Marine and Blue Economy Integrity Group Endorses Bill to Amend the Nigerian Shippers Council Act

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By next week, precisely on Monday, May 27, 2024, the House of Representatives Committee on Shipping is expected to hold a Public Hearing on the proposed amendment to the law setting up the Nigerian Shippers Council with a view to giving it the requisite legal and administrative instruments to effectively become an economic regulator in the maritime and transport industry.

The Marine and Blue Economy Integrity Group, a non-political platform of longstanding stakeholders in Nigeria’s maritime sector has wholly endorse the initiative. They reasons for supporting the amendment of Nigerian Shippers Council Act bill according to the group is borne out of the fact that Nigeria has six port complexes spread across Nigeria’s 853 kilometers coastline and the ports accounting for the more than 90 percent for the transportation of import and export goods. Hence the country ticks all boxes for classification as a maritime nation. They argue that with such unique status, and the fact that Nigeria has been engaged in processes to evolve policies and programmes that will enable her derive maximum benefits from the handling of vessels for inward and outward cargo traffic, it was expected that one of the products of the policy evaluations over the years was the birth of the Nigerian Shippers Council in 1978.

Apart from the Council, there was also the National Maritime Authority (NMA) as it then was before its enabling law was review and upgraded and the agency renamed the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as well as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). The argument of the group is that though the Nigerian Shippers Council was given the responsibility to protect the interest of Nigerian shippers by promoting fair trade practices and ensuring shipping companies comply with approved standard operating procedures, its capacity to diligently undertake such crucial responsibility has been hamstrung by the limited legal and administrative instruments available to it, hence the need to further strengthen the powers of the Council


It would be recalled that several stakeholders in the maritime industry have been unanimous in their verdicts that the core task of protecting the indigenous shipping community is still a long shot despite the best efforts of chief executives and officials of the Council. For instance, in 2018, it was alleged that Nigeria loss $9.1 billion yearly to the nation’s failure to effectively harness the immense opportunities in shipping industry as attested to by Mr. Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary of the Council at the time.

Unfortunately, a significant portion of the annual loss is accounted for by the unfair practices of ship owners through unilateral imposition of surcharges, high container deposits and unapproved levies by shipowners and carrier companies.

Although the Council had always contested such impositions, its success has been limited by the absence of the legal and administrative framework for the challenges to be wholesome and effective. While this has been going on, there has several half-hearted efforts to remedy the situation. According to the group
” As longstanding operators in the shipping industry and with the commendable focus of the administration of His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to revving up the blue economy, we, Marine and Blue Economy Integrity Group,are convinced that this public hearing offers a veritable opportunity to truly address this regulatory shortcoming that has held the indigenous shipping community hostage”. Furthermore they avered”
We fully endorse the proposed amendments and reclassification of the functions of the Council to wit:
1. Establishment of the Nigeria Shipping and Ports Economic Regulatory Agency as an economic regulatory body.
2. Establishment of a regulatory framework for the effective and efficient economic regulation of regulated services and related activities, for the control of tariffs, rates, and charges to guard against arbitrariness;
3. Promotion of the implementation of Government policies as they relate to the mandate of the Agency;
4. Monitoring of compliance of regulated service providers, and users in the regulated sector with the provisions of this Bill and advise the Government through the Minister, on matters related thereto;
5. Creating an enabling environment for private sector participation in the provision of regulated services in Nigeria;
6. Promoting the implementation of relevant trade facilitation instruments to ensure seamless movement of cargo across trade corridors;
7. Promoting the automation and digitalisation of all cargo reception and handling processes and procedures.

“We are convinced that with the proposed amendment, the Council will be a more responsible and responsive organisation in advancing and protecting national interest through curbing the rip-off of shippers in Nigeria by entrenched foreign interests” Marine and Blue Economy Integrity Group stated.

Meanwhile, Elder Asu Beks
National Coordinator for the group, noted that they are aware that due to the interests at stake, the entrenched groups benefitting from the rape of the indigenous shipping community have also activated their machinery to frustrate the proposed amendments.
Using local surrogates, they have been making spurious and unfounded claims on how the proposed amendments will not serve the desired interest. One of such groups actually recommended that the Nigerian Shippers Council should rather engage in “cargo sharing” without explaining the nature of cargo to be shared to whom or how.

Furthermore, he noted that “the group that are working against the proposed amendments falsely claimed that the proposed amendments that seems to repeal of the NSC Act will lead to “collateral damages inimical to shipping, import and export, and the allied logistics value chain” without any explanation. Hence stated that ” It is clear that they are either ignorant, mischievous or both and should be ignored”

The South South International magazine’s Investigation revealed that
the challenge in the task of shielding Nigerian shippers from undue exploitation is that despite its touted job as the port economic regulator in the maritime and transport industry, the Nigerian Shippers Council presently does not have the legal framework to enforce the measures needed to sanitise the ppropriating and fair costing of shipping services and handling of cargo for shippers. This may be why the Marine and Blue Economy Integrity Group is pleading with the Honourable members of the committee to thread the path of Honour by righting the years of monumental exploitation of the nation’s economy through the willful exploitation of shippers.
How this will end remains to be seen but for now, Marine and Blue Economy Integrity Group has drawn the attention of well meaning Nigerians to the fact of the matter. All eyes are on the
House of Representatives Committee on Shipping.


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