Fresh insight has emerged as to why former managing director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman, was suspended from her plum office.
Barely three months after renewing Hadiza Usman’s tenure, the president ordered her suspension, directing that she be thoroughly investigated.
A former director of finance in the agency, Muhammad Koko, has been asked to oversee the affairs of the agency in acting capacity pending the outcome of the investigation.
Usman’s abrupt suspension has continued to elicit reactions, with different conspiracy theories doing the rounds on why the president took the decision.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered reliably that unhealthy scheming and power play within the seat of power arising from muscle flexing between Hadiza and the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, were part of the reasons why the NPA boss was axed.
An impeccable presidency source confirmed to our correspondent that the embattled NPA boss was suspended following the questionable manner in which her tenure was extended.
It was gathered that Hadiza’s tenure was extended six months ahead of the expiration without the recommendation from the supervising minister, Amaechi, in direct contravention of the NPA Act.
The tenure extension, LEADERSHIP Weekend’s findings further revealed, was engineered by some power brokers in the presidential villa who allegedly approached the chief of staff and lobbied him to raise a memo to the president asking for her tenure to be extended.
“The NPA Act and, indeed, other extant rules provide that the renewal of her tenure can only be done on the recommendation of the minister. And so when the minister was sidelined, he felt slighted.
“Clearly, by not getting the minister’s recommendation, the purported tenure extension granted her was illegally done and, hence, is a breach of the NPA Act,” our source who did not want his name in print hinted.
It was learnt that Amaechi, obviously as a way of getting back at the minister, refused to forward some of the major contracts, which the Hadiza-led management of NPA had wanted to award, to the federal executive council (FEC) for approval.
The source told LEADERSHIP Weekend that Hadiza had outlined some major contracts that needed FEC’s approval for execution, but when memos for the contract were sent to the Ministry of Transportation, the minister did not table the same before the FEC for deliberations and approval.
Obviously enraged by the fact that her requests for contracts never went beyond the minister’s table, Hadiza reportedly approached the president directly to complain about Amaechi who she accused of sabotaging her efforts to implement the Buhari administration’s agenda at the ports.
Also confirming the development, another presidency source said the president directed her to make a formal complaint, which she did.
“Her memo, which was sent directly to the president, raised weighty allegations against the minister. Of course, the president directed the minister to respond,” the source told our correspondent.
In his response, Amaechi was said to have raised weighty allegations against Hadiza, backing them up with a series of petitions written against her by some stakeholders in the industry.
Our source said Amaechi, while responding to the allegations levelled against him, also drew the president’s attention to the fact that Hadiza’s purported tenure extension was illegal.
LEADERSHIP Weekend further gathered that after receiving Amaechi’s memo and seeing the enormity of the issues raised by the minister, he promptly ordered Hadiza’s suspension and a probe to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of all the allegations raised against her.
Among Hadiza’s many sins is the fact that she was also opposed to the bill to set up the National Transport Commission, because she was aware the commission would have been a super-quasi regulator.
The president had directed the attorney-general of the federation to work on the bill and resubmit it, but Usman was said to have approached the minister and discouraged the bill, a factor that also contributed to her ouster.
According to sources, Usman and Amaechi have been at loggerheads in the past few months over the procurement procedures for at least two multimillion-dollar contracts at the NPA.
The NPA had gone into different Joint Venture (JV) contracts with some of them expected to expire this year.
The source who craved anonymity informed LEADERSHIP Weekend that the minister had wanted contractors handling the Joint Venture retained but Usman insisted on a competitive tendering process in line with the Public Procurement Act 2004.
Aside contracts, the minister also accused the NPA management of low revenue remittances to the country’s Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) and demanded an audit but Usman denied the allegation, saying the agency had remitted funds to the government in line with its budget and as detailed in its audited financial statement.
In a document made available to LEADERSHIP Weekend and dated March 4, 2021, with file number FMT/ Ref/No:A/OMP/1/01, entitled ‘Remittance of Operating Surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account (CRF) by the NPA from 2016-date’, the minister alleged that the ports’ remittances from 2016 to 2020 were in deficit to the tune of N165, 320, 962,697.
The minister, in the letter personally signed by him and addressed to President Buhari, called for an audit of the NPA account for the period stated above to ascertain the true financial position of port revenue and the outstanding unremitted balance.
The letter reads, “It has been observed from the records submitted by the Budget Office of the Federation that the yearly remittance of operating surpluses by the NPA from year 2016 to 2020 have been far short of the amount due for actual remittance. I wish to suggest that the financial account of the activities of the NPA be investigated from the period of 2016-2020.”
The minister, however, urged the president to allow for an audit of the account and remittances of the authority to ascertain the level of shortfall.
“Approve that the account and remittances of NPA in the period of 2016-2020 be audited to account for the gross shortfall of remitted public funds,” he wrote.
However, in her response to the chief of staff to the president, Ibrahim Gambari, dated 5th May, 2021, a copy of which was made available to LEADERSHIP Weekend, the suspended managing director, in the letter with reference number MD/17/MF/Vol/XX/541, said the figures so provided by the Budget Office of the Federation as the operating surplus for the respective years on which basis they arrived at the shortfall were derived from submission of budgetary provision, and not the actual amounts derived following the statutory audit of the authority’s financial statements.
