Special report: ‘’I Will Leave A Footprint In NSC, For History To Tell ’’ – Ukeyima, Executive Secretary

By Stephen Ubanna

Not much is known about Akuta Pius Ukeyima, a former top official of the Federal ministry of Justice who was said to have prosecuted several high profile cases for the ministry and won. His contributions to the ministry may have informed why former President Muhammadu Buhari had honoured him with a Member of the Niger, MON, Award.

  His towering profile as a former top official of the Federal ministry of Justice and  who knows his onions may have encouraged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who incidentally was a former governor of Lagos state, to appoint him as the Executive secretary and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Nigerian Shippers Council, NCS, to replace Emmanuel Jime, in the recent shake up in maritime agencies under the federal ministry of marine and blue economy that had affected the NSC and the Nigerian Inland Water Ways, NIWA.

 Given that Ukeyima, the incumbent CEO, of NSC, had delivered on all his various assignments at the Federal ministry of Justice which was not made known to the general public may have given him a clue that he needed to showcase his achievements if he is in apposition to do so.

  It was not surprising why he had aid that this time around all his   achievements for the first four years as the Executive Secretary, NSC, would be made public. He may have known that this could only be achieved by having a good working relationship with the Media. This may have informed why he has promised ‘’to partner with the maritime press’’. He may have been forced to open up when the League of Maritime Editors, LOME, paid him a working visit on Monday, December 18, 2023.

Ukeyima: Executive Secretary: NSC

His optimism’’ to deliver on his mandate, do one or two other things in the agency that history will tell about in future’’ was based on the fact that a former CEOs of the maritime  agency had used its meagre resources of two percent allocation from the seven percent ports development levy  Corporate Head office at Anifowoshe, Apapa , Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre, sustained payment of  staff salaries and other entitlements , including investment  which other CEOs had improved upon , including investment  in  capacity building as obtained in the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, which have  all the resources in the world  to do so.

Describing the nation’s maritime sector as a goldmine, the NSC new helmsman may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he disclosed recently that the sector has the capacity to contribute 20%   of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

 Working on the Lagos state born Nigerian President agenda ‘’to grow the economy’’ may have informed why he has effectively used the agency’s two percent funding from the seven percent port development levy in the last two months or thereabout to execute the agency mandates which includes proper monitoring of the volume of trade that comes into the country and ensuring 24 hours clearing process  at the nation’s ports by  putting the necessary infrastructural facilities in place as obtained in other maritime nations.

 He may have taken seriously the execution of one this basic mandates of the agency of port regulation  by pursuing vigorously  improvement  of the  berth occupancy, ship turn round time  crane moves per hour, time spent on anchorage, cargo dwell time  and truck turn around time among other things  and  Enforcement  of stoppage  of transshipment  port dues at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island , Port Terminal Muliservices Limited, PTML and the south east ports of Onne, Rives port, PortHarcourt, Warri  and Calabar ports.

The agency, according to an insider was said to also be pursuing ‘’ the validation of guideline for tariff setting, Negotiations for tariff review of regulated service providers, digitalization of port operations and indicative freight rates.  The Nigerian ship owners were said to have lost over $25.3 billion paid to foreign ship owners by importers and exporters as freight charges on goods imported and exported out of the country between 2020 and 2023.

The alleged massive loss of revenue by the indigenous ship owners had been attributed ‘’to their inability to acquire standard oceangoing vessels   in order to have the   needed capacity to compete with the foreign shipping companies.    

The incumbent NSC Executive Secretary may have known that there is no way the agency could achieve much in the nation’s maritime sector in the four years under its present funding of two percent from the seven percent port development levy.

 He was emphatic that the two percent funding  from the seven percent ports development levy collection by the NCS, for the government was inadequate for  the agency to operate , let alone fulfill all its mandates which include ‘’monitoring trade  that is coming into the country from the various seaports, airports and Land  border areas across the country.

He is right. Many believe that if the Nigerian government could give Bashir Jamoh led NIMASA, which controls the Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund, CVFF, which the House of Representatives had said had grown to about $700 million since 2003, from ‘’a surcharge of three percent of the contract of performed by vessels engaged in coastal trade, monies generated from tariffs, fines and fees for licenses and waivers’’. The CVFF may have been boosted from the amount periodically approved by the National Assembly and interests that accrue from loans granted from the fund.  

There are indications that if the National Assembly could work closely with President Tinubu led Executive arm of government to throw their weight on NIMASA to re-establish a national fleet in Nigeria, it will yield close to $9.1 million annually in freight revenue to NSC.

