……to allow private sectors’ participation
Stakeholders at the one day Public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Land Transportation on the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act repeal and re-enactment Bill 2015 held at the National Assembly Abuja have underscored the need to open up the railway subsector to allow private investors participation.
They also harped on the need to consider the Bill alongside the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill in line with the recommendation of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to ensure a regulator for the Transport sector.
One after the other, the stakeholders who cut across key players in the Transport Sector, labour, professional and civil society groups at the one-day event held on Monday, April 25, 2016, harped on the need to reform the sector by setting up a regulator to monitor its activities.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki noted that the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act Amendment Bill 2015, a private member Bill proposed by Senator Andy Uba, is one of the high priority bills of the National Assembly which members were determined to ensure its quick passage.
According to Senator Saraki, “the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act Amendment Bill 2015 is one of the high priority bills of the National Assembly which members are determined to ensure its passage in the manner that will be advised by participants at public hearing”. He said there was no doubt that the rail system is one of the most important arterial systems of the country’s economy and “therefore a major determinant of the success or otherwise of our economic reform package.”
He noted that not much has been achieved in the past to move the critical vehicle of the economy from the colonial initiative it has been to a 21st century economy solution.
Saraki said the existing law in the rail subsector was drafted and enacted to support an outmoded model that restricted management and investments in railway to the public sector.
The Senate President added that “aside the fact that this law has become too old and outmoded, many experts including the business community agree that there is need to separate the regulator from the operator and give investment remit to both the states and the private investor to invest in the sector.”
The measure, he said, is to ensure a much more rapid deployment of the rail system across the nation and bring in competition, innovation and drive in this all-important sector.
He said it is his “sincere hope that the proposed Railway Bill will lead to and usher a new era of growth and enablement for the private sector to participate more robustly and directly in the provision of rail services and railway infrastructure, while ensuring efficiency and sustainability.
Also speaking, the President of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Professor Ben Aigbokhaen said for the proposed Railway Bill to be meaningful and engender private investors’ participation, there was the need for an independent regulator which the NTC Bill represents. He enjoined the National Assembly to ensure that the Bill is passed concurrently with the NTC Bill.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, organiser of the public hearing, said the repeal and re-enactment of the Act is targeted at revitalising and enhancing the operational framework and removal of the impediments that hindered international best practices in the rail transport subsector.
Other stakeholders were unanimous that the time had come to pass the NTC Bill and the other Transport Bills pending before the National Assembly to open up the sector.
In his submission at the Public Hearing, the Acting Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Dr. Vincent Onome Akpotaire called for the constitution of a technical committee of relevant stakeholders in the industry to do the followings:
· Review and harmonise the outcome of the Public Hearing with the National Transport Policy and the executive version of the Railway Bill in order to harvest and incorporate all the strong and good points and strengths of the reform process into one holistic bill
· Review the present bill and align it with the National Transport Commission Bill and other Bills pending in the other modes of transportation ; and
· Submit back to the land Transportation Committee, a drfat that is holistic and harmonized fro recommendation for passage into law by the National Assembly.