Disquiet In Shippers’ Council Over Level 12 Officer’s Appointment As New CEO

Disquiet In Shippers' Council Over Level 12 Officer's Appointment As New  CEO
Akutah Pius Ukeyima
  • Shippers, freight agents threaten court action over negotiated 400% hike in terminal charges

The appointment of Mr. Akutah Pius Ukeyima as the new executive secretary and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council(NSC) has generated some fire of uneasiness among members of staff  who have alleged that CEO is a level 12 officer drafted from the Federal Ministry of Justice(FMOJ), Abuja.

Even as this rages, the dust of the confusion in the port over the hike in storage charges of terminal operators is yet to settle not even with the seeming unfortunate removal of Hon. Emmanuel Jime as the ES/CEO of NSC because some groups of freight forwarders and shippers who are disenchanted with the scale and tide of the hurriedly engaged negotiation, last week, among the service providers, NSC and a select group of freight agents are threatening court action.  

The news of Akutah’s civil service ranking created mixed feelings across all levels of the staff structure inside the agency. Most workers in the director cadre were seen last week discussing in hush tones, with an obvious air of despondency as though a calamity has befallen the agency, as  some of their subordinates were submerged in mixed thoughts of solidarity and indifference at the overwhelming air of uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the statement released by the President’s spokesman,Ajuri Ngelale, announcing the appointment of new ES of NSC stated that   
“Mr. Akutah Ukeyima is a graduate of Law and holds a Master’s degree in Public International Law from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He most recently served as the Head of the Central Authority Unit, International Cooperation in Criminal Matters,Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

While he personally stated that he is an Assistant Director at the time of his appointment, so far, investigation by some staff of the agency revealed that he is a level 12 officer in FMOJ.

Akutah, who hails from Tiv in Benue State like his immediate predecessor, Hon. Emmanuel Jime, is believed  to have a godfather in the Secretary to the Government of the Federation(SGF),George Akume, who was said to have ensured that Jime never made the ministerial list or retain his position in NSC under president Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government on account of internal party skirmishes in Benue State.  

 Born on the 7th June, 1970, Akutah is married with three children. He hails from USHONGO Local Government. Area of Benue State.

Ukeyima is a graduate of Law and holds a Master’s degree in Public International Law from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

He is currently working on a Doctor of Philosophy(Ph.D) programme in International Cooperation in Criminal Matters in  Nasarawa State University, Keffi.

 He got his Master of Law(LL.M.)  degree on Public International Law, in 2016 at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and obtained his Barrister at Law(BL) on May 8, 2007, at the Nigerian Law School Bwari, Abuja.

 Akutah got his Bachelor of Law(LLB) degree on February 23,2006, University of Abuja Gwagwalada, Abuja.

He also had obtained a Diploma in Law  October 5, 1995, University of Jos, Jos Plateau State. And had got a Senior Secondary School certificate in  June,1992.

He most recently served as the Head of the Central Authority Unit, International Cooperation in Criminal Matters, Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

He’s a popular politician and a member of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and was supposed to the 2023 Benue State gubernatorial election but stepped aside  for the incumbent, Rev. Hyacinth Alia.

While the investigation on Akutah’s career status continues, President Bola Tinubu  had also approved the appointment of new Chief Executive Officers  for the National Inland Waterways Authority(NIWA), Alhaji Munirudeen Bola Oyebamiji on the  recommendation of the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola.

Oyebamiji is a graduate of Banking and Finance and holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration and Business Administration. He is an Economist with industry experience of more than 28 years before entering the public service.

According to the statement, in the public service, he first reversed the downward trajectory of the Osun State Investment Company Limited before serving as the Osun State Commissioner of Finance for eight years.

In a statement titled:”NSC Shaved Our Heads In Our Absence” sent to MMS Plus, the Chairman of Shippers’ Association of Lagos State(SAL),Barr. Leo Ogamba accused shippers’ council of undermining shippers in the negotiation, asserting that it negates the subsisting perpetual injunction restraining providers of services from increasing charges without due process.

