Hon. Emmanuel Jime, immediate past NSC CEO
By Foster Obi
President Tinubu on Wednesday, October 25, 2023, replaced hardworking Emmanuel-Lyambee Jime with Akutah Pius Ukeyima as the new helmsman at the Nigerian Shippers Council. Ukeyima has since resumed office.
Jime only completed his two years in office last June after taking over from Barrister Hassan Bello who spent more than 8years in the same position. It was a big shoe that Barrister Bello left for him to wear.
Jime, a former House of Reps member also from Benue state as the new man and a lawyer did extraordinarily well beyond stakeholders’ imagination. He was intellectually savvy as he sat down and learned the job.
Except that the Nigerian government is known so much for aborting pregnancy midstream, there is no reason why Jime should not have been allowed to complete four years in office to see the fruition of the policies he had in place for the transformation of the Council.
However, since government is a continuum it is expected that the new CEO will carry on from where Jime stopped. DFC News is refreshing the discussion it had with Jime after his two years in office for the benefit of Ukeyima.
From the discussion, Jime had lined up novel policies that are aimed at repositioning the Council. Some of these efforts are already at the completion stage. This is why this medium considers the new man very lucky as he would just need little or no effort to achieve great success.
He should have no excuse but to hit the ground running.
For the benefit of Barrister Ukeyima, we bring again some portions of the discussion with Jime:
Sir, you can tell us some of the challenges you experienced when resumed office in 2021:
When I came here, the first thing I noticed was the paucity of the funding lines for the Shippers Council. Don’t forget, this is the port’s economic regulator. What that means is that because we regulate an industry which like I said has the skill set that will require that our workforce is skilled, and tooled sufficiently enough to be able to regulate the industry, meaning, that we must be one step always ahead of the industry. The funding challenge has made it impossible for us to efficiently develop those tools that we needed to be able to be effective in the way that we have conducted our business here. The statutory revenue of the Nigerian Shippers Council is that we are entitled to one percent of the freight stabilization levy, that is what the law says. You won’t believe it, in the life of this agency since it was established, that source of funding has never been accessed. That would represent to you immediately what the challenge has been.
In the moment the government in its wisdom decided to place us on a stop-gap financial source which is 2 over 7 percent of what is called the port development levy. If you look at it, it comes to a very paltry sum of what comes to the coffers of the Nigerian Shippers Council in a year. That to me represents an immediate challenge that we faced here.
The second issue for me has been the legal framework. The legal framework has not given us the proper tools of a proper economic regulator. Let’s remember, that when the port reforms were put in place, it took almost nine years after a port economic regulator to be put in place. What that means is that the port has taken years and ran for nine years without an economic regulator, and then suddenly we are thrust into the fray. The tools we would have needed if it was in place right from the word go, were not there. The presidential orders that have given us some of the powers that we are working with, particularly the economic regulatory mandate are not codified in what I would call the substantive legal framework in the Nigerian Shippers Council. I find that a bit uncomfortable. That has been the environment in which we are functioning till now. Good a thing, the temperament, the know-how, the ability of those who have been on this site before, ability to manage the circumstances, in a way that has brought the industry to recognize the port economic role of the Shippers Council gives the impression as if everything is okay. But I am sitting here, and I can tell you that my concern is to make certain that the legal framework of the Nigerian Shippers Council is further strengthened and that is why today we are exploring, and processing a draft legal framework that is in the national assembly and we are putting a very robust regulatory regime that once it passes through the crucible of the national assembly’s searchlight, we will now sufficiently strengthen it to be able to build it more than what are doing presently as port economic regulator.
