Thursday, March 13, 2014

NEWS UPDATE: Federal Government To Privatise Airports, Harbours

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday raised a special committee to fine-tune four proposed draft legislations to reform the nation’s land transport and aviation sectors.

The proposed laws are meant to draw more private sector participation into the transport industry.

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

Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, told newsmen after the FEC meeting chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan that the special committee would be headed by Minister of Justice, Bello Adoke.

He said the Adoke committee would comprise Ministers of Aviation, Transport, and Works, and incorporate relevant ministers and other stakeholders in the railways, maritime and aviation sectors.

The committee is expected to get the four draft bills ready for FEC approval and for onward transmission to the National Assembly for enactment.

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

These are facilities currently owned by government only, but Maku pointed out that the reform initiative is based on the need to open the sectors for competition that will enhance productivity and efficiency.

Besides, there is the realisation that government alone cannot fund the needs of the sector, whereas extant laws restrict the private sector from participation beyond operating ships, aircraft and commercial vehicles.

To ensure effective competition, regulatory functions will be taken away from any of the operators in the system, and handed over to neutral umpires, the minister said.

He further explained that the laws when enacted will open up lots of opportunities for Nigerians to enjoy more and better road, rail sea and air travel infrastructure, along with the employment that will be generated.

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

Maku stressed, however, that government would not because of this development hands off provision of needed public infrastructure.

Instead, taxes paid by the private sector and the money saved by government from providing the marginal infrastructure would be available for use in other critical sectors like health and basic education.

He assured that the interests of Nigerians would be uppermost in all the decisions taken by government with regard to the formulation of the transport sector reform bills.

Meanwhile, the FEC received a report on the National Council on Works meeting held last September.

It was presented by Minister of Works, Mike Onolomemen.

The report, according to Maku, showed that major arterial roads across the country were being rehabilitated and expanded, while more funds were being made available by government to improve the road network.

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