  The Nigeria Fleet Implementation Committee had reported that establishing a national fleet for the country will bring in over $5.5.42 billion into the country’s GDP annualy and over $1.62 billion into the government treasury from Corporate Income Tax alone through the joint venture companies. The House was said to have further noted that it will attract additional $1 billion in freight direct investment into the country’s economy.

Maritime analysts had said that this could easily   be achieved with ease by NSC, in the next four years under the Current purposeful Leadership of Ukeyima, as the proposed National Fleet which is to be wholly private driven, which would go a long way ‘’to address the country’s challenges of low national tonnage capacity, loss of jobs and loss of freight earnings to the International shipping Lines that are doing business within the country.

They noted that the financial situation of the maritime agency could be much better to carry out its statutory responsibilities if the Tinubu’s Administration could make the difference this time around in the funding of the agency by seeing ‘’to the actualization of the one percent freight stabilization fees for import and export   as contained in the NSC Subsidiary Legislation’’ for the use of the agency.       

The NSC ,Management, under the Leadership of the Benue state born politician  may have continued from where Jime, his predecessor had stopped in the areas of regulating the country’s entry and exit points, port efficiency in provision of port  services,  and  minimise  the high cost of doing business  at the nation’s seaports  to prevent  its inflationary  effect, on the nation’s economy.

 The Ukeyima NSC, led Management team was said to have also been occupied for now with implementation of measures ‘’to encourage private investment in the country’s port sector and ensure compliance by all the parties with the provisions of the ports Concession’’.

Determined to save money for the country and shippers, the previous Management of Jime was said to have included in the Concession agreement with the Concessionaires as the country’s port regulator whichanalysts had said was not in 2006, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo took the bold initiative to privatize the nation’s seaports.

 Ukeyima, the NSC, executive Secretary, who  was said to have continued  with the policy which had saved the country  an average  vessel demurrage  of $20,000 daily , and which was said to have translated to over $12,350,000 between 2021 and 2022 or N5.4 billion ,  using the two  distinct years  Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market rate has vowed to continue with the implementation of the policy.

. The agency was said to have also saved   industry stakeholders  over N2.3 billion  by effectively  settling trade disputes  and complaints  of arbitrary charges , Container deposit frauds, import and expot frauds, among others at the nation’ ports of entry and exits.96 by shippers against the Concessionaires and the foreign shipping Companies.

The new NSC Management team was said to have also been occupied with the Presidential mandate to deliver the Funtua Inland Dry Port, in Katsina, home state of former President Buhari as a port of origin and final destination for the import and export of cargoes expected to promote the country’s international trade.

Note that Inland the Inland dry port is expected to facilitate trade going by the law setting it up. This is because it is empowered ‘’to operate shipping businesses including freight forwarding as obtained in other maritime nations.   

Ukeyima, the NSC, Executive Secretary, according to an insider, may have taken advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreemenent, AfCTA, within the short period in office to facilitate the take- off of the north western state of Katsina Inland dry port sited in Futua town.

The Value News learnt the Funtua  project was initially  slated to be a Container Fright station  in 2006,  but was later converted  ‘’to an inland Dry Port based  on the Strategic  framework of Build, Own , Operate and Transfer, BOOT’’ by the Buhari’s Administration .

 Muazu Jaji Sambo, an Engr and a former minister of Transportation under the then Buhari’s Administration may have clarified the issue when he stated that’’ it was converted to an Inland dry port   in accordance with the provisions of the Customs and Excise Management Act, Cap 2004, that had been reviewed and signed into Law as the new the Customs and Excise Management Act, by the then Nigerian President in March 2023. 

He had said that the importance  of the  Katsina state  as  the Trans Saharan trade route  with huge agricultural  produce  and trade in local  and export  volumes  had qualified the north western state  for  an Inland dry port.

 The former minister was optimistic that land locked country of Niger Republic and other port users in the region and the neighbouring West African country who had been patronizing the Autonomous port of Benin Republic and other ports in the West African sub-region to take delivery of their cargoes which are smuggled into the Nigerian market  and often intercepted by Nigerian Customs anti-smuggling officers on the road are expected to take full advantage  of the Funtua Inland dry port  for the import and export of their cargoes to forestall running into problems with the Bashir Adewale Adeniyi’s men on the road in the north western states of Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kano and Jigawa. May have contined

Oyetola: Minister Of Marine & Blue Economy

Adegboyega Oyetola, a former governor of Osun state and now minister of Marine and Blue Economy, may have continued from Engr. Sambo, the former minister of Transportation had stopped Special ReportSpecial Report

to see to the realization of the Funtua Inland dry port project  that he has thrown his weight behind Ukeyima and his Management Team to achieve the target within the hird quarter of 2024.

Vintage Ukeyima.

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