Indication of the impending face-off emerged penultimate Thursday at a joint public hearing on the auction of overtime cargo organised by the House Committees on Finance, Marine Transport and Customs.
Trouble started when the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Engr. Nebolisa Emodi, who represented the Minister, Senator Idris Umar, during his presentation at the public hearing hinted that the Ministry was putting finishing touches to the Ports and Harbours Bill for submission to the National Assembly.
“The Federal Executive Council will soon submit a Bill to the National Assembly, which seeks to repel the Nigerian Ports Authority Act of 1999 and enact the Nigerian Ports and Harbours Act. This Act envisages the provision of ownership, management, operation, development and control of ports and harbours, make the Ports and Harbour Authority the technical regulator and promote private participation,” the Minister said.
The Chairman, House Committee on Marine Transport, Honourable Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, would, however, not take any of the Minister’s plan concerning the bil,l which, according to him, was a duplication of the efforts of the legislators.
Ugwuanyi queried: “Why is the executive producing another Ports and Harbours Bill when we already have one here at the National Assembly?
“Are you people not aware that there’s a Ports and Harbours Bill here sponsored by the Deputy Speaker and co-sponsored by me, and, which has passed second reading in the House? So, is it your own that the Senate will approve or the one sent from the House to the Senate?”
Meanwhile the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonji-Iweala, has expressed her displeasure over the activities of government agencies at the nation’s seaports.
The Minister said at the public hearing that the activities of agencies of the Federal Government, who had earlier been sacked from the nation’s economic gateway, are reversing the gains of port reforms.
Okonjo-Iweala also descended on truck operators, whom she accused of clogging the ports access roads with their vehicles, thereby impeding the flow of traffic.
The Minister barred her mind through the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Danladi Kifasi.
“Nigerian ports need to enhance their efficiency to come close to international best practices. The existence of a functional efficient port system is not only a boost to a country’s international trade but a plus to the government revenue profile. While some of these inadequacies can be attributed to obsolete equipment, others can be attributed to corrupt practices by officials at the ports. The multiplicity of government agencies at the ports turnout to be an unnecessary bottleneck leading to delays and higher charges to be borne by importers and ultimately by Nigerian consumers. It should be pointed out that the decongested roads in the port vicinity are unfortunately being reversed as the situation is gradually returning to status quo ante. This is made worse by the complete lawlessness of tanker drivers lifting petroleum products from tank farms,” Okonjo-Iweala said.
The Minister also said that there was an urgent need to pass the Ports and Harbours Bill.
“The ongoing reforms initiatives need to be sustained by early passage of the Ports and Harbours Bill currently pending with the National Assembly,” she said.
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