Maritime industry stakeholders at the weekend made a strong case for the Nigerian Shippers Council NSC to transform into the proposed National Transport Commission NTC.

The NTC Bill which is currently before the National Assembly seeks to establish the NTC  to  regulate the transport sector including rail, road and maritime modes of transport.

These stakeholders have therefore advised the Federal Government, especially the National Assembly that any attempt to create a new agency would amount to duplication of functions and unnecessary waste of public funds, especially at this time of dwindling economic fortunes in the country.

Most of these stakeholders, who are freight forwarders while speaking in Lagos at the  weekend,  argued  that the choice of  transforming the council into the NTC  would save the  Federal Government the huge cost associated with the establishing a new agency at such a  critical period of economic  recession.

“But beyond saving government the resources involved, the Council is structured in terms of management expertise and other wherewithal in such a way that makes it most suitable to perform the regulatory job of the NTC”, the freight forwarders said.

Former chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, CRFFN,  Iju Tony Nwabunike,  one of the freight forwarders, said that in view of the  good statutory roles of the  Council  in the shipping industry,  the   Senate should speed up the passage of the  NTC Bill and  provide for the transformation of the Council  as the regulatory agency.

Nwabunike who recalled    the contribution of the NSC in sanitising the freight forwarding industry, said  the Council with its knowledge of the entire transport sector, will  do well  if the law allows its  transformation.

He said that the Council has saved many importers and exporters from the hands of service providers at the ports, noting that the Council also played   key roles in ensuring that service providers deliver in terms of efficient services at the ports by providing necessary cargo handling equipment.

“There has been an improvement in the time that agents spend in clearing their goods in terms of cargo and turnaround time of ships calling at the ports as a result of the efforts of the Council. These were made possible because the Council parades qualified personnel that will make the proposed NTC deliver on its statutory functions”,Nwabunike also said .

Another customs agent, Mr Ayo Ogunlana, said it would be a waste of scarce resources for the Federal Government to begin another process of setting up a brand new NTC  instead of allowing the NSC to transform  into that status and  regulate the entire  transport sector..

Ogunlana said that as far as he was concerned the bulk of the entire  transport industry  was more in the maritime  sector because of the technicalities involved than other segments in the  industry.

He said that once the regulator was able to address the issues affecting the transport industry in the maritime sector, it would have resolved  about 70 percent of the entire transport  sector.

Ogunlana described  the  workforce of the NSC as experts  gifted with the needed capacity to handle the affairs of the new NTC once the ports regulator was adapted as the proposed commission.

“If the NSC is allowed to transform into NTC, it will be better for the country because the personnel there are experts in different fields  that the NTC would need . It will save the government the  huge cost involving in setting up new offices, branches and the logistics. The Council has all these and all it needs to do is perhaps to recruit few more hands with the added functions. It will be smooth sail for both the federal government and Nigerians instead of setting up a new body”, he said.

A customs broker, Mr Tony   Edomaruse, also said there is no doubt that the Council would perform creditably if   given the chance to metamorphose into the NTC.

Edomaruse said that the Council was blessed with tested technocrats that can handle the duties of a regulator, adding that the experience in the maritime industry will be an added advantage.

He also added that the Council’s transformation will also be an easy task for the government   to manage since the Council already has all the needed structure and expertise.

Another frontline freight forwarder, Mr Denis Okonkwo, while speaking on the proposed NTC, said that  the current function of the  Council  as the Ports Economic regulator  was similar to the expected functions of the  NTC, adding that  this would make the task easy for the Council and better for all  instead of having a new NTC.

Okonkwo said that since the Council has performed creditably as the ports economic regulator, the best   government could do was to allow it move into the bigger shoes of the NTC when the Bill that is currently at the National Assembly is passed into law.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, had during a public hearing on the bill, said that the proposed NTC will formulate transport policies for the government and private players in the transport sector.

Ashafa had also described the NTC Bill as crucial  to the survival of the nation’s  transportation sector of the economy, adding that it will be responsible for the regulation of transport policies.

Some  of the lawmakers had favoured  the establishment of a new commission.

But the Minister of Transport had insisted that allowing the NSC to take  up the duties of the NTC   will address the issue of duplication of functions  and save the Federal Government the  resources  that would be needed for such exercise.

“It must be noted that the NTC Bill has similar functions to those being performed by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council. Based on the similarities in functions and purposes between the NSC and the proposed NTC, the Bureau of Public Enterprise BPE and a majority of industry stakeholders accepted and called for the NSC to be adapted and empowered to perform the functions of the economic regulator”, the Minister had told the Senate.

Meanwhile, managing consultant of Kauthar Resources, Mr Ibrahim Mohammed Kashim, had in his contribution urged the Senate to consider Amaechi’s proposal and allow the NSC to transform as    the National Transport Commission.

Kashim explained that this was necessary since   the thrust of the NTC Bill was economic regulation, adding that to a large extent, this was also  the main thrust of the Shippers Council’s functions.