For an end to all forms of illegalities being introduced by shipping service providers against importers and exporters, the Federal Government has been urged to consider a more stronger empowerment of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) as the ports economic regulator to address such anomalies.
Such powers, according to the Rivers/ Bayelsa Shippers Association (RIBASA), would play a tremendous role in helping the ports economic regulator check shipping companies and terminal operators who have over the years been in the habit of imposing illegal charges in the ports.
President of the Association, Mr Ofon Udofia, in a chat with newsmen while acknowledging that the Council has done so well in curtailing the excesses of the service providers over the years, said the NSC would do better with specific stronger regulations .
Udofia said the scenario would change automatically if it (NSC) were accorded more strong political will and constitutional powers.
Commending the NSC for having done well in its statutory obligations and promoting trade facilitation, he said what the Council deserves now was more power to bite harder after some level of barking against service providers who are recalcitrant in certain areas.
He was of the view that the NSC should be empowered in the same manner like the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) which has unconstrained constitutional powers to bring to book erring telecoms service providers.
Udofia particularly referred to some service providers who according to him have glaringly displayed disobedience , adding that this will change once the NSC starts acting like NCC in checking their excesses at the ports.
He argued that the ports economic regulator required strong backing of the law like the NCC to be able to deal with service providers who fail to comply with regulations as obtained in the telecoms sector.
He argued that this was even more so if the service providers failed to negotiate charges and getting approval before imposing them on the consumers of shipping services.
The shipper said the painful aspect was that the same shipping service providers as international players cannot do the same in other countries.
He, however, commended the NSC for saving importers and exports from all illegal charges and other unfair trade practices from the service providers.
He said that with the NSC, the service providers have been careful in some of their unfair trade practices against consumers of shipping services, adding that it would have been a tale of woes for shippers without the NSC.
He also commended the ports economic regulator for the efforts to sensitize shippers to do things right for the best interest of trade facilitation and ease of doing business .
Udofia said, “Government should give NSC more power to be able to bite as a regulator. When you are regulator, you have to have the powers to bite as you bark.
“The Council needs more power to be able to check the excesses of some shipping companies or terminal operators as regards their charges .
“Government should give them all the backing. Now that they are barking so much, if they can bite, people will sit up.
“If you know that if I report you to NSC, they will bite, if you don’t change, it will make shipping companies or whoever to sit up. We want the government to develop strong political will , constitutional power too to make the fear of Shippers’ Council the beginning of compliance .
“They should be given power to sanction shipping companies and terminal operators who err like what happens in the communications sector where NCC raises the hammer against any erring service provider.
“ You can imagine these shipping companies taking the NSC to court over a regulatory issue and the same shipping companies continue to collect the illegal charges. This cannot happen if there is a strong political will or law in which the NSC can use to stop these shipping companies. It cannot happen in Europe or America or Asia”.
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