*League of Maritime Editors alleges plot to foreclose President’s Assent
Members of the Senate Committee on Marine Transport have been urged to do more than just passing the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill and work assiduously for its assent by the President.
A maritime industry practitioner and founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr Boniface Aniebonam, said members of the Senate Committees who worked for the NTC bill to be passed by the National Assembly should also be involved in addressing issues of delays and the bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with securing the President’s assent to the bill.
Aniebonam who was Guest of the League of Maritime Editors and Publishers in its interactive forum in Lagos said there was the need for the Senate Committee members to go further by seeking audience with the President and some of his key cabinet members saddled with such responsibility to brief them on the values that will be created in the economy with the assent of the NTC bill.
During such meeting, the Senate Committee can throw more light on some of the grey areas which are being misconstrued by some agencies of government believed to be working underground against the assent of the bill.
Aniebonam pointed out that what many have not been told is that there appears to be some level of apprehension that the NTC bill when assented will whittle down statutory functions of some other agencies of government particularly with the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) at the helm of the Commission.
Noting that this was not so, he said with such belief, the Senate Committee and all those connected with the NTC bill need to clear the air, raising worry also as some of the members of the League during the forum that the bill may just be on its way to extinction with the excuses of linguistic errors and regulatory duties overlap stated at the recent Night of Appreciation by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council(NSC) in Lagos by the representative of the Secretary to Government of the Federation(SGF), Barr. Mustapha Boss.
“Anytime Mr. President and his host of advisers as well as kitchen cabinet members want to kill a bill, flimsy excuses like use of diction, grammatical errors and duty over laps are raised as escape routes, thereby sacrificing the intention and the economic benefits of the bill. This is what we have found in the NTC bill where huge money has exchanged hands in recent times against it.” A member of the League posited at the forum.
Similarly, he urged the leadership of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to see the NTC bill as a progressive instrument for the entire national economy because of the economic values associated with it.
Aniebonam was of the view that the management of the NPA headed by Hadiza Bala Usman has to be briefed by legal experts that the NTC bill when assented will not have negative effect on the authority, like other agencies of government.
He called for a high level collaboration between the leadership of the NSC headed by Barr Hassan Bello and the NPA MD, Hadiza Bala Usman for the latter’s understanding on what NTC is all about.
Aniebonam said, “There is need to do some awareness creation among all agencies concerned with the passage of the NTC to know that it does not pose any threat on them. This is important so that they do not work against it underground at the level of assent by the President.
Even the Attorney General of the Federation and all other key aides to the President need to know what NTC stands for, its economic value and the fact that other agencies of government will be part of the Commission to offer technical regulation as it affects them individually”.
It would be recalled that the SGF, Barr. Boss Mustapha said the Federal Government was sorting out some technicalities and use of language, that would bother on overlap of functions with other agencies and needs to be clearly delineated.
“As soon as that is sorted, we should have a befitting law for the good of the whole. I can assure you however that on its part, the Executive is committed to playing its role in the passage of the bill into law”, he said.
He said for Nigeria’s economy to be propelled at the desired speed, there is the need to establish or delineate a body, to regulate the sector and provide technical oversight for the provision of transport services, monitor compliance of government agencies and service providers, with relevant legislation for efficient operations through consolidation, removal of duplicity and regulatory functions of public agencies”.
The Executive Secretary, NSC Mr. Hassan Bello, had last week given an insight into the roles of the Council when the NTC bill is assented to by the President.
Bello said the Council would not just transmute into the NTC as some would expect, it would first build capacity in all areas of air, rail and land transport and inland waterways, among others under the role of a multi- sectoral regulator.
Bello explained: “NSC is not going to dabble at any technical regulation that is left to agencies to carry out. It will not have the issue of safety except may be for oversight. It is going to be an independent regulator and the Presidency will have a lot to do about the regulation and the beauty of it is that it is going to see the interconnectivity of modes of transport so that transition from one mode to the other is more like inter-modalism because multi-modalism is already there.
“Transport drives the economy, we need to have modern transport infrastructure. The whole thing about the NTC is to bring in the private sector. The kernel of transformation in transportation lies on Ports and Harbour Bill, it lies on Nigerian Railway Bill, it lies on NIWA Bill. These Bills, all are speaking to NTC, so, it is a whole gamut, it is not just one.
“One has to be very careful. This is economic transformation, so the transmutation is from the public sector control of the transportation to private (sector control). So, it is not the Shippers’ Council that will be transmuted but the Shippers’ Council will have a say in that because of their experience especially in maritime regulation”.