Our Strategy To Lubricate Shippers’ Council For Impact In The New Economy-NSC Boss, Akutah

Our Strategy To Lubricate Shippers’ Council For Impact In The New Economy-NSC Boss, Akutah
Mr. Pius Akutah is the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council(NSC)

He caught the image of a fast learner and an engaging conversationalist. His responses to the remarks made by his visitors were devoid of convulsive statements; he speaks reassuringly with the conviction of  a focused leader. Mr. Pius Akutah is the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council(NSC). He received members of the League of Maritime Editors(LOME) who came on courtesy visit to his office recently in Lagos. With barely 100 days in office, Akutah has since hit the ground running without hitches, resulting in full grip of his briefs and the working knowledge demonstrated in this encounter. He speaks on the strategic vision of the agency in a renewed hope mantra of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration. Excerpts:   

 Like i said, this is not my first interaction with the media, from my background as a prosecutor, I have worked with the Federal Ministry of Justice, I have prosecuted high profile cases, I have had my name mentioned in the press sometime wrongly, sometime rightly. So I understand that the press can actually take the message out there, be it right or wrong, they can take it out. It is very important for you to understand the press that is around you and collaborate with the press to be also able to highlight your achievements out there, because you can be doing so much yet just little is known about what you are doing.

Again, during this mandate that I have to run this agency within the next four years, by God’s grace if I am here for four years I should be able to achieve one or two things that history will tell. Like you mentioned in your opening remark, you talked about former chief executives that have made impacts in this place. We are sitting in this building today because of the vision of someone who led the Shippers council at some point, whom I heard did so much with little resources to be able to build this place where we are comfortably sited today to do the work of this council.

I may be here today by prudence or whatever, but God  had determined that I will be here and that’s why I am here, but when I am leaving this place, someone else will come in and then whatever I have done for the period I will be here, will be called into question and if I have done well, it will show and if I have taken the council backward, it will still show and I plead that we should work together, uphold this council and take it further from where we met it and I am counting on all of you to give me that support that is needed to move on.

 The focus of this administration, our president, from his campaign promises and as soon as he came into office has shown that he is determined to diversifying the economy of this nation and that’s why he brought the ministry of marine and blue economy, to begin to look into other marine resources and see how we can tap into them as another line of foreign exchange earnings for this country. If you look at Sardine or Geisha, one of those products, you will see written on it, ” Product of Mackerere” that’s from Morocco, they do not have enormous marine resources that we have in this country but they are using that as a major income earner for their country and they are using the resources to develop their country. If you look at their energy sector, they have gone so far from where we are and this is their major income earner.

So the President is determined to look at the marine sector as one sector that will add so much to our GDP. Recently, the Minister of marine and blue economy in his address to the National Assembly in the defense of the budget, actually made mention of the 20% contribution to GDP, through this sector and that’s why all of us in the sector, head of agencies are working together to achieve this and we need your effort in this regard.

From the priority areas that the President has given to his ministers when he signed the performance bond with them, that was cascaded down to agencies of this ministry, the ministry of marine and blue economy in a retreat with the Minister and when he cascaded down to us at the shippers council, we know that one of the priority areas applicable to us out of the three applicable to the ministry is priority number three, to grow the economy and improve access to funds and all that.

 And in this sector, the bulk of trade that is brought into Nigeria, we all know  is grossly below what it is and this is because some infrastructure that are needed to put in place to monitor trade are not actually there and if we set up those infrastructure, I know that our funding will improve. What comes to Nigeria via oil revenue by this sector will improve. We talk about the natural resources that we are looking at exploring, for instance in the shippers council today, we have a mandate to establish the cargo tracking note, this is a platform that will monitor trade and give us the correct volume of trade that is coming into this country and as we look at this statistics we will also know the revenue that is being generated by the cargo tracking note for this country.

 It is not only desirable, it is needed and long overdue for us to have a cargo tracking note in Nigeria. Even smaller countries surrounding us have already established the cargo tracking note and they are using it. This is not just beneficial to us in terms of revenue generation but beneficial in terms of monitoring what comes into our shores, to be able to enhance the security of the country, because if we know the cargos that comes into our country, we are in a better position to manage and secure what comes in. What is not desirable for us will not be able to come into our port. So this is desirable, more than desirable, it is needed and we must put our hands together to ensure that this happens. 

The mandate that we have as a council is responsible for one of these priority areas of Mr President, and that is to ensure that we deliver cargoes and we need a spur to push us to be able to achieve that. We have other aspects of developments like the dry port that we have done so much in, we have the mandate of Mr president to deliver that this year. And all of these will improve significantly, to see how we can facilitate trade, to even take advantage of the AfCFTA agreement, we were almost the last country to sign that, so many things happened even before the agreement, so we need to make our people understand that there are opportunities under that agreement in terms of trade facilitation. We need to quickly do what we can to achieve what we can, improve the knowledge and understanding of our people in terms of trade within the continent and even outside the continent. 

For me. one of the things we want to achieve as quickly as possible, is the shippers council establishment Act, that Act needs to be amended and as I speak to you now, we have it before the National Assembly, the Speaker, the chairman of the House Committee on shipping as well as the Senate committee chairman, they are all in agreement that this Act needs to be passed as quickly as possible. We have the support of the National Assembly and we believe that the way and manner that they are taking this Act, not later than the second quarter of this year we should have that Act replaced or even earlier. This Act will help us not only to establish AfCFTA trading that will serve as a bulk economic regulator and trade facilitator but will give us the enabling environment within the ambit of the law. That Act will incorporate the regulation of 2015 and the order of the president establishing the council as the port regulator and trade facilitator.

Other enablers we are looking at, we will see that the revenue base of this agency will improve, otherwise at the moment, what we take as our revenue is 2% of what the government makes, which is not adequate for us to achieve the mandate we have set to achieve but with the support of the Ministry, the National Assembly and all other stakeholders, we believe that this Act will come as soon as possible. 

I have already told you about the cargo tracking but one of our problems is also administration, we are solidly building a good administration chain as soon as possible. We are also looking at a review of some of these concession agreement for the inland dry port, some of those agreement you will see they made provision for certain activities that the government will carry out, they also made provision for what the concessionaire will do. One of the challenges we have been having is how to let the two partners work together to see how their collaboration can quickly bring result.

 In some cases the settlement have not been able to award lands, meanwhile it is their responsibility to do that, some places lands have been awarded but the necessary documentation has not been carried out, so the concessionaire cannot enter into it to even commence work. I want to see how we can review that and ensure that the concessionaires are people who have the necessary means to carry out the work. We need to also promote port efficiency and operations around the port, because we have a role to play in that. We want to promote 24 hours cargo clearance other than 48 hours so that gradually we can move that into a better time span.

 We want to promote the implementation of an electronic tracking management system in the port which is on -going now. Aside all these, there are many other things that we will include this year, we are still discussing as management. As you know I am still new in office, as much as I cannot run faster than I can, I am also trying as much as I can to ensure we don’t lag behind. We don’t just want to name projects but we want to achieve result.

I thank you and urge you to continue giving us your support because without your support I don’t think we can do as much as what is expected of us.

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