Rowland Ataguba is Chairman of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) on the Railway Bill and National Transport Commission Bill in the House of Representatives. The International railway delivery expert spoke on the pertinent issues in the Transport sector. Excerpts:
You recently claimed on national TV that Nigeria did not have a National Transport Policy but the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, immediately refuted your claim. What is the correct position? I am afraid the Minister is mistaken. Ojo Madueke as Minister produced the transport masterplan in 2002 and not the policy. The masterplan ought to derive from the policy and both were probably worked on in tandem during the Obasanjo government. The masterplan was done but the policy has remained in draft form. If you look in the ministry’s budget proposals for 2017, there is a line item for consultation with stakeholders on the National Transport Policy. That should tell you there isn’t one. The last NTP on record is a 1993 version which is obsolete. Policies are reviewed every 5 years to ensure that their objectives are still consistent with the requirements and developments. So even if Ojo Madueke produced a policy which he didn’t, it would have been obsolete by now. These are the rudiments of government. Indeed the formulation of transport policy is the raisson d’etre of the FMT. How can we as a serious country have a policy perpetually under review for 15 years?
Why is it important to have a National Transport Policy?
Governments implement policies. Their action plans derive from policies approved at the highest level of government. So the National Transport Policy is what you may call, the basic principles by which the government is being guided in transportation. It is indeed the declared objectives for the transport sector that the FG seeks to achieve and preserve in the national interest. So if there is no NTP or for the sake of argument, there is an expired one, it begs questions of what policy the FMT is or has been implementing. Do we know? Do they know? It’s that serious! Even the Minister admitted that they were not being guided.
But what is the difference between the Transport Masterplan and the National Transport Policy?
Policy is approved by FEC while the masterplan is a working document of the ministry. Policy is visionary and aspirational. More importantly, it is foundational. The masterplan on the other hand is a strategic plan that derives from policy. It is the roadmap to achieving the policy objectives. The NTP proclaims the principles and objectives that underpin government actions in transportation while the masterplan aggregates action plans that break down the policy into specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, and time bound goals. How can we have a masterplan without a policy underpin? It’s like a church without God!
So what is the current position?
There is no valid National Transport Policy. What we have is a draft NTP from 2010 and an obsolete NTP that was approved in 1993. We have a masterplan from 2002 that is also obsolete and needs to be reviewed and updated. Fundamentally, we need a NTP that addresses current realities. One that provides for better transportation integration and consistency in the application of policy and incentives across the modes. This is why the NTC is so important.
What is the NTC?
The National Transport Commission is the proposed new regulator for all regulated transportation. That’s roads, rail, maritime and aviation under one tent. The NTC would be responsible for economic and safety regulation. At the moment, about 15 MDAs have regulatory authority in the different modes of transportation. There are overlaps as there are gaps. Some agencies have conflicts of interest as they are operators as well as regulators, others are landlords and regulators which discourages private investment and effectiveness in service delivery, or in the case of policy formulators as policy implementers. Some of the sub-sectors have no safety regulator while some have no economic regulator and where they exist in others, they are limited or ineffectual. There is also a need to resolve the asymmetry of information problem. Moreso, as public monopolies are increasingly turned over to the private sector to manage, it is imperative that regulation is cogent and robust.
So you are proposing a regulator that will regulate other government agencies like Nigeria Ports and Nigerian Railway Corporation?
Well yes but among others including private operators and within defined boundaries. If they provide regulated transport services to the public, then they will be regulated subject to the extent of the regulated services provided. Remember that we are reforming these agencies as well with the Railway Bill, Ports and Harbours Bill and the other transport sector reform bills. So the NTC will rationalise transportation regulation, enabling specialisation and cross sectoral integration. Investors and operators would be clearer of the rules that they would be subject to and who enforces them. Users will be better protected from abuse of monopoly or dominant market power and poor service, while the government’s interest in monitoring performance of service provision is given intelligent impetus. Government also benefits from a one stop shop for advisory on transportation regulation. It’s win-win all round.
As a multi sector regulator, the NTC also rationalises the number of government agencies regulating transport. This is consistent with the national mood to reduce agencies rather than increase their number. This enables the harnessing of regulatory resources across the transportation regulatory value chain, preventing industry capture and resolving problems of asymmetry of information. It also frees government agencies to focus on asset management. The other innovation is in the transitory provision for an anchor tenant.
And what is the Anchor Tenant all about ?
Yes. As we propose to migrate regulatory resources from several MDAs, it is imperative that the transition is orderly and phased so we do not end up in a miasma of confusion creating a regulatory lacuna worse than existed before. With this approach, one of the existing agencies is nominated as the nucleus and incubator of the NTC. No doubt it will itself need restructuring and reform with capacity building as an inherent enabler. Of the existing agencies that will migrate wholesale, the Shippers Council to my mind provides the best fit.