There are expectations that the federal government would give nod to the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill, which proposes the commission as the country’s transport sector regulator, having been passed by the National Assembly. In this report, YUSUF BABALOLA examines the importance of a regulator in the transport industry.
The senate on March 16, passed the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill, having been earlier passed by the House of Representatives.
The bill, which was passed by the senate, after “a clause by clause consideration,” is expected to be a catalyst for the nation’s transportation sector when signed into law, as it establishes the much needed regulator for Nigeria’s transport sector.
Having been referred by the senate to the joint senate committee on land transport, marine transport and aviation transport, chaired by Senator Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos East senatorial district), is a product of interactive sessions with stakeholders in the transport industry and a public hearing. Commenting on the passage of the bill by the senate, Ashafa, who expressed great excitement, said, “The National Transport Commission (NTC) when signed into law is capable of setting the transport sector on the path of positive development. With this bill, we would successfully create a multi-modal transport sector economic and safety oversight regulator for the transport sector. This is very good for business, as it brings standard and structure to the transport sector, while also increasing the revenue of the federal government.
“The joint senate committee worked with the understanding that this is one of the priority economic bills of the 8th senate and therefore, ensured that all inputs from stakeholders were considered and the best possible version of the bill was presented to the senate.”
Emphasing commitment of the senate to prioritising bills with great impact on the economy, Ashafa added, “The National Transport Commission Bill when signed into law will create a multi-modal transport sector economic and safety oversight commission, that will drive the National Transport Policy.”
Functions, Powers Of The Commission
According to the bill, the NTC would create an economic regulatory framework for the provision of transport services and facilities, facilitate effective competition, promote competitive market conduct and ensure that the misuse of monopoly or non-transitory market power is prevented in the provision of transport services.
Other functions of the commission as stipulated in Part II, Section 5, include to promote private sector participation in the provision of transport services, ensure that operators and users have equitable access to the use of transport facilities, services, channels and routes while having regard to the level of competition in and efficiency of the regulated transport industry, and monitor the performance of the regulated sector.
In carrying out its functions, the NTC shall have powers to, among others, implement government’s economic regulatory policies on transport; 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.
The bill also enables the commission to examine and resolve complaints, objections and disputes referred to it as between government agencies in the regulated transport industry and concessionaires, licensed operators, users, shippers and consumers or any other person involved in the regulated transport industry, using such dispute-resolution methods as the Commission may determine from time to time including mediation and arbitration, 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, and enforce economic regulatory provisions of all relevant legislation on the regulated transport industry including but not limited to legislation on ports, inland waterways, road and rail transport.
Millions Of Jobs To Be Created
Indeed, the passage of the bill was greeted with great enthusiasm among industry stakeholders and Nigerians in general, who are optimistic that it would usher in a transport industry, well regulated and positioned to create millions of jobs.
“As the nation has witnessed fast development in the telecoms sector, due to the presence of a regulator, the National Communications Commission (NCC), a regulator for the transport sector is bound to do the same. With the industry’s vast potential as an economic catalyst, regulation will unleash the sector’s potential and position it for greater exploitation that is capable of creating millions of jobs and turning the country economy around. Therefore, the bill when signed into law, will give the nation’s transportation sector a new face lift, coordination and needed impetus to drive the economy,” said Chibuzo Ekwekwuo, a transport expert and analyst.
He added, “Think about a Nigeria, having robust multimodal system of transportation. Think about the possibility of a country, where you have the water transport, the railway, the air transport and road transport, all working in tandem, with a regulator ensuring fair practice by operators and competition among transport service providers. Imagine the possibilities and endless opportunities for economic expansion and job creation.
“Right now, we have a government that has adopted job creation and employment as one of its mantra. The transport sector provides the best and easiest means to create millions of jobs directly and indirectly, without the government investing any funds.
“All that is needed is to sign this bill and have a verile transport regulator that is empowered, as the bill already has, to make this happen within a period that will beat our imaginations.
“Many of us have projected that the transport sector can take over from oil as government’s highest income earner and this is not a hearsay. Apart from this, the potential of the transport sector for job creation, should be attractive enough to make the president sign the NTC Bill within time.”
According Emeka Akabuogu, a lawyer with shipping interest, the NTC Bill is the most important bill targeted at advancing the country’s economy.
“We think that one of the things that the NTC will achieve is interconnectivity of all the modes of transportation. There will be a lot more choices for Nigerian passengers and importers to travel and move goods around the country.
“Nigeria is so blessed to have over 870 kilometres of coastal stretch, yet, its water transport has not been harnessed. The railway infrastructure is now being given attention by the government. More legislative efforts will position the railway for private sector investment and then, we would have the National Transport Commission regulating all these operators and ensuring that quality service is rendered for Nigerians to enjoy. We will see that cost of transport goes down and life becomes a lot easier for everyone. I will enjoin our president to give assent to the bill quickly for the Commission to hit the ground running.”
“Nigerians agree that we do not need to establish a new agency of government for this role, since we have such an agency, as the Nigeria Shippers’ Council, which is already performing most of the functions enumerated for the commission. We have seen the commission with the needed capacity, which it had deployed in recent time to tackle relevant issues we have had in the ports.
“So, this is at no cost to government to begin to set up another cost-oriented concern. What is needed is the power, which the bill now, has given to the council and as it is noted, the signing of the NTC bill abrogates the Shippers’ Council Act. So, the Council will naturally transmute to the Commission,” said Stephen Agboola, a shipper.
He added, “The NTC empowers the commission to coordinate provision of transport infrastructure and it is interesting to observe that the Shippers Council is already doing this too. One of such is the conceptualisation of Inland Container Depots, ICDs, Truck Transit Park, TTP and Container Freight Stations, CFS for which the council is currently coordinating private investors to build. The ripple effect of these projects is millions of employment creation.
“ To me, what is left now is for the bill to be signed into law, so that the Commission comes to life with full powers, whose decisions are not challenged with court actions arbitrarily. It is so sad that as important as it is, only the transport sector has remained without a regulator since the birth of this country.
“It is unbelievable. Nigerians spend the biggest single chunk of their income on transportation, yet, no agency of government is there to ensure that they get a reasonable service. According to the World Bank, transportion represents 15 per cent of cost of every good people buy, and as significant as that is, transport operators are not regulated. Thank God we are getting to the end of this anomaly, but we can’t continue to wait as usual.”
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