Last Monday, we used our rare “Front Page Comment”, to scratch the feud between the suspended Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA).
In that little piece, we surmised that her current travail was because she didn’t mind the Banana Peels that were lined up for her. She eventually stepped on one, and she slipped and fell.
Most people who are familiar with her emergence as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) are likely to be surprised about her suspension by President Muhammadu Buhari.
From ‘nowhere’ her name surfaced in 2016 as the new CEO of the Grade ‘A’ parastatal – the NPA. She made history as the first female Managing Director of the agency.
Hadiza Bala Usman is publicly known as having the ears of President Buhari, little wonder that she got re-appointed as Managing Director of NPA, for another five years, even a clear six months ahead.
As expected, Hadiza’s alleged infractions are coming to the media space, and they are a legion. From alleged abuse of corporate ethics to alleged non-remittal of revenue, and contract splitting., she has been accused of several others.
In her first defence, which she sent to the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President and which also in public domain, Hadiza argued that, NPA, under her watch had remitted all that were due as Consolidated Federation Revenue, as stipulated in the fiscal responsibility Act of 2007.
In addition to these, she has also been subtly fighting back; falling back on her relationship with the media, to expose the underlying issues behind her ordeal.
The media now knows that, there is more to the allegations than meets the eye. The media now knows there may not have been any non-remittance, and that there are issues about contract and preferences about who should get what.
Embarrassingly, the documents that are flying around and about are those marked as ‘secret’; which means that they should not be in public domain. They are being circulated by those sympathetic to both parties.
Yes, a panel has been constituted to probe her. We can comfortably predict that she will be found guilty and she may not return to the NPA! We say this because there is no precedence of such. But, if found not guilty on the allegations of corruption and non-remittance into appropriate government account, Hadiza Bala-Usman should be returned to her duty post.
We can confirm that, the panel will go beyond the allegation of non-remittance into Federation Account. It will look into award of contracts. It will also look at the Accountant General Annual Audit Report for 2017, which was released in 2019 and which raised questions over N7.5 billion contracts that were allegedly not properly accounted for. Other issues would be unearthed against her. She will be drilled to helplessness!
The panel to try her is headed by the Director of Maritime Services (DMS) in the Federal Ministry of Transportation, with whom she has had issues.
So, what did Hadiza do wrong and whom did she offend for her to be sent packing from the sixth floor of the magnificent corporate head office of the NPA in Lagos? The simple truth is that she mismanaged relationship and deluded herself to be untouchable.
But, beyond the dirt being thrown at each other, we are more concerned about the effect of her sudden exit on the Nigerian maritime industry.
When the electronic call up was initiated, the entire maritime industry family hailed the innovation. Needless to say that, the e-call up is currently facing serious hiccups, it is still the best thing to have happened to Apapa traffic management since the trouble reared its head many years ago. The feat is credited to Hadiza Bala-Usman.
We were all eagerly awaiting the execution of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the NPA and NIMASA over the latter’s floating dock.
From what stakeholders have been told, the tripartite MOU between the NPA, NIMASA and a private firm is expected to culminate in the deployment and engagement of the abandoned floating dock.
The above two are the immediate assignments for which Hadiza’s suspension will greatly affect.
Asides them, there is the ongoing renovation of the NPA corporate building that was burnt in 2020 during the #EndSARS protest, which rocked Lagos and most parts of the country.
The NPA under Hadiza is currently handling the review of the Nigerian port concession agreement with the private terminal operators.
Perhaps, the most impactful projects that the suspended NPA MD was handling is the controversial face-off between the agency and INTELS, for which the courts had intervened. The other is the twin-headed face-off with BUA group. In the case of BUA, not only was its concession in Port Harcourt port cancelled, ships laden with sugar for BUA should not be allowed to berth.
By pointing out these ‘projects’ as those to be hugely affected by the imbroglio in the NPA and the suspension of its CEO, we are not in any way insinuating that anyone is indispensable, or that, without her, NPA would die. We are also not advocating that the ongoing probe should be aborted because Hadiza is very important to the mortality or the NPA!
All said, these ‘projects’ may have in a way contributed to Hadiza’s whirlwind suspension from the NPA.
Yes, governance is a continuum, but in this part of the world, once the head is removed, everything initiated by him or her is likely to be jettisoned. So the end may not have been heard about the issues mentioned above.