The Federal Government, over the weekend, reaffirmed the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), as the main port economic regulator.

This is as the government is considering an out-of-court settlement with terminal operators and shipping companies over arbitrary charges.

Speaking at a one-day sensitization meeting organized by the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Council, with the theme: “Promoting Competitiveness and Compliance in Nigerian Maritime Industry: Mandate of the NSC in Focus,” which was held in Lagos, the Permanent Secretary, FMOT, Dr. Madgalene Ajani, said talks are ongoing with the terminal operators to end the legal tussle which is currently at the supreme court after a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, had ruled in favour of the Nigerian Shippers Council with a directive for the terminal operators to return to status quo in the stipulated pricing.

The ministry’s permanent secretary, however, said aside Shippers’ Council’s role as the OMBUDSMAN of the ports, the council remained the Port Economic Regulator pending the establishment and operationalization of the National Transport Commission (NTC), which is an independent regulatory authority in the transport sector.

She, however, affirmed the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) as the technical regulator of the ports, saying the ministry is aware that the Council had faced resistance from some stakeholders in the maritime industry in the earlier stages of implementation of its regulation.

She added that with various stakeholders’ meetings, engagements, and consensus building, the various stakeholders have expressed their commitment and cooperation with the council on ensuring the successful implementation of the regulation.

Dr. Ajani informed that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council was appointed as the interim port economic regulator in 2014, as a government response to fill the vacuum and address the challenges facing the port system.

According to her, 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 the 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.

While calling for the support and cooperation of all stakeholders, Ajani said the ministry is working on stakeholders’ concerns and implementing some of the suggestions they have made in the past in order to bring out the best options in collaborating actively with further agencies outside the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

She reiterated that the NSC remains the port economic regulator and enjoined stakeholders and the entire maritime industry to give the Council the needed cooperation in the execution of these regulations.

It is noteworthy that prior to the appointment of the Council as an interim port economic regulator, there was no known authority saddled with the responsibility of checkmating the commercial activities at the port. I also want us to note that while NSC is the port economic regulator, the Nigerian Ports Authority remains the technical operational regulator.

This is very key so that we understand the distinct role between the two agencies and stakeholders give their support and cooperation to them. Having realized that these two agencies are working within the mandate of the Law of Nigeria, we, therefore, advised all those in court to have a rethink for us to enable a good progression in the marine ecosystem and deliver the Nigerian economy of our dream.

Consequently, the council’s port economic regulatory mandate and roles should be reflected in the Port Concession agreement under review and other subsequent agreements. In line with the sub-existing order, on the port economic regulation, as issued by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I hereby reaffirm that the NSC remains the interim Port economic regulator in our nation’s ports pending the establishment and operationalization of the National Transport Commission as an independent regulatory authority in the transport sector.

Ajani noted.

Speaking earlier in his welcome address, the executive secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Emmanuel Jime, stated that with the concession of the ports in 2006, cargo throughput substantially increased.

According to him, about 70 percent of export cargoes are primary commodities while the majority of imports are consumer goods.

While stressing the need to develop the nation’s industrial base in balancing trade and boosting the nation’s economy, Jime noted that the port has a critical infrastructure that needs to be made competitive, guard against monopoly, and free for numerous players.

The executive secretary of the Council informed that the aim of the NSC is to create an effective regulatory regime at Nigerian ports for the control of tariffs, rates, charges, and other related economic services. He added that the council has been able to moderate costs and provide guidelines for setting tariffs, rates, and charges to guard against arbitrariness among others.

The goal is to provide effective regulation that would make the transportation sector efficient and contribute positively to the development of the nation’s economy. We can only achieve this, with the support and collaboration of all players in the industry.

Jime said.

On his part, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Port Authority, Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko said the NSC has come into a tight-packed sector of government which is the maritime industry, adding that all stakeholders need to adjust and accommodate its regulations which are already backed up by law.

The MD of NPA, who was represented by the NPA Legal Secretary, Mr. IG Umar charged the Council to make more efforts in extending the competitiveness of Nigerian port operations to the world.

Source - Sun Newspaper.

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