The National Transport Commission Bill is timely
Designed to fix many of the problems that have for decades impacted negatively on the Nigerian maritime industry, the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill has finally been passed by the National Assembly, awaiting presidential assent. When signed into law, all the staff, assets and liabilities of the Nigerian Shippersâ€™ Council (NSC) will be transferred to the new federal agency to help promote private sector participation in the sector, enhance effective and competitive market, enforce compliance with the law by all stakeholders, prevent monopoly in the market and generally ensure efficiency of operations.
In the bill, one of the reasons why the NSC should transmute to NTC is the fact that the council had earlier been appointed to perform the economic regulatory function at the port in order to entrench economic efficiency in the industry, pending the enactment of a law by the National Assembly. That explains why, by the provision of the new law, the NTC mandate is similar to the role designed for NSC by the original law that established it. Section 6 (1) (b), (c) and (h) provides for some of its core functions to include powers to protect the interest of users of transport services by ensuring that prices are fair and reasonable while having regard to the level of competition in, and efficiency of, the regulated transport industry.
By the powers vested in the NTC when it becomes operational, it will examine and resolve complaints, objections and disputes between government agencies in the regulated transport industry â€“ concessionaires, licensed operators, users, shippers and consumers. It will also develop and monitor performance standards and indices relating to the quality of transport services and facilities provided to users. NTC by the provisions of the law setting it up is also expected to advise the federal government through the minister on matters relating to the structure of freight rates, availability and adequacy of shipping space, frequency of sailing, terms of shipment, class and quality of vessels, port charges and facilities.
Meanwhile, the NTC will reserve the power to implement the economic regulatory policies of the federal government on transport while having regard to the level of competition in, and efficiency of, operations. The commission will examine and resolve complaints, objections and disputes referred to it between government agencies in the regulated transport industry and concessionaires, licensed operators, shippers and consumers or any other person involved, using such dispute-resolution methods as the commission may determine from time to time, including mediation and arbitration.
The commission also has powers to ensure that regulatory decision making with regard to the relevant health, safety, environmental and social legislation and best practices applicable to the regulated transport industry; register all transport service providers and determine the fees for such registration; set guidelines and general policies on tariffs charged and monitor compliance by public and private transport service operators and suppliers of prescribed goods and services just as it is expected to develop, enforce and monitor performance standards and indices relating to quality transport services and facilities provided to userâ€™s shippers and consumers in Nigeria having regard to best international performance indicators.
On the whole, the National Assembly deserves commendation for doing a detailed and exploratory job that will help the Buhari administration to actualise its Economic Recovery Growth Plan [ERGP]. The recommendation that the NSC should transmute to NTC also makes sense rather than the call for the creation of a new agency. A law that provides for an efficient economic regulation of the transport sector while protecting the rights and interests of service operators in marine, rail and road transport in Nigeria is not only timely, it is a welcome development.