The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has said he had no knowledge that the ministry approves waivers to foreign vessels operators.
Amaechi made the claim when he appeared before the Senate Joint Committee on Local Content, Downstream Petroleum and Legislative Compliance, Thursday.
The committee is investigating the alleged breach of Nigerian Laws by foreign vessels in coastal shipping of petroleum products in downstream sector of the Nigerian Maritime Industry.
In his submission, the minister said that he was not aware of any waiver given to the vessels by the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The minister 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. This is nothing on my table from 2015 to today, I don’t have any waiver on my table.
“First they claimed that non 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 an approval, and now no request for an approval is on my table or that has been on my table since 2015 till today.”
However, on whether there was such request of waivers in the ministry before he became minister, Amaechi said that he had not checked that.
His words: “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,” he said.
The minister pledged to work with the National Assembly Committee to ensure that Nigerians had the maximum benefits in such relationships.
“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.”
Amaechi added: “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.”
Earlier, Chairman Senate Committee on Local Content Senator Teslim Folarin recalled that in Dec. 2019, the Senate debated a motion.
“The motion was titled “Urgent need to investigate the breech of Nigerian laws by foreign vessels and coastal shipping of petroleum products in down stream sector of the Nigerian Maritime industry which was sponsored Sen. Olamilekan Mustspha.
He said that the committee was mandated to carry out an investigation with a view to unraveling the influx of foreign vessels in the coastal region and the level of patronage of Nigerian Shipping Companies.
Folarin said that 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 ship to ship transfer of coastal foreign vessels.
“Investigate foreign freight associated with downstream activities repatriated overseas by NNPC to the detriment of the local economy or patronage.”