Violation of Local Content, Cabotage Laws: Lawmakers Summon Sylva, Kyari and Amechi

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Concerned over the influx of foreign vessels on Nigeria’s waterways, the Senate joint committees on local content, downstream petroleum and legislative compliance have invited the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief, Timipre Sylva and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi to provide explanation on the worrisome trend.

Also, invited is the Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Coporation, NNPC, Mele Kyari, the chairman of the committee on local content, Teslim Folarin, has said.

The trio are expected to give explanations over the alleged abuse of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, 2003 and the Nigerian Content Act, 2010.

The panel is currently investigating the breach of Nigerian laws by foreign vessels in the coastal region of the country.

This was prompted after Senate deliberated on the breach of Nigerian laws by foreign vessels in coastal shipping of petroleum products in downstream sector of the Nigerian maritime industry, and subsequently called for an urgent investigation.

The lawmakers had expressed worry over the influx of foreign vessels into Nigeria’s water ways which is contrary to the country’s Cabotage Act that clearly restricts vessels engaged in domestic coastal trade to only wholly-owned, manned and registered Nigerian vessels to engage in the domestic coastal carriage of petroleum products within the coastal and inland waterways.

The Senate had also mandated the panel to investigate foreign ship owners of freight associated with downstream activities repatriated overseas by NNPC to the detriment of the local economy.

According to Folarin, the panel had earlier invited the former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, who he said “could not answer because they were not his responsibilities but that of the minister (Amaechi).”

“The Senate discovered that foreign vessels are still dominating the maritime industry and the local companies are saying Nigerians must have first option. Also, COVID-19 has exposed this so-called globalisation.

“For instance, the issue of waiver, all the foreign vessels plying our waterways, what is the criteria for their operations? Also, the two per cent paid to NIMASA after any business is done, will help develop the local industry. The money is being banked and we found out they have not spent a penny. So, we want to invite the minister and GMD of NNPC to help us out and tell us why the business is being dominated by foreigners.”

He also faulted the documents earlier submitted by the former DG of NIMASA, said it contained some ‘inconsistencies’, adding that “some the names of foreign vessels are also the same names as the local vessels”.

“We can’t carry out the investigation without talking to the key players,” he said.

The invited parties are expected to appear before the committee after the Senate’s annual recess.

By Peace Obi

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