Dissappearance of Gridlock Along Port Corridor is due to Activities of Our PSTT—-Shippers Council CEO, Pius Akutah

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Nigerian Shippers Council Executive Secretary, Barr Pius Ukeyima Akutah

The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Barr Pius Akutah recently conducted a media parley on the sidelines of the Council’s 2024 Strategic Management Retreat held in Abeokuta Ogun State.
The Shippers Council boss attributed the sanity being enjoyed around the Tin Can Island Port and Apapa Port to activities of the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) led by a Director of the Council, Comrade Moses Fadipe, who have worked tirelessly to restore sanity in the traffic situation.
Barr Akutah also spoke on other sundry issues including the much expected take off of the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN).

DAILY TREND was there and we bring you excerpts from the interactive session.

Barr Pius Akutah (middle) flanked by Shippers Council Director, Rotimi Anifowoshe (left) and Maritime consultant, Mr William Azu at the press parley

On the development and implementation of a policy for the marine and blue economy sector,
what has Shippers Council done? and when are you supposed to deliver on this policy?

Under the performance bond that we signed with the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy,
there are certain roles that have been assigned to the Nigerian Shihpa’s Council, the role of developing a policy for the marine and blue economy is actually assigned to the ministry. The Nigerian Shippers Council is only a part of that role, but the major role is assigned to the ministry.
So, we are making contributions to that and the minister is right on top of everything. We have had series of stakeholders engagements, we have had retreats in respect of that policy and the policy is being developed as I speak to you.
Our role like I said is just to add to the policy, just like every other agency under the ministry, we’re working together in terms of developing that policy and the minister has always said that he wants a policy that is workable.
For instance, if we talk about port renewal or reconstruction of the ports, the Nigerian ports is quite huge, resources that are needed to put into that development or renewal of the ports is huge.
It is not a kind of investment that Nigerian government will want to put money into at the moment, all that the minister and indeed the agencies under him has to do
is to provide that enabling environment where private sector
investment will be attracted, so that investments can come in and develop the port sector.
So, we are working hand in hand with the ministry now.

What is your driving force? What do you want to be remembered for when you leave Shihpa’s Council?

Talking about legacy, the major thing that i want to do going forward, is the restructuring of the shippers council. You know that Shippers Council is no longer
what we used to know because the mandate has changed drastically, now we have a mandate to be the port economic regulator, meaning that the economic activities that happen within the port domain, we are responsible for regulating even the players, so we are not just looking at the welfare of shippers, or the issues of tariffs adjustments, we are
looking at the overall economic benefits that will come out of that sector, how do we drive it? we need to have a law.
The smooth passage of Shippers Council Law will enhance every other thing that we would be doing going forward.
So, once I have that law
passed, the next thing is that Shippers Council will truly become an agency that
is raising revenue for the government when we implement the ICTN.
I want to be able to raise the profile of Nigerian Shippers Council, so that at the time I am leaving, it would be contributing meaningfully to Nigerian national GDP, that’s one of the major achievement I want to leave behind.

What happened to your Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) should we say the task team is disbanded? Your officials are no longer felt inside the terminals

Realistically speaking, Nigerian Shippers Council is visible in the ports, Nobody has driven us out of the port, We are not out of the ports, our officers go to the terminals for enforcement very regularly, and I must say that the PSTT is also working very well, It’s not disbanded.
The coordinator of that task team is here with us, Moses Fadipe, and he is still working with his team, nothing has really changed.
If you see, we have not had the gridlock that has been happening within the port corridor for some time, it is because of the activities of the PSTT, and they are still working.

We know the Shippers Council is challenged in terms of funding, can you speak on the Steve Oronsaye Panel Report, and the
1% freight stabilisation fund you are targeting

We have talked about funding generally and over time, it is quite important, and this is the right time for us to drive the issue of funding for the Shippers Council because Orasanye panel report is very clear about what Shippers Council should do.
As much as other agencies have been merged together and all of that, some completely disbanded, the Nigerian Shippers Council, under that report, is supposed to generate its revenue and be self-funded.
So, more than any time before, it’s now that the Nigerian Shippers Council need to be able to raise their own revenue profile and begin to raise their funding. So, the 1% freight stabilization fee is statutory. It’s a statutory funding for the agency and over time, the agency has not been able to collect it even though it is in our Act.
Now is the best time for us to go ahead and implement that. So, we are no longer going to be asking for the 2% of 7% port development levy, which we have been using right now as the source of funding for the council.
Once we achieve our 1% freight stabilization fee, which is statutory, we are not going to be asking for the port development levy anymore, then we begin to look for other sources of funding, which I believe that we have certain responsibilities to raise money, not only to fund the agency, but to fund the national budget as well, and to contribute meaningfully to the national GDP.
Our regulations will be very friendly, they will be economic driven.

Is there a time frame for the collection of this 1% freight stabilization fee?

