Shippers Council most suitable as Transport Commission, say stakeholders
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.