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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

President Jonathan Moves To Privatize Roads, Airports, Seaports



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The Federal Government has unfolded plans to privatise the transport sector, including roads, airports, seaports and harbours in the country.


Already, the government has initiated four bills to actualise the plan.


These include the National Transport Commission Bill (2014); the Nigeria Railway Bill (2014); the Nigerian Ports and Harbour Authority Bill (2014) and the National Inland Waterways Authority Bill (2014).


Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku, while briefing State House correspondents yesterday at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting said government was making the move to open up the transport sector to for private investments.


He said that government would remove the legal bottlenecks hampering private sector participation in transport and provision of infrastructure.


Maku explained that government could not continue to fund all the sectors of the economy, saying that the proper thing to do was to lead the way by deepening reforms in the transport sector and other sectors of the economy.


The minister disclosed that the FEC had already set up a council committee headed by the Attorney- General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Muhammed Adoke (SAN) to implement the plan.


He said the committee would also include officials from the ministries of works, aviation, transport and relevant stakeholders in the transport sector.


According to him, the committee is expected to get the four draft bills ready for FEC approval before being forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration and passage to law.


He stated that the passage of the bills would open up opportunities for Nigerians to enjoy increased and better road, rail, sea and air travel infrastructure.


The minister explained that the idea was to get the private sector into the construction, maintenance and ownership of seaports, harbours and airports across the country, with possible privatisation of existing facilities.


He stated that privatisation would encourage competition, productivity and efficiency in the transport sector.


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“For instance, well maintained private roads and terminals will be a big boost to easier public transportation while providing jobs for more Nigerians”, he said.


Maku assured that in the privatisation process, the interest of Nigerians would be protected to avoid exploitation, saying that the citizens had a lot to gain in job creation and business opportunities.


Also yesterday the council received a report presented by Works Minister, Mike Onolomemen, on the National Council on Works meeting held in September last year.


He explained that the report showed that major arterial roads across the country were being rehabilitated and expanded with funds.



Meanwhile, the immediate past President of Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, an umbrella body for retired indigenous ship captains, chief engineers and engineers, Capt. Adejimi Adu, who reacted to the new development, said that the port privatisation carried out by the Federal Government had failed to achieve the desired goals of reducing cost of operation and making the seaports efficient and competitive.


According to him, by the population of Nigeria, her seaports are supposed to be the hub port of destination for the West and Central African sub-regions, but regretted that Nigerian-bound cargoes are still diverted to neighbouring seaports because of inefficiency.


He blamed the situation on the failure of the Federal Government to put the necessary structures that would enhance competition in place.


“In the current port concession arrangement, the Nigerian Ports Authority is the judge and the jury; no competition, no regulatory organ. If the government must privatise the harbours, these issues must be addressed,” he said.


He said that before the privatisation would commence, the government should create an independent regulatory body that would enhance competition, insisting that all players must play according to the rules of the game.


Also, Chairman of Cargo Defence Fund, Capt. Cosmas Niagwan, said the government should tell Nigerians what it had done with the power sector reforms.

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He advised that the government should learn from history so that the same mistakes were not repeated over the years to the detriment of the nation.


“But on a serious, the harbour is a specialised area and Nigeria has experts to run it. Government can privatise the roads, but it should leave the harbour alone for professionals who are not in short supply to run it,” he said.


However, stakeholders in the aviation industry have commended the Federal Government for its plan to privatise some aspects of the sector.


Those who spoke to our correspondent on the phone yesterday said that with an effective legal framework and open bidding, the planned privatisation of the sector would be a success.


The Managing Director, Belujane Konsult, Mr. Chris Aligbe, said that privatisation of the sector was a step in the right direction.


He noted that the privatisation could be through concession or Public Private Participation, PPP.


Aligbe insisted that with the current economic situation of the country, the government could not effectively manage the industry to compete with its foreign counterparts.


He said: “That’s the way to go if we really want to move forward. There is no way the public sector can manage our airports anymore. They will never become what they should be.


“There were some bottlenecks in the past agreements because these agreements did not sit on a framework. The frameworks that will aid successful concessioning or agreements were not there. So, the first thing to do is to put the framework in place and once this is there, either privatisation or concessioning will be successful.”


A member of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE, Mr. Sheri Kyari, said that the issue of privatisation was not new to the sector.


Kyari noted that the sector had witnessed several privatisation processes in the past, but did not yield the expected result for various reasons.Ends

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