With the recent passing into law of the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill into law by the National Assembly, the transport industry is ready to reclaim its position in the economic life of the nation. Industry watchers have continued to wonder how a sector as important as the transportation sector that literally keeps the economy in motion can function without a regulator, which like a referee, will necessarily compel operators to play by the rule and also attend to their business needs without the bottleneck bureaucracy in the ministry, in most instances, create.
The berthing of the commission is seen by operators and users of transportation services as a welcome development.
By the provisions of the law that will form the basis for the setting up of the commission, it is designed to provide efficient economic regulatory framework for the nation’s transport sector. Primarily, it is being set up to make available a mechanism for the monitoring and compliance of government agencies, transport services’ providers and users in the regulated transport industry with relevant legislation as well as advise government on matters relating to economic regulation of the industry.
Before now, most of these functions were performed by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC). It is also noteworthy that some sections of the NTC Act stipulate functions already being carried out by that council. To this extent, therefore, the commission is part of an effort on the part of government to save cost by not expanding bureaucracy needlessly and also to avoid the duplication of agencies which will make for easy adaptability.
The NTC, when it becomes functional, will be an independent multimodal transport sector regulator playing its assigned role in an economy in a hurry to grow and develop.
This has been the expectation of stakeholders who have insistently craved for a point of connection for all the players in the transport sector. They had complained that the bane of the sector is its non-connectivity, a factor that is considered essential as synergy is cultivated and enhanced. This function, in our considered opinion, can only be performed by one agency charged with the responsibility of overseeing the operation of the sector.
It is for this singular reason that we applaud the passing of the bill by the National Assembly which, it is hoped, will fill the existing lacuna and possibly engender the principle of intermodal operability that will also make it convenient for all modes in the transport chain to be independent yet interconnected.
Given the complexity of the transportation industry, with its many agencies and parastatals, the functions of NTC will be demanding indeed.
It will, without doubt, require that the NSC, as it is being uploaded, find time to carry out a self-assessment of its readiness to perform the new role that is being assigned to it. For one thing, it will go beyond just maintaining stability at the ports, a sub-sector in the huge transportation industry even as it will regard itself as functioning in a familiar terrain.
As the NTC portfolio develops, we find it irresistible commending NSC for the good job it is doing which may have inspired the decision to expand its horizon. Specifically, we are satisfied with the assiduity that the commission brought to its job as an economic regulator in the all-important ports sector.
Within the period it took on this assignment, sanity actually returned to the sector that was notorious for the chaos it generated. It set in motion a plan to decongest the ports through the inland Container Depots (IDCs) that were also streamlined as ports of destination. Not to mention the computerisation of its operations that made daily physical contacts with the council or the ports unnecessary while at the same time making access to information on port related issues less cumbersome.
NSC is expected to replicate the efficiency and transparency it brought to the ports in the entire industry. We are optimistic that when it eventually becomes the fulcrum around which the NTC revolves, the same zeal and capability will be brought to bear on its duties and responsibilities as the sole regulator of the transportation industry.
However, it is pertinent to remind the management of NTC, when it comes on board, to expect resistance from those who had benefitted and are still benefitting from the status quo and who will also attempt to delay the process of transforming the transport industry as the handmaid of economic growth and development. A lot, in our view, will depend on the attitude of the management of the commission which, going by the antecedents of its precursor, will be positive and immensely developmental in orientation.