I didn’t grant waiver for foreign vessels ― Amaechi

• Tasks NASS on legislations

Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has denied knowledge of grant of a waiver to foreign vessels in the Nigerian maritime industry.

Speaking on Thursday when he appeared before the Senate Joint Committee on Local Content, Downstream Petroleum and Legislative Compliance, the two-term Rivers State governor asked the lawmakers to direct their enquiries at the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr Bashir Yusuf Jamoh

The Minister and the DG, NIMASA were summoned by the lawmakers to explain circumstances surrounding the controversial waiver.

Findings revealed that the joint Committee is investigating the breach of Nigerian Laws by foreign vessels operating in the Nigerian Maritime sector.

Amaechi insisted that he has no knowledge of the waiver.

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He said: “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 waiver approved. There is nothing on my table from 2015 to 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 the minister 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.”

He further maintained that he was not aware of any waiver granted, prior to his assumption of office as Minister in the ministry.

“I have not checked that. I have to confirm that by asking the Permanent Secretary to do a study to find out if there was any before we came.

“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 persons, 2013, 448, 2014, 377, 2015, 413 persons applied.

“I came in 2016. In that year, 374 persons applied but I didn’t see their application.”

Amaechi, however, argued that the expatriates operating in the nation coastal areas posed no threat to the growth of the sector. He challenged the lawmakers to seize the initiative to enact laws that would ensure the security of the waterways.

“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.

“The basic thing in Nigerian waterway is not even those foreigners. It is the level of insecurity and the fact that the National Assembly has refused to pass the law approving the setting up of coast guard which would have been the saving grace of all these.

“It is the coast guard that would have found who is operating and who is not.”

Senator representing Oyo central and Chairman Senate Committee on Local Content Senator Teslim Folarin told his guests that the assignment of his Committee was not to witch-hunt but to carry out an investigation with a view to unravelling the influx of foreign vessels in the coastal region and the level of patronage of Nigerian Shipping Companies.

He said the committee assignment was the sequel to a motion, “Urgent Need to investigate the breach of Nigerian laws by foreign vessels and coastal shipping of petroleum products in the downstream sector of the Nigerian Maritime industry, ” sponsored by Senator Olamilekan Mustapha.

He further disclosed that the other mandate of the Committee was to Investigate the flagrant abuse of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act 2010 and Cabotage Act 2003 respectively by the operators and stakeholders in the maritime industry.

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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