The immediate-past managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, has disclosed that the renewal of the capital dredging contract and the service boat management contract were responsible for her removal from office by a former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
LEADERSHIP reports that Bala-Usman was suspended from office in May 2021 following allegation of non-remittance of about N165bn operating surpluses into the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account of the federation by the NPA.
The suspension order approved by President Muhammadu Buhari followed a request for the probe of the accounts of the NPA made by the former Minister, Amaechi, when he was in office.
The minister subsequently set up an administrative panel of inquiry to investigate the affairs of the NPA, including awards of contracts from 2016 to May 2021.
But, Bala-Usman in her new book titled, “Stepping on Toes: My Odyssey at the Nigerian Ports Authority”, said she disagreed with the former Minister over the handling of some of the major operations at the agency.
According to the new book detailing events and controversies during her tenure as NPA MD, she said a stakeholder in the maritime sector had warned her that the minister would want her out of office when the two important contracts were due for renewal.
Bala-Usman said, “The first of this was the capital dredging contract and the second, the service boat management contract. While the minister demanded an extension of tenure of the companies providing capital dredging services without due process, he got approval for the restoration of an expired service boat contract. He got this even though the company was owing the federal government, had violated the Treasury Single Account policy, and above all longer had any contract with the NPA.”
Bala-Usman also claimed to have had a personal reconciliatory meeting with the Minister during which Amaechi accused her of writing directly to the President without recourse to him as supervising minister.
She said the former minister told her that he took the steps against her because he no longer wanted her in the office and asked that she resigned voluntarily or challenge her suspension in court.
“I told him I wasn’t going to do either especially now that the probe panel was in place.
“The public service does not in fact accept resignations from staff under probe. I was convinced that doing either would make me appear guilty. I told him that I would rather wait for the panel to complete its task and present their findings, as I was sure I had done nothing wrong,” she wrote in the memoir.
Upon rejecting Amaechi’s advice, Bala-Usman claimed that the former minister “then told me that he would ensure that the investigation went on until 2022 when political activities would have started, and the president would not remember that I was still on suspension. He said what mattered to him was that I was no longer the MD of the NPA.”
Bala-Usman further disclosed that despite the intervention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governors’ Forum, Amaechi insisted on removing her from office because according to him “she’s selfish”.
Her words, “Interest groups and leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) also tried to intervene. I know, for instance, that Governors elected on the platform of the APC, chaired by Governor Atiku Bagudu, deliberated on the issue of my suspension and constituted a committee to intervene.
“The Governors’ team met the Minister to discuss a resolution of the matter. He insisted that my management of the NPA had to be investigated because of the amount unremitted to the CFR (Consolidated Federation Revenue). He even tried to sway the governors’ resolve by suggesting to them that the budget of the NPA was bigger than most of their state budgets, so they shouldn’t bother about me.
“When the governors persisted, he told them that the matter was no longer within his purview and that they may need to approach the Head of Service of the Federation.
“He told another person who tried to intervene that I was so so selfish that I did nothing for him from the NPA, and never even gave him a birthday present,” Bala-Usman stated in the new book.