For the “maritime sector to remain relevant and capable of handling current challenges and developments,” the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, has urged the National Assembly to review and amend many moribund regulations guiding the sector.
Such challenges include recent laws passed by states, which conflict with the Federal Government’s powers on inland waterways, ports management and operations, Amaechi said in Lagos at a retreat co-organised by the ministry and the House Committee on Ports, Harbours and Waterways.
Against this background, Amaechi, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Sabiu Zakari, urged members of the relevant National Assembly committees for adequate budgeting for maritime projects.
According to him, the lawmakers should be conversant with the operations of the sector to be able to tackle its challenges, and the retreat was an avenue for the ministry and its agencies to deepen their relationship with the National Assembly, especially its relevant maritime committees.
Similarly, Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman, insisted that the passage of the Ports and Harbours Bill, and the National Transport Commission Bill, among others, would boost port development, just as staff capacity building will keep the agency abreast with global developments.
Stating the need to replace the existing obsolete and non-supportive laws, she said the reform and development of such related areas as inland waterways and ports, railway and road network to promote inter-modalism are key to the success of the ports.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, who acknowledged the pendency of some important transport sector reform bills at the National Assembly, said the House duly prepared all of them to be passed to get the economy on track again.
According to him, they included local and international maritime conventions which were awaiting domestication, so “we undertake to work cooperatively with the Executive for speedy domestication of these treaties so that Nigeria could maximise the gains of these international legislations.”
However, the request for legislative support for improved budgeting may only benefit those maritime agencies deemed to have sufficiently complied with the enabling agreements on revenue generation as well as significantly implemented their previous budgets.
Chairman of House Committee on Ports, Harbour and Waterways, Patrick Asadu, said the legislators were not happy that government agencies in the sector were breaching the contractual obligations they entered on behalf of government.
Therefore, “the issue of none or low implementation of budgets by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and low revenue generation will be key factors in subsequent appropriations for our MDAs,” he said.
“To agencies that do well shall more be given in our budgeting exercise; the committee shall vigorously employ all legislative powers at its disposal to ensure compliance with the terms of those agreements with private sector organisations - both local and foreign.”