Shippers’ Council is an interim port regulator, says Transport Minister

Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, has assured that all pending transport sector reform bills including the Ports and Harbours Bill and the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill will soon be transmitted to the National Assembly for passage into law even as he stated that the appointment of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) as port economic regulator is a stop gap measure.

Speaking yesterday at a stakeholder’s breakfast meeting organized by the NSC, Umar solicited the support of all stakeholders to enable the Council succeed in its new mandate.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of transport, Engr. Nebolisa Emordi, the Minister said that the delay in the passage of the transport sector reform bills was due to some issues raised by the Federal Executive Council which needed to be harmonized before its passage.

“As we talk now, the Honourable Minister has presented this memo after which the Attorney General vetted it but due to certain issues raised by the Federal Executive Council, Mr. President had to set up a committee under the vice president to make sure that all issues are addressed before the representation to FEC for approval and transmittal to National Assembly.

“The Vice President has since set up another sub-committee headed by the Attorney General and as soon as they finish their work, I believe within the next three, four weeks all these things will be completed and a representation will be made to the FEC”, he said.

He said the appointment of NSC to act as an interim port economic regulator for a period of one year was duly approved by President Goodluck Jonathan after due consultations with top government functionaries.

He NSC management to secure the buy-in and collaboration of all stakeholders to enable it succeed as port economic regulator. He added that there is also need for more funding of the agency to enable it effectively achieve its mandate.

“There is need for more funding. As at today, Shippers Council gets only one per cent from the seven per cent port development levy. There is need for an upward increase of that allocation which definitely will affect other agencies that are currently benefitting from the seven per cent and of course the Nigerian factor comes in because those agencies will fight tooth and nail to make sure that their own allocation is not reduced because if Shippers’ Council must get additional fund then somebody has to lose something,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, former Managing Director, Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), Chief Adebayo Sarumi, in his presentation expressed misgivings that the Council may not succeed in its mandate without an enabling law.

He said although it has been appointed to serve as an interim port regulator, there is need for government to expedite action in the passage of the Ports & Harbours Bill saying that its speedy passage will provide statutory backing for the Council and make it perform better as port economic regulator.

“I want to charge the Special Adviser to the President on Maritime Services, Leke Oyewole, to join the Permanent Secretary and the Minister and the Chairman of the Governing Council of Nigerian Shippers’ Council to get that bill passed. If that bill is not in place, these guys (NSC) will never be able to operate,” he said.

He said with the level of the impunity with which the freight forwarders, logistics service operators and ship owners operate in the port, the need for a port regulator to check excesses cannot be overemphasized.

He also charged the NSC management to evaluate its capacity and restructure to meet the challenges of its new mandate.

Earlier in his keynote address, Chairman Governing Council of the NSC, General Salihu Ibrahim, assured that the appointment of the Council will improve services at the port and also provide a platform for central administration of commercial operations which will usher in uniform charges and rates for uniform operations and activities at the port.

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