The National Transport Commission Bill and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council

Barring any unforeseen circumstance, before the end of this year, the National Transport Commission (NTC) would have been passed into law.

Having been passed by the House of Representatives in May 2017, the NTC Bill is awaiting concurrence at the Senate, and going by what the chairman of Senate committee on Marine Transport; Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, the passage is a done deal already.

He was reported to have told a gathering in Lagos recently that, the Senate will pass the NTC Bill and five other transport sector Bills before the end of the year.

The proposed National Transport Commission is prepared by Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Land Transport; Aminu Sani Isa, and sponsored by Hon. Osai Nicholas Osai

Isa had said: “It was highly observed that the thrust of the NTC Bill is economic regulation. To a great extent this is also the main thrust of the NSC Act. For example, section 6 (1) (b), (c), and (h) of the draft NTC Bill 2015, and section 3 of the NSC Act, Cap N133, LFN 2004 have similarities of functions.”

From all indications, the NTC is to pave way for the transmutation of the Nigerian Shippers Council to the regulator of the nation’s transport sector.

While justifying the intendment of the bill to transmute the NSC to the NTC, Isa had told his colleagues that: “The NSC has since its creation in 1978, established national spread and accompanying assets including a 12-storey twin towers that serves as its head office complex in Lagos, a four-storey two wings liaison office complex in Abuja, well-equipped Library, and an expansive training room as well as a fleet of operational vehicles;

“The council also has six zonal offices in the six geo-political zones as well as area and port offices spread across the states of the federation; by virtue of its experience and the fact that it has been performing similar economic regulatory functions in the port sub sector of the transport industry, the council is most suitable and easily adaptable to perform the role of an economic regulator.”

He had added that the transformation is also aimed at cost saving, avoidance of duplication of agencies and easy adaptability, among others.It has also been confirmed that the proposed National Transport Commission will be an independent multimodal transport sector regulator.  The Bill seeks to transfer the staff, employees, ownership of land, assets, properties, rights, debts, liabilities, obligations, functions and powers currently vested in the NSC to the new NTC.

The main objective of 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.”

A couple of years back, 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. The Council had since then been performing that role very creditably even in  the face of stringent and deliberate moves by private terminal  operators to confront the Council. There are about three 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 10 years ago.

We are however glad that the role that has been given to the Shippers Council as the Economic Regulator is being performed creditably, as evident by the activities of the Council and its acceptability by stakeholders.

If the plan sails through and the Council transmutes to the National Transport Commission, it then means that the council will have a new name and a new face.  

Those who have contrary views about the creation of a National Transport Commission should a 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 NTC is as conceived in other countries, then it is going to be to the advantage of all.

Yes, 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.

The question may then be asked: How can we (on account of having concessioned the ports) force the three modes of transport to ‘cohabit’; all in the name of having one regulator? 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 intermodalsim is well in place; hence it is convenient for all the modes to be independent and still be interconnected.

Stakeholders have long lamented that the bane of the Nigerian transportation system is its non-connectivity. We think that one of the things that the NTC will achieve is interconnectivity among all the modes.

As for the Shippers’ Council, it is gradually metamorphosing from its small enclave of being ‘the protector of Nigerian shippers’ to a more engaged agency; working for all. 

Transmuting to the NTC is in furtherance of its current assignment as the Economic Regulator and we are for it.

However, we advise that, ahead of the passage of the NTC bill and its eventual transmutation, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council needs to carry out a sincere S-W-O-T analysis of itself vis avis the expected new role. 

All said, it would be more reasonable and economical to transform the NSC into the NTC instead of creating a new agency which would amount to unnecessary duplication. This is more so, since   the NTC Bill prescribes similar functions for the NTC as those being currently performed by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.