There are of course a couple of other things, but when you don’t have the funding, your staffing is also inadequate because at the moment the government again in its wisdom gave us headship of the implementation of the Nigeria Port Processing Manual (NPPM) and then of course there was also the Port Standing Task Team that was put together that was put together by the federal government, led by the Nigerian Shippers Council to supervise the implementation of the NPPM. That is the tool that has become the beautiful bride of the industry because at once, all of the standard operating processes in the port have been encompassed, and encapsulated in a document that has now provided some clarity as to how this industry should run. To be able to do and to implement it effectively, outside of the Lagos port, don’t forget we have ports spread all over the country …Rivers State, Cross River, new ports are coming up, so there is a need for the staffing strength to be upscaled to be able to meet the demands of the industry.
I needed to point that out to show why it is important that the funding structure of the Nigerian Shippers Council is addressed in a manner that would then allow us to be as efficient as we should be.
Have you made any effort towards addressing this issue since you became the CEO of the Council?
Indeed we have. Thanks for reminding me. When I got here, the first thing I did was to put our team together to advise me and we raised a memo that justifies that the Nigerian Shippers Council must earn that source of revenue. We presented our case, very well articulated to our parent ministry and the honourable Minister constituted a ministerial team that sat down with a group of experts to look at this matter holistically. Sadly, the process would not conclude as at the time of his departure but the comfort that I have is that the work that has been done and the level which we are at this moment, there is just a little that is left as far as the processing of that request. So I am hopeful that in the shortest time possible, we will be able to begin the process of accessing that source of revenue.
So how did the people that were here before you get through without proper funding?
They probably were magicians, because if you see the development that has taken place here, look at the offices that we occupy, the structures and then if you put it side by side with the budget, you will be shocked to your bone marrows how they were able to do it. Again it just showed that we had some very prudent managers of resources who have taken us to the point that we are and we have continued in that tradition of making sure that the best of our abilities are harnessed but of course that does not take away the necessity that we need to be further enhanced as far as funding streams are concerned.
The shipping companies have posed a big challenge for anyone on this site as they carry on in our country as lords that cannot be regulated. The argument is that there are powerful Nigerians behind them, and touching them means stepping on these powerful toes which would surely backfire. How have you been able to contend with this monster?
As I said earlier, this industry is complex. There are different interests, very diverse, that are involved. It is a multimillion-dollar industry; naturally, you would expect that it will come with all of its complexities. I think the advantage that we have had (those that have worked here before me and hopefully I can say that for myself, also) was that we were able to use knowledge-driven expertise that has allowed us to be able to relate with the industry from the point of knowledge. Of course, that also means that we then had been able to interface with stakeholders in the industry in a manner that there is now a buy-in. Initially when the Shippers Council was given this mandate of port economic regulator; there was resistance partly because people did not understand what the role of the Shippers Council was meant to be, but I think also because of mischief. The truth of the matter is that a lot of people will prefer to operate in an environment where there is no clarity of regulation because that benefits some at the expense of the common good. That’s part of the reason why that resistance was there. But by the time the operations came, the implementations of the legal framework and course as I said, the expertise of the group of individuals who populate this institution, enabled us to put in place policies and framework that have then given us the advantage of working very closely in an environment of harmony with stakeholders in the industry. So I think to answer your question, what we have done is that we have been able to manage the diverse interests in a way that shows, one, that we are not a biased umpire, that was very key. The truth of the matter is that if you trace the origin of the Nigerian Shippers Council when we started we were simply a consumer protection agency. In Some ways in the industry, in other words, we were more interested in the welfare of Shippers but our present role puts us in a position where we have become an umpire. So we are now acting in the interests of both the providers of shipping services and the consumers of shipping services. That then means that we have to deliver services and establish a regime that gives everyone the comfort and the recognition and the understanding that there is now a regulator whose interest is the common good, and to enable the conduct of business in our port to conform to what I would like to describe as international best practices. We have been able to sort of enact a regime in the industry that has given a clear picture that our interest is international best practices that have brought both the providers of the services and the consumers of services on board.
Yes, we still have challenges; we have difficulties both for the most part because of the way we have been able to mediate in the industry, I think there is a buy-in now that has allowed the Nigerian Shippers Council to be a proper regulator in the true sense.
