Still On The National Transport Commission Bill 

The National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill has since been passed by the Senate; several months after the House of Representatives had passed the same Bill. We are all waiting for the mandatory assent of Presidential Muhammadu Buhari.

The recent prayers of the National Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) as offered by its President; Iyalode Alaba Lawason reminded us all that the controversial, yet very important Bill is still at the Presidency.

The NTC Bill is: “to provide efficient economic regulatory framework for the transport sector, mechanism for monitoring compliance of government agencies, transport services providers and users in the regulated transport industry with relevant legislation and to advise government on matters relating to economic regulation of the regulated transport industry.”

The Bill also aims to transmute the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to become the regulator of the nation’s transportation sector and take up the name and responsibilities of the new Commission.

In the last few years, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has moved from being just the protector of shippers’ interests, it has grown to become the economic regulator of the Nigerian port system, adding more responsibilities and superintending activities of more players in the Nigerian maritime sector.

A couple of years ago, when  words filtered in that the Federal Government had given approval to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to take on the role of the commercial regulator of activities in the Nigeria port system, there was skepticism in some quarters as to the competence of the Council to carry out this added responsibilities. No doubt, the Council has done very well, striking a balance between the highly profit-driven private sector and the various users of port services.

It has also struck a balance in its relationship with sister government, agencies, it didn’t allow its new role to cause friction, especially with the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA). One thing that the Chief Executive Officer of the Council has and which is helping the organisation is his reach-out approach.

 The Council has been performing that role of the Economic Regulator very creditably, even in the face of deliberate moves by private terminal operators and shipping line agencies to confront the Council and render it impotent. There are pending court cases to prove this. 

Even though a commercial regulator ought to have been an integral part of the port concession deal, stakeholders, including the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) and the concessionaires have had to make do with a largely unregulated system since the ports were concessioned in 2006.

This is the lacuna that the terminal operators and the shipping agents have been taken advantage of. 

The Nigerian transport system is so complex; it is (at different times) controlled by at least two different ministries and several agencies. Sadly, it is anything but intermodal; it has never been united, neither has it ever been inter-connected.

 In other climes; especially in Europe and America and some parts of Africa where a single regulatory agency exists for all modes of transportation, the principle of intermodalism is well in place; hence it is convenient for all the modes to be independent and still be interconnected, under a regulator.

By the Act, the NTC is envisioned an ombudsman that will provide efficient regulatory framework for the nation’s transport sector.  It is expected to provide mechanism for the monitoring and compliance of government agencies, transport services’ providers and users in the transport industry with relevant legislation as well as advice government on matters relating to economic regulation of the industry.

Since its emergence as the economic regulator of the ports, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has been performing most of the functions envisioned by the NTC, albeit in the port system.

It is instructive that the thrust of the NTC Bill  in section 6 (1) (b), (c), and (h) is ‘Regulation’, which is also similar to section 3 of the NSC Act, Cap N133, LFN 2004.

The NSC currently boasts of six zonal offices in the six geo-political zones as well as area and port offices spread across the states of the federation. 

Those who still have contrary views about the creation of a National Transport Commission should pause and ask themselves if it will benefit the maritime sector or the transport sector in general. 

As a leading media outfit in the Nigerian maritime industry, we maintain that if the Nigerian NTC is as conceived in other countries, then it is going to be to the advantage of all. The TRANSNET model in South Africa is a confirmation of the success of intermodal transportation regulation, and worthy of emulation.

We are particularly glad that the grey areas and the fears earlier expressed in the aviation sector, which delayed the Bill’s passage for years have all been addressed.

The attendant portfolio of the NTC will no doubt be a heavy one, given the complexity of the transport and aviation industry and the plethora of agencies therein.

Upon transmutation, it means that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council will have a new name and a new face. We advise that, ahead of the expected assent of the President to the NTC Bill and its eventual transmutation, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council should carry out a sincere S-W-O-T analysis of itself vis-à-vis its expected new role. 

No doubt, the NTC is far bigger that the NSC, it will no longer be about economic regulation of the seaports, but if the doggedness of and the commitment of the incumbent CEO of the Shippers Council is anything to go by, then the transmutation will be in the larger interest of the Nigerian transportation sector.

We also join our voice to those of organisations and individuals who have called for the assent to the NTC Bill.  There must be something quite exciting and good about the NTC that makes every stakeholder to be clamoring for its creation. It is even more exciting that the expected transmutation of the Nigerian Shippers Council enjoys the support of all.