still have lots of non-performing loans.
He said the problem does not stem from the management of the funds, but from the lack of jobs for indigenous ship-owners.
“The bad debt in Nigerian banks today of ship purchases is conservatively between three and five billion.
“Haven owned and managed ships in the past three decades and half, I can conveniently say that ship ownership and management in Nigeria is not a profitable venture because of so many factors.
“Go and make enquiries at the NPA on how much import they had last year. Not one tonne of that import came with a Nigerian vessel. Ask NNPC how much crude they exported last year, not one litre of that crude went with a Nigerian vessel. Go to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and ask them how much they paid for freight in the last five years? None of those payments were made to Nigerian ship-owners.
“If those things happened, then it means we are on the right path,” Chief Jolapomo stated.
The former NISA president urged government to step in and “reverse the trend” as the shipping sector remains strategic to re-jigging the economy, conserving foreign exchange and creating jobs for the teeming population.
“In which economy do you have that amount of debt profile in one particular industry and nobody is doing anything to turn it around? It could be turned around. Solutions are very easy; it is the willpower of the government to say we want to do this,” he added.