Why I Abandoned NTC, Ex-Transport Minister

Why I Abandoned NTC, Ex-Transport Minister
Former Minister of Transportation, Sambo

 

 · APMT Under Security Surveillance

·  Bonny Deep Seaport, PH-Maiduguri railway on course  

Against all expectations that the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill would receive accelerated attention from the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Muazu Sambo as a transport professional who knows the importance of the bill to the industry, ex-Minister has explained why the proposed piece of legislation may have died under the current shades of realities.

The Minister spoke with MMS Plus in an exclusive interview as there are indications by reports that the AP Moller Terminals, one of the terminal operators in the nation’s ports is under serious security surveillance for alleged obnoxious practices at the ports.

Inundated by the controversy that blighted the realization of the transport bill, Sambo said he abandoned it for more pressing issues.

According to him, “The NTC is one area I did not look at since I came into office. Personally, because we had a short time and there was the need to give back to Nigerians their expectations, especially the maritime community, as well as the other sub-sectors like the railway, I identified key deliverables called low-hanging fruits. NTC was something I felt would take my time and would not give me the desired results because it has been controversial.

“Again, it will be an additional agency at a time the government is looking at the Oransaye report to reduce the number of parastatals and agencies of government in order to reduce cost of governance. So I felt that pushing the agendum of NTC is akin to someone who is not sensitive to the government’s thinking of reducing cost of governance. That was why I did not look in that direction, he stated.

The Federal Government under Hon. Rotimi Amaechi as the Minister of Transportation, had announced that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council(NSC) would transmute to NTC on the passage of the bill into Act., which is expected to address the unsightly trends in the transport industry by creating efficient transportation system driven by effective transport intermodal operations in the country.

Since its first passage by the Senate on March 16, 2018 and subsequent first passage by the House of Representatives on April 12,2018, the former President Mohammadu Buhari objected to give assent to the bill on more than three occasions that it featured on his table. Though the bill had attracted bitter hatred from certain quarters, a development that characterizes any realistic development bill in the country, the promoters who seemed dogged and determined earlier seem to be chickening out.

Recall that the anti-trust bill was killed many times in two decades at the National Assembly under different nomenclatures in a bid to enthrone a competitive environment devoid of absolute monopoly in a free market economy. Eventually it got passed as the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC).. Many foreign companies with vested interests sponsored its death at various stages in the past.

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of NSC, Hon. Emmanuel Jime has said that the Shippers’ Council is working on the review of its enabling Act which he believes will strengthen the agency in its role as port economic regulator instead of making a seeming recurring fruitless efforts at NTC realization.

He spoke in response to the call for the actualization of NTC for the sanitization of the maritime sector by a delegation of APM Terminals that came on courtesy visit to the agency.

According to him, the Federal Government is committed to making Nigeria an investment haven for foreign investors while encouraging local entrepreneurs to be creative in growing the economy.

“The strategic location of this country on the African continent makes it a trigger for investments”, Jime added.

The AP Moller Terminals’ four-man delegation was led by its Vice President Mr. Martijn Van Dongen to Nigerian Shippers’ Council in Lagos on Friday.

Dongen said the essence of the visit was to strengthen collaboration with Nigerian Shippers’ Council, the port economic regulator.

During the visit, APMT received its certificate to operate as a regulated service provider.

Chinenye Deinde, the Legal Adviser and Head of Corporate Affairs of APMT had called on NSC to pursue the NTC Bill stating that it has the potential to sanitize the maritime sector.

.Mr. Dongen was accompanied on the visit by Mr. Klaus Holm Laursen, Head of Joint Ventures, Africa and Europe, Mrs. Chinenye Deinde, Legal Adviser & Head, Corporate Affairs, APMT as well as Mr. Frederick Klinke, managing director, APMT Nigeria.

However, MMS Plus gathered that APMT has been placed under security watch over alleged collusion with some Customs officers and other security agencies to encourage the import of illicit cargo into the country.

Another security source attributed a recent Management reorganization in the Nigeria Customs Service(NCS ) to a compromised system that encouraged influx of illicit drugs into the country through the terminal. Tramadol cartels from countries like Parkistan are alleged to make seamless clearance of goods in Apapa port at over N150million per 20 feet container with specialist freight agents, MMS Plus gathered.

In another development, Sambo has explained that works are at advanced stage at the Port Harcourt- Maiduguri eastern railway project where it was recently reported that construction activities was suspended as a result of security challenge, adding that the Bonny Deep Seaport is also on course.

In his words:”Bonny Deep Seaport is still on course. Bonny Deep Seaport is part and parcel of the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri railway line. It is supposed to be funded by 85 per cent by the Chinese concessionary loan from China EXIM Bank while the balance of 15 per cent will be provided under appropriation by Federal Government. So far, all the works going on there is funded from the 15 per cent appropriation.

“The Chinese has not provided the counterparts funds. As we speak the contracting company, CCECC is looking for alternative funding mechanism. Based on commercial law, that will be subject to the review of the Federal Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Budget and National Planning, the Debt Management Office and the National Assembly.

To answer your question directly, the Bonny Deep Seaport is still on course because it is part and parcel of the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri railway rehabilitation project.

“I think talking specifically about Kaduna- Zaria- Kano railway project, because of insecurity between Kaduna and Zaria, the contractor had to start from Kano coming back towards Zaria. Now, insecurity has gone down along that axis. It is almost not existent now. Again, the work is going on but it is from the 15 per cent appropriation. For the Port Harcourt – Maiduguri railway project, because of insecurity they had to start from Port Harcourt end to Aba. The work is ongoing. What is holding the project not to move as much as we would want is the 85 per cent equity fund .

Sambo said, “I read somewhere recently that I was not interested in the coastal lines development. Now, the coastal line is one of the critical lines in Nigeria because it connects Lagos to Calabar which means that you can kill three birds with one stone. Some of the issues we have like the desertion of Port Harcourt port will be a thing of the past. With this, I can then bring my cargo to Port Harcourt, use the rail line to take it to hinterlands to destination if it is Calabar. Again, the problem of that line has been total aspect of funding.”

He continued:”Fortunately, because if our desire to have that line come on stream, we have had conversations, which started with my predecessor, of sub-contracting about 40 per cent of that contract to a company that was willing to provide external finance . They have produced a time-sheet which the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning as well as Debt Management Office are looking at as we speak.

“And if all the negotiations are right and everything goes through, funds will come in and you will see that project come to light. I am worried that the project that was approved since 2014 has not taken off . Another railway project that is going on well is the Kano to Maradi railway project. All the railway projects are going on however I would have been happy if funding was in place the progress would have been much more farther than we have them now, he noted.

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