18 February 2014, Sweetcrude, Lagos – A group, the Maritime Industry Advocacy Initiative, MAIN, has condemned what it called, the 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 yesterday and signed by its 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 the all-important Ports and Harbour Bill.
“It is sad that more than four years after the Bill was subjected to a well-attended public hearing, the Ports and Harbour Bill 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”, it stated.
The MAIN also said that it was regrettable that, although the Bill is expected to solve the various challenges that could arise from the port concession programme of 2006, the non-passage of the Port and Harbour bill has further cast doubt on the sincerity of government.
“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. However, those whom we so much rely on to empathise with port 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.”
“We recall that 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 for how long will port users continue to wait for the law makers who were elected by Nigerians to attend to issues like this”.
The group carpeted the committee for what it called, ‘playing god’ with a sensitive piece of enactment such as the Port and Harbour Bill.
“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 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 a time to wait.”