Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has disclosed that as part of the efforts of the House to improve Nigeria’s revenue sources, eight laws related to the maritime sector are undergoing amendments to position it for optimum performance.
Speaking at a public hearing organised by the House Committee on Ports, Harbours and Waterways on eight Maritime Industry related Bills in the National Assembly, the Speaker noted that when passed, they will address issues that have impeded on its ability to be a major source of foreign exchange that the country is in dire need of.
He explained that “these Bills are indeed very important and more so now that we as a country are rethinking our economic master plan with the aim of avoiding a future relapse into the kind of nail biting recession which we have just exited from by identifying and strengthening other sources of government revenue.
“The Maritime sector is one such key source of huge revenue especially of the much needed foreign exchange, whose potentials have, unfortunately, been grossly under realized. This explains the importance which the present Assembly attaches to Maritime Sector reform Bills, eight of which this committee is presenting to the public for scrutiny and input today. It is evident that the determination of this House to re-engineer and reposition this sector for optimum performance is not in doubt.”
Speaking to the intendment of the bills, Dogara added that they will “position our maritime sector to deliver efficient services in a safe, secure and customer friendly environment, generate employment as well as develop capable local manpower, which will contribute significantly to the nation’s GDP and provide a formidable alternative to oil and gas in terms of revenue.”
He also noted that the eight Bills undergoing public hearing, in addition to the recently passed National Transport Commission Bill, is a fulfilment of the 8th Assembly’s Legislative Agenda, which was adopted by the House as a working and guiding document.
The eight Bills under consideration to include the following:
i. A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Nigerian Ports Authority Act, and to Establish the Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority.
ii. A Bill for an Act to Amend the Nigerian Ports Authority Act, aimed at providing an appropriate institutional framework for the ownership, management, operation, development and control of Ports and Harbours nationwide.
iii. A Bill for an Act to Repeal the National Inland Waterways Authority Act, and Re-enact the National Inland Waterways Authority Act; and,
iv. A Bill for an Act to Amend the National Inland Waterways Authority Act, to specify the tenure of Office of the Secretary and empower the Authority to receive donations and for other related matters, seeking to awaken the consciousness of Nigerians to God’s natural roads and rails provided free to 28 States and the FCT in form of inland waterways.
v. A Bill for an Act to Amend the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act to restrict the use of foreign vessels in domestic coastal trade, promote the development of indigenous tonnage and establish a Cabotage vessel financing fund, and
vi. A Bill for an Act to Amend the Inland Fisheries Act to review upwards, the penalties for persons who contravene the Act in view of the fact that the current stipulated penalties are grossly inadequate and totally incapable of deterring offenders as the penalties are a mere slap on the wrists of offenders.
Lastly, the 7th Bill is for an Act to Amend the National Shipping Policy Act, to include the representative of the Nigerian Shippers Council in the membership of the Authority, subject of course to majority opinion and the 8th, a Bill for an Act to Amend the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria and for Related Matters, to amend some sections of the Council’s Act with a view to empowering it for better performance and improved efficiency.