“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up” – Booker T. Washington
Perhaps stakeholders in the maritime industry can take a cue from Booker Washington’s apt saying and decide to push/ pull the national assembly towards passing the Ports and Harbour bill as well as other pending maritime sector bills.
The Ports and Harbour bill is regarded as one of the most crucial bills to Nigeria’s maritime sector. The bill was designed to provide adequate framework for the private sector participation and to promote efficiency based on the principles of accountability, fairness, competition and transparency. However the non passage of the bill has become a major cause for many stakeholders in the maritime industry especially concessionaires are worried because the bill when passed into law assures the terminal operators of the concession.
Ports and Harbour Bill is one which should have been enacted alongside the 2006 port concession programme, yet it is still pending ten years after. The bill when passed into law ought to give a legal backing to the entire port reform programme and also create an Independent Port Regulatory Commission for the port industry as done in other climes where the landlord port model, such as Nigeria’s is practiced.
The National Assembly itself, precisely the House of Representatives had initiated the bill following the conclusion of the port reform programme by the Bureau of Public Enterprise without a legal framework. Ten years after cargo handling operations have been handed to private operators following the port reforms in 2006, the legal framework is still pending.
In 2014, the duo of the Senate Committee and House of Representatives Committee on Marine Transport accused the Presidency of delaying the bill following the failure of the presidency to summit the Nigerian Ports and Harbour Bill for necessary action.
Other maritime bills before the National Assembly include, the Chartered Institute of Shipping of Nigeria Bill, the National Transport Commission Bill, the Bill establishing the Economic Regulator (shipping sector), the National Inland Waterways Authority Bill, the Maritime Security Agency Bill, Nigeria Railway Bill, the Maritime Zones Bill, etc
As part of the measures to speed up the passage of the Ports and Harbour bill and several other maritime bills lying in the senate, these suggestions could be applied:
• Pile up pressure on the Senate Committee to enable them see the benefits of the bills to the maritime industry and the nation at large.
• Invite the Senate and House of Representatives Committees to maritime symposiums as a means to expose them to the reality of the maritime industry.
• Conduct researches on these bills, their applications in other countries and the results and send these findings to both Chambers.
The maritime sector of the transport industry has tremendous potentials that are yet to be tapped by successive governments. After oil and gas, whose PIB is before the National Assembly, the maritime sector remains a veritable revenue earner and the Ports and Harbour bill is one that is so crucial to Nigeria’s maritime domain.