Yes, the minister had given us a time frame of two weeks.
We are developing a cost-benefit analysis so that we can be able to manage our case very well when we talk about this, we should be able to show the cost-benefit analysis because people might think that it will add to cost of doing business if we insist on taking that 1% fresh stabilization fee.
But actually, if you look at the cost-benefit analysis, you will know that it doesn’t add up to the cost of doing business. Rather, it is a statutory provision in our law which we must achieve.
And beside that, it also helps the Nigerian Shippers Council to carry out their mandate. So without carrying out the mandate, it will create more problems for the sector than the 1%.

On establishing more IDPs, how can we stimulate the existing ones for Optimal Performance?

The Inland Dry Port is also one of the policy of government to bring about port efficiency, we are under the African Continental Trade Agreement, and there are opportunities for Nigerians in that agreement.
If we open up our markets for the whole of Africa, then we should be willing to also export from Nigeria. So, the IDP project basically targets bringing shipping services to the hinterlands, closer to people who would engage in shipping services.
Rather than bring your goods to the seaport for export, you can export them right from where your farms are, where you are producing. We would also de-congest the ports by that singular action, and then at the same time, promote international trading activities in the hinterlands.
So, it is important for us to develop that policy and continue to move in to possibly flood our hinterlands with Inland Dry Ports. But then, the IDPs must be actively engaged in business,
and people must use them. What Nigerian Shippers Council does is that, we are not bringing our money from government coffers to build IDPs, they are public-private partnership business enterprise, so people who come up to us and say they want to develop IDPs, including state governors, we have to see how viable those projects are, and the locations available and how viable are they for import and export business, for instance, in Enugu State, we have a vehicle transit area to be located at Oboafo and we are
insisting that we should invest in a vehicle transport transit area in that location because it is already a transport hub where vehicles traveling between the north and the south have to break there to rest and take some time to refresh before they move. So, it would be better for us to establish a vehicle transit area there than to have an inland dry port. If you have an inland dry port within that radius, it might not serve the purpose as much as possible so we are considering all of this.
We are not just engaging in the construction of inland dry ports, but we want them to be effective and efficient and contribute to international trade in our country.

Can you to tell us about the International Cargo Tracking Note (ICTN), what is delaying the take-off?

Actually, the ICTN would have been up rolling right now, but you will recall that there were some attempts in the past and some processes had commenced, but the processes had not come to a conclusion before the end of the last administration.
So, now we are trying to bring the stakeholders together to see how we can resolve some differences amongst them and then, we can
be able to move on quickly. This is the process we met on ground and we must make the best out of it, and by that I mean we have to bring everyone on board to be able to discuss the differences.
We are trying to avoid having litigation here and there, these could stall the whole process, so all we need to do is to make sure that the stakeholders are on the same page and we resolve their differences and then move forward.

The National Transport Commission Bill have been at the National Assembly for a while,
Stakeholders have said that these two bills have similar contents

We at the Shippers Council, we are more concerned about the repealing of the Shippers Council Act, CAP 133 of 2004, and then enacting a new National Shippers Council Act which will give us the mandate as Port Economic Regulator, that is our concern. The politics in the other bill which I believe you are aware of, I don’t think the Bill is still pending anywhere in the National Assembly, to my mind it is only the National
Shippers Council bill that is pending at the National Assembly.

You signed a performance bond with the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, how would this retreat enhance the performance bond you signed?

The performance bond is very key to pushing us to achieve our mandate because it captures all of that is expected of us as a Council, and much more that we do.
The retreat is one of the gatherings where we rub minds come up with policies and blueprints that would guide our activities in line with the vision of Mr President and the performance bond we have signed with the Minister.
The Minister is working round the clock to see how he can develop this sector which is over the years there with us, but there is a need to build more structures that would promote the activities of the sector towards generating revenue for the country and putting more effort in moving the national GDP forward.

We heard that some of the Council’s staff were laid off, can you throw more light

There are rules of engagement when you go into employment process, the news was making the rounds, I at first do not want to comment because it was an internal thing.
There was an approval to employ 45 people in the Council, and the process has started but it has not ended as at the time some of them received their letters of employment. When we came in, we met some petitions from the union, and we decided to set up a committee to look into it, and they recommended that the persons should be asked to step aside pending when the process would be concluded faily.
We noted that some of the persons that were recruited did not even participate in the written examination, this is not in line with the policy of the Council. The Council is a fair one, and when people have written exams to be admitted in, this should be considered, not just to pick people on the streets and give them appointment letters. Nobody was sacked, these people were not properly employed, so they were asked to step aside. The council is even considering inviting these set of people that took the exam, to come back and participate again, and if they are able to pass it, they would be offered the appointment. Nobody is being victimised.

What are the modalities you have put in place for the Council to achieve paperless operations by August?

The Council has long before now started the implementation of the ECM policy of the Federal Government, so, it is not new to Council, it has been implemented over the years, all that the Council need is to further improve the technology that would make us go paperless. As I speak with you now, we have structures on ground that have supported this over the years, what we need to work on is the Culture change initiative and train our people so that they can participate in that change.
The structure is already laid, all we need is to leverage on what we have and grow on it.

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