The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday named the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Bello Adoke, chairman of a special committee to fine-tune four proposed bills meant to reform the nation’s maritime, aviation and land transport sectors by drawing in more private sector participation.
The bills to be fine-tuned before presenting to FEC for approval before transmitting to the National Assembly are: National Transport Commission Bill (2014); Nigeria Railway Bill (2014); Nigerian Ports and Harbour Authority Bill (2014); and National Inland Waterways Authority Bill (2014).
Addressing State House correspondents after the Council meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, said the Adoke committee, which will comprise Ministers of Aviation, Transport, Works are to incorporate relevant ministers and other stakeholders in the railways, maritime and aviation sectors.
According to Maku, the bills when passed into law will encourage the private sector actively participate in the construction, maintenance and ownership of seaports, harbours and airports across the country, with possible privatisation of existing facilities.
He further added that the reform initiative is based on the need to open the sectors for competition that will enhance productivity and efficiency.
Maku stressed further that government has come to the realisation that it cannot shoulder the funding of critical projects in the sector, whereas extant laws restrict the private sector from participation beyond operating ships, aircraft and commercial vehicles.
According to Maku, “Private sector leads to faster growth of the economy. Government no longer have enough resources to run infrastructure. There must be private sector participation.
“We have discovered that there are so many legal bottlenecks that hinder private sector participation, hence the bills”.
In order to ensure effective competition, regulatory functions will be taken away from any of the operators in the system, and handed over to neutral umpires, he added.
Maku further explained that the bills when enacted will open up lots of opportunities for Nigerians to enjoy more and better road, rail, sea and air travel infrastructure, as well as employment opportunities.
For instance, well maintained private roads and terminals will be a big boost to easier public transportation while providing jobs for more Nigerians, he stated.
Maku, however assured that government despite these moves would not hands off provision of needed public infrastructure. Instead, taxes paid by the private sector and the money saved by government from providing the marginal infrastructure would be available for use in other critical sectors like health and basic education.
He further assured that the interests of Nigerians will be uppermost in all the decisions taken by government with regard to the formulation of the transport sector reform bills.