The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, has commended the port concession regime implemented by the Federal Government in 2006, which has impacted positively on cargo handling operations at the nation’s seaports, thereby boosting the national economy.
Sambo gave the commendation in Lagos on Friday during a sensitisation program on “The Mandate of Nigerian Shippers’ Council as Port Economic Regulator”.
“It would be recalled that the nation’s ports, prior to the 2006 port concession agreement, were at the lowest level of efficiency with high vessel turnaround time, increased container dwell time, high clearing cost, lack of investment, and other issues,” Sambo said in an address read on his behalf by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Magdalene Ajani.
The Minister said that the success of the port concession programme gave rise to the need for regulation of charges by and tariffs at the port, hence the appointment of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council as interim economic regulator in 2014.
“Nigerian Shippers’ Council was appointed interim port economic regulator in 2014 as a government response to fill the vacuum and address the challenges facing the port system. The major objective of the government in appointing the Nigerian Shippers’ Council as the interim port economic regulator was to create an effective regulatory regime at the port for the control of tariffs, charges, and other related economic services by virtue of economic regulatory order No 34 of 2015 issued by the President in pursuant to section 5 and 145 of the 1999 constitution as gazetted.
“I want to reiterate the position of the government that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council is the port economic regulator and we enjoin stakeholders and the maritime industry to give the council the needed corporation and support in the execution of these regulations,” Sambo said.
The Executive Secretary of NSC, Emmanuel Jime, while speaking at the event, also confirmed that the 2006 port concession programme impacted positively on cargo handling operations at the nation’s seaports, thereby boosting the national economy.
He, however, charged the Federal Government to develop the nation’s industrial base in order to balance trade.
“We are all aware that the maritime industry plays an important role in the development of any economy. As a catalyst to the nation’s economic development, maritime transportation, and its related activities influence the growth of industries directly or indirectly and exert great influence on the general price of goods and services.
“With the concession of ports in 2006, cargo throughput substantially increased. However, globally, West and Central African sub-regions still have the least cargo volumes. One of the reasons for the trade imbalance is the composition of sub-Saharan African trade, which is about 6% of global trade. Further, about 70% of export cargoes are primary commodities while majority of imports are consumer goods.
“Therefore, there is a need to develop the nation’s industrial base so as to balance trade and boost the nation’s economy. The port as a critical infrastructure needs to be made competitive, guard against monopoly, and free for numerous players to enter and exit in order for its users to enjoy the benefit of lower prices and efficient service delivery usually associated with the competition,” he said.
He said the NSC, in the performance of its mandate, developed and implemented a strategic plan which is assessed and reviewed every three years.
“Some of the accomplishments of the NSC include cost moderating exercise by constant engagement with the service providers to ensure that their tariffs and charges are tied to services rendered; provision of guidelines for setting tariffs, rates, and charges to guard against arbitrariness and ensure that the port operates competitively; promotion and development of transport infrastructure and dry ports such as inland container depots and vehicle transit areas to facilitate cargo delivery to hinterland destinations,” he said.
Jime said the NSC also established machineries for monitoring compliance with set operational standards.