According to her, NPA’s audited financial statements for the period 2017 and 2018 provide operating surpluses of N76.782 billion and N71.480 billion for 2017 and 2018 respectively, contrary to the sums of N133.084 billion and N88.79 billion arrived at from the budgetary submission.
Usman’s response reads, “The attention of the Authority has been drawn to a letter conveying Mr. President’s approval for the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMoT) to conduct an audit of the accounts of the Authority and its remittances to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CFR). This arose from a correspondence between the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF) and the Federal Ministry of Transportation where the Budget Office of the Federation conveyed to the FMoT an observed shortfall of the Authority’s remittances to the CFR.
“We wish to state that the Authority’s basis for arriving at the Operating Surplus on which basis the amount due for remittance to the CFR is guided by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, as amended, and further based on the statutory mandate Part 1, S.3(1) (b) &(d) whereby the Fiscal Responsibility Commission issued a template for the computation of Operating Surplus for the purpose of calculating amount due for remittance to the CRF.”
The NPA MD further stated in the letter to the president’s chief of staff that the Fiscal Responsibility Commission that accessible operating surplus of the Authority stands at N51.09 billion and N42.51 billion for 2017 and 2018 respectively and not N133.084 billion and N88.79 billion in the years under review.
“Accordingly, the figures so provided by the Budget Office of the Federation as the operating surplus for the respective years on which basis they arrived at the shortfall are derived from the submission of budgetary provision, not the actual amounts derived following the statutory audit of the Authority’s financial statements.
“Audited Financial Statements of the Authority for the period 2017 and 2018 provide operating surpluses of N76.782 billion and N71.480 billion for 2017 and 2018 respectively, contrary to the sums of N133.084 billion and N88.79 billion arrived at by your office from the budgetary submission.
“In line with the template issued by the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, the accessible Operating Surplus of the Authority stands at N51.09 billion and N42.51 billion for 2017 and 2018 respectively. This amounts will give rise to a remittance due to the CFR in the sum of N40.873biIIion and N34.065 billion, representing 80% of the surpluses for the year 2017 and 2018 respectively. Accordingly, the Authority consequently made a remittance of N42.415 billion and N33.969 billion for the years 2017 and 2018 respectively for the full amount required as remittance for the period.”
The NPA chief executive, who stated that even though the audit of the 2019 financial statement had not been approved by the authority’s board, the Authority has made a remittance of N31.683 billion for the 2019 while the sum of N51.049 billion has also thus far been remitted for 2020.
“The audit of the 2019 Financial Statement has been completed and awaiting consideration of the Authority’s Board at which point the final figures for the 2019 operating surplus will be determined for consequent computation of the amount due for remittance to the CFR. But thus far, the Authority has made a remittance of N31.683 billion for the 2019 remittance while the sum of N51.049 billion has also thus far been remitted for 2020, while awaiting the audit report of the financial statement to determine the final amount required for both 2019 and 2020, at which point the Authority will make the payment of the balance as required.
“Based on the above, we wish to clarify that the Authority’s computation of its remittances to the CFR is concluded arising from numbers from audited financial statements using the template forwarded to the Authority from the Fiscal Responsibility Commission are herewith attached and not budgetary provision.
“That the Authority has remitted the full amount due it to CFR for the periods 2017 and 2018 arising from the operating surplus derived from the audited financial statement for the period totaling N 76.384 billion. That the Authority has remitted a total of N 82.687 billion for the period 2019 and 2020, pending the audit of the financial statement at which point the amount so computed arising from the value of the Operating Surplus in the audited financial statement will be remitted to the CFR.
“We wish to request that the chief of staff requests the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation who are the statutorily custodian of status of payment to the CRF to provide clarification on the above so as to establish the true position of the Authorities remittances to the CFR,” Usman said in a letter to the chief of staff to the president.
The suspension of the NPA managing director of may not be unconnected to the unremitted operating surplus of N165,320,962,697.
The minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, in letter dated on March 4, 2021 and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, had requested for approval to audit the NPA account from 2016 to date.
Part of the letter entitled “Remittance of operating surplus to the consolidated revenue fund account (CRF) by the Nigerian Ports Authority from 2016 – date” and sighted by LEADERSHIP, stated that “it has been observed from the records submitted by the Budget Office of the Federation that the yearly remittance of operating surpluses by the Nigerian Ports Authority from year 2016 to 2020 has been far short of the amount due for actual remittance
“In view of the above, I wish to suggest that the financial account of the activities of Nigerian Ports Authority be investigated for the period 2016 to 2020 to ascertain the true financial position and the outstanding unremitted balance of N165,320,962,697.”
The minister prayed the president to approve that the account and remittance of NPA in the period of 2016 to 2020 be audited to account for the gross shortfall of remitted public funds, which was approved by the president on March 17, 2021 and communicated to the Ministry of Transportation in another letter dated March 30, 2021 by the chief of staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari.
I was not queried – Usman
LEADERSHIP Weekend however gathered that Ms Usman may have been suspended from office in breach of due process.
When contacted on the matter concerning her boss yesterday, one of Usman’s aide said she was neither queried nor given a suspension letter that would spell out her offences, against federal government’s rules for disciplining heads of government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).