14 February 2014, Lagos – Apparently miffed by the long delay in the passage of the Port Harbour Bill, the Maritime Industry Advocacy Initiative (MAIN) has condemned members of the National Assembly for not giving it the desired attention.
Describing the delay in the passage of the bill as a “deliberate attempt by the National Assembly to stunt the growth of the Nigerian maritime industry”, the non-government organisation (NGO) accused the lawmakers of failing to attend to maritime industry bills that have been undergoing the rituals of passage for more than five years.
It specifically chided the maritime transport committees of the two chambers of the legislature for allegedly deliberately working against the interests of the industry that they were created to serve and oversee.
In a statement issued in Lagos and signed by MAIN Executive Director, Mr. Sesan Onileimo, the advocacy group accused the marine transport committees of both chambers of the National Assembly of deliberately delaying the passage of what it called “the all-important Ports and Harbour Bill” in the maritime sector of the economy.
“It is sad that more than four years after the bill was subjected to a well-attended public hearing, it is still in the hallowed chambers, obviously counted as unimportant. Or could it be that the lawmakers do not understand the import of the bill?
“This can not be, but we can not understand why, after spending so much public funds to organize public hearings and after committing so much funds to overseas travels, all in the name of wanting to see how such bills are handled in other climes, the law makers will still be foot-dragging,” the NGO added in the statement made available to THISDAY.
MAIN also said that it was regrettable that though the bill is expected to solve the various challenges that could arise from the port concession programme of 2006, the non-passage of the bill has further cast doubt on the sincerity of government on the implementation of measures to maximize the potentials in the maritime sector of the economy.
According to MAIN, the Port and Harbour Bill incorporates an independent port regulator as a separate agency to handle commercial disputes that are bound to arise from the daily interactions of providers and users of terminal and shipping services.
“Sadly, however, those whom we so much rely on to empathise with users and players in the port system have woefully failed the system.
“The absence of a commercial port regulator has recently thrown the challenge on the shoulders of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, while the Nigerian Port Authourity continues to be the technical regulator,” the advocacy group said.
The ports were concessioned in 2006, with a promise to put in place a well –structured organ that will interface between the various players, but port users have waited on end for the law makers to attend to the bill.
The group carpeted the committee for what it called, ‘playing god’ with a sensitive piece of enactment such as the Port and Harbour Bill.
MAIN said: “As a key stakeholder which participated effectively in the various efforts and deliberations which led to how far the draft had gone, we are also very saddened by the brazen attempt to undermine the growth of the maritime sector, the port systems and indeed the Nigerian economy.
“As much as we acknowledge that concessioning the nation’s seaports, has brought about healthy competition and more efficiency in cargo delivery, we are left with no option than to be on the same page with those who have insinuated that there may be other reasons beyond parliamentary challenges. How, we wish that both Senator Zainab Kure and Honourable Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi could come out with reasons why this all-important Bill is still in the works. We quite our understanding the tight schedule of the National Assembly and also acknowledge the stiff competition among various committees to get bills considered, but five years is too long to wait.”
The group advised that the duo will be writing their names in gold if the bill is passed soon. Others who had presided over those committees had done well to deserve our respect and we can’t wish less for the current membership and headship of the marine committees of the Senate and the House.
– This Day