Lawmakers Pass Bill Restricting Foreign Vessels On Nigerian Waters

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By Udora Orizu

Members of the House of Representatives have finally passed a Bill seeking to restrict foreign vessels on Nigerian waters and allow only the carriers owned by Nigerians.

The passage followed the consideration and adoption of a report on the Bill’s clauses laid by the Chairman of the House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education & Administration, Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu.

The lawmakers had in March 2021 passed the proposed legislation, which seeks amendment to the existing Cabotage Act to promote the development of indigenous tonnage and also establish a cabotage vessel financing fund, through second reading.

Ikpeazu had, in her debate on its general principles, said that the passage would reposition the Nigerian maritime sector to achieve its potential.

According to her, the bill aims to address the challenges of the current cabotage regime by adequately and effectively developing and protecting the rights of Nigerians to dominate in the area of commercial transportation of goods and services within Nigeria’s coastal and inland waterways.

The Bill draft shows that Clause 4 introduces a new Section 3B. This new Section 3B (2) expressly provides for the delegation of the powers of the minister to the administering agency to expedite efficient management of the day-to-day administration of the cabotage system.

Clause 7 on its part, effectively amends Section 22(5) of the Principal Act by expanding the Act’s coverage with regards to vessels that require registration.

This is to ensure that specific vessels carrying out commercial activities within our maritime domain are adequately covered.

Clauses 9, 10, 11 and 12 amend Sections 35, 36, 37 and 40 of the Principal Act by increasing the penalties for the contravention of specific provisions.

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Clause 13 amends Section 42 of the Principal Act by expanding the scope and purpose of the Cabotage Vessel and Financing Fund such that the purpose of the Fund, currently limited to ‘indigenous ship acquisition’, will now also cover ship building, ship repair and capacity development, thereby opening up access to funding and more avenues for indigenous participation.

Meanwhile, at the plenary, the lawmakers adopting a motion sponsored by Hon. Muhammad Alkali, urged the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) to urgently rehabilitate the near collapsed bridges of Farin Gada; Gadan Bako; Gadan Sogai; Gada Biyu and Cele Bridges in Bassa and Jos North Local Government Areas of Plateau State.

They mandated the Committee on FERMA to capture the rehabilitation of the aforementioned bridges in the 2023 budget estimates.

(Thisday)

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