The Senate committee on marine transportation has begun deliberations with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on how to fast track work on the much-delayed National Inland Waterways Authourity (NIWA) bill which will pave the way for agency’s concession.
Sources close to both the Senate and the BPE confirmed to our correspondent last week that the duo have started talking and that the outcome would determine the form that the NIWA bill would take.
Presently, a private member bill on NIWA is before the Senate, even as it was yet to receive the executive’s version of the bill from the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Head of corporate affairs at the BPE, Mr Chigbuo Anichebe who confirmed the development however refused to give details, but confirmed that discussions have started.
Shipping Position Weekly recalls that the BPE had once accused the lawmakers of delaying the passage of the bill which it alleged had been sent to it.
But the National Assembly had also denied receiving the controversial bill and in turn accused BPE of being economical with the truth. This controversy was reported exclusively by Shipping Position Weekly in its August 11th to 17th, 2008 edition.
The BPE was to have concessioned NIWA since 2007 after the successful concession of Nigerian Ports Authourity. Other agencies that have so far been concessioned or privatised include: the Nigerdock, which was the first to go, Nigerian Unity Line (NUL), which was sold to Seaforce Shipping, and the National Clearing and Forwarding Agency (NACFA).
Government has since cancelled the privatisation of NUL owing to breach of terms on the part of the Federal Government and has refunded the $20Million which was paid by Seaforce; a company that is owned business mogul, Mr Femi Otedola.
Our source at the National Assembly confirmed that the essence of the on going consultations between the lawmakers and BPE officials was to harmonise details of the private member bill with the executive bill.
But ahead of the bill, the BPE has reportedly already short listed a company which identity was given as Messrs MTBS Consortium as the concessionaire to take charge of the nation’s vast internal water network.
Our correspondent however gathered that the BPE has commenced gradual implementation of the concession package to the surprise of other stakeholders. We can not establish the extent of implementation beyond the fact that Messrs MTBS Consortium has been given the nod.Under the emerging legal framework, NIWA is expected to be a regulatory agency instead of its present roles as both an operator and a regulator as enshrined in Decree 13 of 1997 which established the agency.
A lawmaker who is also a member of the House of Representatives committee on marine transport who spoke to us on the issue submitted that “as it is presently, NIWA’s law can not fit in to the emerging new system, those who are coming to buy into the company will not have enough confidence in the existing system”, our source explained over the weekend.