 The statement reads:”I commend the Nigerian Shippers Council on the way and manner it handled shippers unfriendly terminal charges increment but exclusion of Shippers Association Lagos State (cargo owners or Shippers ) in the negotiation of  terminal charges increment paid or payable by shippers is shaving our heads in our absence.

“In fairness to Hon.Jime, in my presence and others, he directed that shippers and other stakeholders be invited but Shippers Association  that represent shippers in Nigeria was not invited.

According to SAL, “Whereas stakeholders consist all cargo interests, shippers association exclusively are cargo owners (importers/exporters) pursuant to NSC enabling act. The approved  hike in tariff and consequent negotiation negate subsisting perpetual injunction restraining providers of services from increasing charges without due process and this includes participation of shippers (cargo owners) in the negotiation process.”

 He added, ”Shippers Association Lagos State is not unaware of the fact that NSC has the mandate to protect the interest of shippers/stakeholders as port economic regulator but exclusion of SAL is quit unfortunate. It is unconscionable to exclude cargo owners legally represented by shippers association in the instant case”.

A concerned group of freight agents has also resolved to challenge the series of increase in charges by terminal operators on realizing that there is a subsisting injunction from the Federal High Court on the matter.

However, freight forwarder, Chief Chidi Opara has commended NSC for promptly resolving the conundrum on what he described as “unilateral increases in charges by terminal operators and shipping companies”

Opara in a statement said,“If a news media report that the unilateral increases in charges by terminal operators and shipping companies that have been threatening the peace in Nigerian ports have been resolved by Nigerian ports economic regulator, which is the Nigerian Shippers Council(NSC)is true, one cannot but give thumb up to NSC.

“That move, if true, is the stuff efficient regulation is made of.

“One may not totally agree with the decisions NSC took in the matter, but what is important is that decisions were taken and these decisions doused the tension in the sector and its subsectors.

“Other regulators in the sector and its subsectors should be ready to always step in to efficiently regulate within their respective regulatory mandates in real time, so as to engender harmony in the sector and its subsectors”.

Recall that the freight forwarders had frowned at the rate of increase of 600 percent by the concessionaires.
They had protested to the ports economic regulator which swung into action, promising to review the increase.

At a meeting summoned on Tuesday last week by NSC, the stakeholders reached a resolution with all the interested parties, particularly the freight forwarders who represent importers on the rate of increase.
Stakeholders who attended the meeting at the NSC headquarters were shipping companies, terminal operators, a section of freight forwarders, among other interested parties.

The resolutions reached at the meeting include:
 “A meeting was held today, October 24th, 2023, at the Shippers Council Hall, involving the Nigerian Slippers Council, shipping companies, terminal operators, and relevant associations/stakeholders. The purpose of the meeting was to address various issues and reach a resolution. The following resolutions were agreed upon:
“The number of free days for cargo storage at the terminals has been increased from 3 days to 5 days. This will provide more flexibility for shippers and reduce costs.

“The previously proposed 600% increase in terminal charges has been reduced to 400%. This adjustment aims to strike a balance between the needs of the terminal operators and the shippers.

“Break bulk cargo charges have been increased from 125% to 250%. This adjustment reflects the changing dynamics of the industry and ensures fair compensation for services provided.

“All complaints regarding inefficiencies by the terminal operators will be addressed immediately. This commitment aims to improve overall operations and enhance customer satisfaction.

“The Shippers Council has established a complaints desk at all ports. This dedicated desk will ensure that issues raised by stakeholders are resolved promptly and efficiently.

“Boxes that arrived prior to October 16th will be rated with the old rates. This provision aims to avoid any confusion or discrepancies in billing.

“Further discussions between the terminal operators and the Shippers Council will continue to refine and improve the processes. This ongoing dialogue will ensure that the interests of all parties are considered and addressed.

“The above resolutions will take effect immediately. All parties involved have agreed to abide by these resolutions and work collaboratively until further notice”.

The resolution was described as a demonstration of commitment on the part stakeholders to foster a harmonious working environment for the benefit of the industry.

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