Going forward do you still see yourself doing anything much more visible in transforming the industry?
Yes, very much so. You see, the Federal Executive Council recently approved the reintroduction of the cargo tracking note at the same time it appointed the Nigerian Shippers Council to supervise the implementation of the project in the country, that’s new. New in the sense that it is now being introduced as, though not entirely a new phenomenon in the industry, but for over seven years, it has been in abeyance. Cargo tracking note is going to bring monumental development in our industry. For instance, the fact that the federal government decided to also include wet cargo as part of the package in the supervision of the cargo tracking note implementation means that we can now as a nation begin the process of fighting crude oil theft because the tools that are going to be available for the implementation of the cargo tracking note will enable our security agencies with first class knowledge information about the movement of vessels in and out of our waters. That’s one advantage I see already.
This morning, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) visited me. One of the things we discussed was the availability of tools to assist them in tracking the movement of illicit drugs which you know also presents a challenge as far as the health of our people is concerned and of course the Nigerian economy as well. Why is that, again because of the tools that will be deployed we are now able to trace the content of cargo of all of the vessels that are coming in. So it is no longer going to be business as usual. I mean, the NDLEA will now have first-hand information before a vessel arrives in our waters. This is what this particular vessel is carrying. You can see how effective that tool will be.
There is also the other question of under declaration which has become part of the challenge of our port system. That is a huge dent in our capacity to generate revenues for the nation. Again this is going to help, so the Nigeria Customs will take advantage of the tools we are going to deploy to have properly declared cargo that is coming into our waters. These are in my opinion monumental advantages in a way that will truly guarantee the efficiency of our ports.
Part of the challenge we have now is how we process clearance procedures at the ports which constitutes a major obstacle to the ease of doing business which makes it even more expensive. You can hear every time about how expensive our ports are and these are the variables that lead to the costly nature of doing business in our ports. Cargo tracking has those kinds of advantages built into it. The reason why I am excited about it is that the federal government in its wisdom has found the Nigerian Shippers Council worthy of this responsibility, so that’s a development I am looking forward to with some kind of excitement.
As I said, this is going to be a game changer in our maritime industry and of course to the nation’s economy at large. We should understand that if we introduce this thing… Like I said it covers both wet and dry cargo, so that’s a new development on its own. We are also working with the Ministry to ensure that the Nigerian Shippers Council Act is very well equipped with the proper legislative powers that will allow us to effectively discharge our mandate. So this is a new development that we have in store, going forward and I can look forward to this with a lot of excitement. You already asked me a question about our source of revenue. We are already processing that and so I believe that the future is bright as far as the Nigerian Shippers Council is concerned. All we now have to do is to put all hands on deck and make certain that we can achieve within the next couple of years that one has in this office.
Are there other limitations to your performance that you can point to?
As far as limitations, I believe that the major limitation is again double fold…funding, legal framework, and every other thing else dovetails into this. As soon as we can address these twin challenges that the Council is taking, what is left is to ramp up our activities more rapidly and then of course achieve our principal goal which is that the Nigerian Shippers Council comes out as the best regulator as far as the maritime industry is concerned. As far as limitations those are the major areas and something is been done about it already.
President Bola Tinubu recently appointed Mr Akutah Pius Ukeyima as the Executive Secretary/CEO of, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC).
This was announced by Ajuri Ngelale, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity.
Akutah Pius Ukeyima is an expert in International Criminal law and recently occupied the position of the Principal State Counsel within the Office of the Honorable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice under the Federal Ministry of Justice.
Ukeyima is from Benue State. His educational journey started at the University of Jos, where he embarked on a Diploma in Law from 1993 to 1995.
He went further to continue his educational journey at the University of Abuja, where he pursued an LLB, earning his Bachelor of Laws degree.
This led him to Ahmadu Bello University, where he studied for an LLM program from 2010 to 2012.
Picture: Barrister Akutah Pius Ukeyima