How Nigerian Shippers’ Council emerged port regulator
- Agency gets additional funding from port development surcharge
- Transport Minister to address world press conference today
Intense lobbying by the Board and top management staff of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) backed by support from the Minister of Transport did the trick last week as the federal government finally approved the appointment of NSC as economic regulator for the nation’s seaports, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY can authoritatively reveal.
Usually reliable sources at the Federal Ministry of Transport, Abuja, told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that President Goodluck Jonathan’s approval for the NSC to assume the role of economic regulator was conveyed to the Federal Ministry of Transport on Thursday via a letter signed by Vice President Namadi Sambo.
The Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, is expected to address a world press conference today to formally inform stakeholders and the general public of the new development.
Executive Secretary/CEO of the NSC, Barrister Hassan Bello, who confirmed his council’s new role in a text message to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY on Friday, stated that the appointment is an interim measure pending the passage of the National Transport Commission (NTC) bill.
Top management staff of NSC made up of directors, deputy directors and other key operational staff were summoned to the Transport Ministry in Abuja on Thursday for briefing on the council’s new role. Representatives of the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Ports Authority and other relevant government agencies also attended the briefing.
A staff of NSC informed SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that the federal government has also approved an increase in the council’s funding from the present one per cent it gets from the seven per cent port development levy to three per cent in line with its new functions.
It is however not clear if the Shippers’ Council, which was set up originally to protect the interest of importers and exporters, will retain the original role conferred on it by law.
As economic regulator for the ports, the council will regulate the commercial activities of all operators in the ports industry, including terminal operators, shipping companies, importers, exporters and freight forwarders among others.
Since NSC was set up to fight the cause of importers and exporters, many operators believe that it is an interested party and may not be unbiased in its approach. The Council also owns and concessioned the development of six Inland Container Container Depots (ICDs) in various parts of the country.
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) was established in 1978 by decree 13 NSC Act Cap. N133 LFN 2004. In addition to the Act setting up the Council, five regulations have been made between 1986 and 2007 to support its activities.
Some stakeholders who spoke with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, however, applauded NSC’s appointment as commercial regulator.
“But that’s the demand of every stakeholder now because right now you would agree with me that there is no place for anyone to resolve matters especially on issues of charges and all that so we need a regulatory agency, probably use the word commercial regulator, to take charge of the anomalies in our ports and Shippers’ Council is most qualified because they are familiar with issue of freight rate and charges and they have been doing that for so long,” said founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam.
On his part, National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu said: “Shippers’ Council is already the port regulator and we are glad.”
Chairman of the Port Consultative Council, Otunba Kunle Folarin, said the Nigeria Shippers’ Council has a mandate by law to play the role of regulator.
“One of the most relevant of their roles is protecting the shipper and also protecting the Nigerian economy because they are the custodian of freight regulation. So with the mandate to protect the shipper, the mandate to protect the Nigerian freight administration and also the mandate, by extension, to ensure that Nigeria’s maritime domain is competitive and given the antecedents of these mandates, particularly that it is backed by law, I believe that Nigeria Shippers’ Council is in the position to serve as commercial regulator,” he said.