Nigerian ports are set to enjoy better economic and operational regulation with the nation’s port economic regulator, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) teaming up to provide better regulatory framework for the sector.
This was one of the commendable developments witnessed at the recent port stakeholders conference organized by NSC in Lagos, last Friday.
Recall that the port economic regulatory role of NSC has been an arduous task for the agency with terminal operators and shipping lines instituting an unending legal battle with the Council on its legal framework for such regulation, while NPA had, until recently, excluded NSC from germane meetings on the review of port concession agreements.
However, at the summit themed: “Promoting Competitiveness in the Maritime Industry: The Mandate of Nigerian Shippers’ Council”, both agencies showed that they have moved past the unhealthy rivalry which has affected the industry for several years.
This transformation was also applauded by industry stakeholders as the Director General of Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Mr. Michael Ohiani; a former President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu; Senior Partner of Akabogu and Associates, Dr. Emeka Akabogu; and Chairperson, Nigerian Ship-owners Forum, Barr. (Mrs.) Margaret Orakwusi appreciated this development in their remarks.
The Director General of ICRC, who was represented by the agency’s Director, Contracts and Compliance Department, Dr. Jobson Ewalefoh, revealed that several meetings between NPA and Shippers’ Council nearly resulted in physical combats.
His words: “For those of us that know the story of the meetings we have been holding between NPA and NSC; you will understand why I am very glad that today we can have both agencies seated in one room with smiles on everyone’s faces. I have had to stand in between NPA and Shippers’ Council representatives when they’ll be arguing and almost fighting with high-tempers over the years. Most times there were threats of walking out of the meetings by either party.”
“The Ministry of Transportation has also put in a lot to achieve this synergy we have today. We are grateful for the efforts of the Permanent Secretary and everyone at the Transport Ministry for the efforts they have put in to ensure that the dispute is laid to rest not just by fiat but by legal means.”
In his remarks, the Chairman of SKELAS Group and former President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, wondered why an agency of government should be an obstruction to a sister agency on a legitimate and gainful initiative.
“Nigeria is living on borrowed time. The maritime industry is very delicate and we can all agree that there is a need to attain Ease of Doing Business. However, we all know the challenge NSC has been going through to persuade stakeholders to do the right thing. Today, the Legal Secretary representing the NPA, has confirmed the U-turn they have made to support Shippers’ Council. This is commendable; but was it necessary to have stood as an impediment to NSC for several years? It wasn’t necessary. If the industry is heading in a direction of progress, why should one agency plant roadblocks for another. I hope this infighting among agencies of government in the Ministry of Transportation has truly come to an end,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Transportation, Mu’Azu Sambo reiterated NSC’s role as the port economic regulator, noting that the Federal Government in 2015 declared the Council as the port economic regulator.
Sambo who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr Magdalene Ajani emphasized that NSC has the responsibility to institute effective regulation at ports, working with other government agencies, even as the Minister enjoined all stakeholders in the maritime industry to avail the Council the needed support.
“I want us to note that while the Shippers Council is the port economic regulator, the NPA remains the technical and operational regulator. This is very key so that we understand the distinct role between the two agencies. Having realized that these two agencies are working within the mandate of the law of Nigeria, we, therefore, urge all those in court to have a rethink,” he said.
Speaking with News Diet on the sidelines, the Executive Secretary, NSC, Hon. Emmanuel Jime assured that NSC, NPA and other agencies supervised by the Transport Ministry will continue to deepen synergy and collaboration.
The NSC boss described the regular meetings of Chief Executives under the Ministry as a worthwhile initiative which has also been a useful platform to discuss areas of conflicts as well as other burning industry issues.
Jime, in his welcome address, described the seaport as a critical infrastructure that has to be competitive and properly regulated for its users to enjoy the benefit of lower prices and efficient service delivery usually associated with competition.
“It is against this backdrop that the Federal Government of Nigeria, pursuant to the Nigerian Shippers Council Act Cap N133 LFN 2004, appointed NSC as the Ports Economic Regulator. The aim is to create an effective regulatory regime at the Nigerian ports for control of tariffs, rates, charges and other related economic services, make the transportation sector efficient and contribute positively to the development of the nation’s economy,” he said.
Dignitaries at the event included; the Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu; Chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Forum, Otunba Kunle Folarin; Managing Director, Grimaldi Agency Nigeria Limited, Mr. Ascanio Russo; Pioneer Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Dr. Kingsley Usoh; among others.