As stakeholders strategise for the imminent creation of the proposed National Transport Commission (NTC), strong indications have emerged that the greatest opposition to the ambition of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council may come from the National Assembly.
Already, two divergent positions have emerged, confirming that while the Senate may favour the original concept of a multi-sectoral transport commission, the House of Representatives may go for a revised version of the commission which favours a maritime sector-based commission.
Shipping Position Weekly recalls that the upper legislature has already tabled the NTC bill as a private member bill after waiting endlessly for the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to forward the draft bill.
A source who works with the Senate committee on marine transport told our correspondent that “the bill has been with the Federal Executive Council for more than two years and all efforts to get it to the National Assembly have failed because of fears that were expressed in certain circles within the executive arm”.
Our findings are that there is a sharp division in the concept of the NTC as the legislature and the executive envisage it. While the FEC represented by the ministry of transportation on one hand and the House of Representatives on the other reportedly favoured the transmutation of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to the commission, the upper chamber of the National Assembly is working on the creation of a multi-sector regulatory agency that will perform the same role in all transportation modes, that is water, road (including railways) and air.
The NTC bill was actually prepared by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and sent to the FEC in form of a memo through the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) as far back as 2006.
The private member NTC bill which is presently before the Senate favours a multi sectoral commission. “What we want is a multi-sector regulatory agency that would be empowered to provide qualitative regulatory services to these sectors”, a member of the Senate committee on marine transportation told Shipping Position Weekly last week, even as he added that it will be difficult to allow Shippers’ Council to perform the function of a regulator.
A curious dimension to the drama surfaced also last week in response to our Back Page Interview with the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Captain Adamu Biu.
Captain Biu had in the interview raised justifications for the Council’s ambition of wanting to transmute into the NTC. He had explained in the interview that the Council’s ambition to transmute is because the Nigerian Shippers’ Council Act does not give it powers to bite.
“Of course, the only handicap that we have is that we do not have statutory powers to enforce any agreed tariff and that is why we want to transform into the National Transport Commission or indeed any regulator in the transport chain”, he had said.
Shortly after the story came out, a member of the House committee on marine transport told our correspondent that the Shippers’ Council can not be given that responsibility.
Pleading anonymity, the lawmaker explained that the Shippers Council can not fit into the concept that is being envisaged, even though he did not expatiate.
Another source in the National Assembly told our correspondent that those canvassing for the transmutation of any existing agency would need to understand that no one could be a judge in his own case. He explained that whatever affects Shippers’ Council, affects Nigerian Ports Authourity and the Federal Airports Authourity of Nigeria (FAAN) and even the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authourity (NCAA).
While the Nigerian Shippers’ Council represents cargo interests, the NPA is an interested party in the concessioned port system because it takes charges and royalty from the concessionaires. The same applies to NCAA, which by virtue of being a technical regulator is also an interested party, the same goes for FAAN which is also an interested party, our source explained further.