Speaker, minister, others seek regulatory agency for shipping industry

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, Minister of Blue Economy, Gboyega Oyetola and other stakeholders on Monday, called for the establishment of a shipping regulatory agency for the country.

They made the call in Abuja at a public hearing on the Shipping Council’s Repeal and Enactment of the Shippers’ Council and Economic Regulatory Bill.

The public hearing was organized by the House Committee on Shipping Services, Port and Harbor, Maritime Safety, Education, and Administration at the National Assembly Complex.

The Speaker represented by the lawmaker representing Jibia/Kaita Federal Constituency, Katsina State, Sada Soli. The Speaker noted that the move to establish the regulatory agency is aimed at enhancing economic growth and development as well as strengthening the new ministry.

He said “this re-enactment bill seeks to ensure that the proposed agency establishes an economic regulatory framework for effective and efficient regulation of commercial and related activities in the shipping and port sectors.

“The amended bill encompasses critical provisions addressing several key areas essential for the effective functioning of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.

“It details the structure and responsibilities of the management and staff, establishing a clear governance framework that defines roles and qualifications to ensure competent oversight.

“The bill lays out financial provisions, specifying guidelines for the allocation, management, and auditing of funds, which is crucial for maintaining financial integrity and providing the Council with the necessary resources to perform its duties.

“The bill also addresses offences and penalties, outlining specific non-compliance issues and their corresponding penalties, he said.

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Oyetola, while canvassing for the need to establish the regulatory agency, stated that it would improve the nation’s economy.

The Minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Blue Economy, Oloruntola Olufemi said if passed into law, the move would impact the economy positively.

The Chairman of the Committee, Abdulsamad Dasuki the legislative frame pledged the readiness of lawmakers to quicken the legislative processes that would make the bill become an act.

The Chairman, Shipping Association of Nigeria, Boma Alabi, SAN, said that any act that will improve efficiency, lower cost, and reduce the bottleneck that we currently face will be most welcome.

“We must be more efficient, and we welcome this regulatory agency that will be created to make things more efficient.

“We have expressed our concern internally and externally, and this committee, which has been involved in this process, must work on some areas of concern. Some aspects should be expunged, like sections 40, 42, 52, and a few others and we understand the reason behind this.

“We need to put in some checks and balances so that those in the saddle will not abuse it,” she said.

Giving a synopsis of the bill, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shipper’s Council, Pius Akuta said it will “addresses the regulatory vacuum that has allowed service providers in the shipping and port sectors to impose arbitrary tariffs and charges, impacting Nigeria’s competitiveness in international trade and provides updates needed due to outdated penalties and regulatory powers that are insufficient to enforce compliance among service providers.”

When established, the agency, according to Akuta will create “a robust economic regulatory framework that prevents unfair practices, promotes fair pricing, and encourages competition, protect the interests of both service providers and users by ensuring transparency and accountability in the imposition of tariffs and charges as well as automate and digitalize cargo-related processes to align with international best practices.”

The Permanent Secretary added that the agency will be financially autonomous, “Funded through a combination of government grants, fees, charges, and other revenues generated from its operations.”

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