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Expectations Swell As Shippers’ Council Nears Transmutation Into NTC

Expectations Swell As Shippers’ Council Nears Transmutation Into NTCBy Kenneth Jukpor

Many challenges responsible for the stark economic underdevelopment quagmire that defines Nigeria’s economy can be linked to the uncoordinated and unregulated state of the transport industry. The mismanagement of the sector has been obvious in the disjointed nature of the various transport modes.

As part of efforts to create a synergy between the various modes of transport as obtained in the developed world and provide the requisite regulation for the sector, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) is expected to transmute into the National Transport Commission (NTC) albeit after President Buhari’s assent.

In the nation’s transport industry, vehicular transportation by road remains chaotic and largely operated by touts. The water transport along the waterways is dominated by untrained hands that care less about safety standards. This has resulted to frequent boat capsizes and loss of several lives and valuable properties. While the railway system is comatose with skeletal services, not even the aviation sector that ought to operate by international standards is in anyway better. Delays, cancellation of scheduled flights without notice and poor services are the orders of the day.

The Nigerian transport sub-sectors operate independently of each others. Disjointedness is the norm. There is, for instance, no connection or link between aviation and rail or road transport. People disembark from an aircraft at the airport and have to struggle to get a taxicab or other modes of transport. The rail system is completely out of the question and not to talk of water transport. Nothing connects our dysfunctional rail system with the airports or seaports for journey facilitation. Each transport subsector is managed haphazardly.

It is against this backdrop that the recent passage of the National Transport Commission (NTC) bill comes as a welcome development, to, at least, for the first time, create what would serve as a common platform to regulate the entre transport spectrum and make it more service oriented in line with approved international standards.

Speaking with MMS Plus on the expected benefits of NTC, the President of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Nigeria, Alhaji Ibrahim Jibril noted that NTC would regulate the movement of cargoes across the country, which he noted as a major problem affecting businesses and the nation’s economy.

“There are lots of mishaps, wastages and inefficiencies in transportation that we believe can be addressed when NTC comes onboard. The road sector for example, is responsible for over 85% of the transportation of goods and services across the nation; it remains largely unregulated and operated by mostly unprofessional. We don’t want quacks operating in the transport sector anymore and that is why at CILT we prioritize and preach professionalism” Jibril said.

Jibril also stressed that with the right policies in place, the transport sector could generate massive employment that the nation had never seen before.

Speaking to MMS Plus on his expectations on NTC, the Chairman, Ports Consultative Council, Otunba Kunle Folarin said NTC should emerge as an economic regulator in ‘real sense’.

He urged the agency to guarantee fairplay in issues of tariff, freight and the basic standards of activities and services across the transport sector.

“When NTC comes on board, it must be able to administrate provision of services across the entire transport sector and develop guidelines. It must also have port procedures and be able to regulate the sector” Otunba said.

The two arms of the National Assembly (NASS) have already passed the bill, which is now awaiting presidential assent. The Senate passed the bill in March, 10 months after the House of Representatives passed it.

The bill seeks to “provide efficient economic regulatory framework for the transport sector, mechanism for monitoring compliance of government agencies, transport service providers and users in the regulated transport industry with relevant legislation and to advise government on matters relating to economic regulation of the regulated transport industry.”

Meanwhile, an insider at Shippers’ Council, the Deputy Director, Compliance, Enforcement and Monitoring, Chief Cajetan Agu, stressed that the Shippers’ Council would have to undergo massive restructuring to meet the expected obligations of NTC.

“The Council would have to be restructured into new departments, more workforce would be needed but in a nutshell the regulatory functions of the Council would only be expanded to cover the entire transport sector. Since the Council is already playing an economic regulatory role at the ports, it is this function that has been expanded to the transport sector at large” Agu explained.

Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC Lagos East), who is the chairman of the Committee on Land Transport, reportedly said that the NTC Bill, when signed into law, is capable of setting the transport sector on the path of positive development. He said, with this bill, we would successfully create a multi-modal economic and safety oversight regulator for the transport sector.

‘The thrust of the bill is efficient economic regulation of the transport industry. The National Transport Commission is conceived to be an effective, impartial and independent regulatory authority in the transport sector and to set out the objectives, functions and powers of the commission. It will also promote the implementation of the National Transport Policy that is unknown to many” he said.

The importance of the transport sector cannot be overemphasized as it is the wheel that keeps the economy in motion. President Muhammadu Buhari should expedite action in signing the bill into law without undue delay.

At such a time when every notable achievement in the polity could be counted as a political gain to score points and solicit support of the electorate, President Buhari should see the transformed transport sector that could emerge after signing this bill and let this count as part of the change that Nigerians need for economic development.

Only four years ago, precisely in 2014, the Federal Government appointed the NSC, as a temporary measure, to perform the economic regulatory functions at the ports for the purpose of entrenching efficiency in the industry before the NTC bill is enacted into law.

Today, by virtue of that role, the NSC might have gained the experience, has the infrastructure and capacity needed for a smooth transition to the new commission.

Similarly, the Minister of Transport, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi recently pointed out another advantage of NSC becoming NTC when he said that allowing the NSC to take up the duties of the NTC will address the issue of duplication of functions and save scarce resources.

Amaechi has also been proactive to resolve presumed challenges with regards inter-agency rift and power-tussle as he recently summoned all heads of transport sector parastatals at Shippers’ Council headquarters where all parties agreed to work in unison to make NTC usher in a new dawn in the nation’s transport industry and transform the economy.

The purpose of NTC

NTC is conceived to be an effective, impartial and independent regulatory authority in the transport sector and to set out the objectives, functions and powers of the commission.  It is also to promote the implementation of the National Transport Policy and provide for an efficient economic regulation of the transport sector.

It is also to provide mechanism for monitoring compliance of government agencies and transport operators in the regulated transport industry with relevant legislation and advice government on matters relating to economic regulation of a regulated transport industry, among others.

Core functions of the NTC

The core functions of the NTC are to create an economic regulatory framework for the provision of transport services and facilities; facilitate effective competition, promote competitive market, conduct and ensure that the misuse of monopoly or non-transitory market power is prevented in the provision of transport services; promote private sector participation in the provision of transport services; ensure that operators and users have equitable access to the use of transport facilities, services, channels and routes while having regard to the level of competition and efficiency of the regulated transport industry; and monitor performance of the regulated sector

Powers of the Commission

The powers of the commission include among others; to implement government’s economic regulatory policies on transport; Protect the interest of users of transport services by ensuring that prices are fair and reasonable while having regard to the level of competition in, and efficiency of the regulated transport industry; register all transport service providers and determine the fees for such registration; set guidelines and general policies on tariffs charged and monitor compliance by public and private transport service operators and suppliers of prescribed goods and services and develop, enforce and monitor performance standards and indices relating to the quality transport services and facilities provided to user’s shippers and consumers in Nigeria having regard to best international performance indicators.

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