The former Managing Director, Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, has said that contrary to accusations by the former Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, no money was missing from the NPA during her tenure.
In her newly released memoir entitled Stepping on Toes: My Odyssey at the Nigerian Ports Authority, Bala Usman revealed that at the end of the eight-month investigation by the panel set up to investigate her management by the minister, the agency was found to have remitted more than the alleged non-remittance.
Bala Usman was suspended from office in May 2021 upon allegation that the agency failed to remit about N165 billion in operating surpluses into the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account of the federation. President Muhammadu Buhari approved Amaechi’s request for the probe of the former MD’s management of NPA’s accounts. He thereafter set up an administrative panel of inquiry to investigate the affairs of the NPA, including awards of contracts from 2016 to May 2021. He also asked the panel to “examine and investigate compliance with communication channels as obtained in the public service.” `The investigation, which lasted for about nine months, returned without proof of non-remittance, although Bala Usman was nevertheless relieved of her position and replaced with Mohammed Bello-Koko, who served as her Executive Director, Finance and Administration. This was after the conclusion of the administrative panel’s duties in February 2022.
But in her memoir released on Tuesday, Bala Usman writes that: “Then, about the middle of January, I learned that the panel had concluded its report and presented the same to the Minister. While I didn’t get the full details of the report, I learned that the panel could not establish any non-remittance, as had been claimed and sold to the President and Nigerians by the Minister.
“I understood that it was discovered that we had in fact remitted over N182 billion into the Consolidated Revenue Fund within the period. This was said to have made the Minister angry, but there was nothing he could do about it.”
Even then, the former NPA boss said Amaechi requested her dismissal from office from the president.
She writes: “… the President reportedly told him to send me a copy of the report and request my defence in writing. I learned that the Minister said there was no need for that since I was given the opportunity to defend myself before the panel. The President, however, insisted that since I hadn’t seen the report, I must be given the opportunity to defend myself in writing on the allegations reached by the panel. The Minister then reportedly left the villa, angry at the President’s directive. I waited for the report, but it never came. In its place, a query was delivered to me at home at about noon on Friday, January 28, 2022.”
Even this query raised no questions about the alleged non-remittance, which has been sold to the public as the main reason for her suspension, she further alleged.
Bala Usman, however, hinted at operational disagreements that may have pitted her against the minister. She wrote that an industry stakeholder had warned her that the minister would want her out of office when two important contracts were due for renewal.
According to the book, “The first of these was the capital dredging contract, and the second, the service boat management contract. While the minister demanded an extension of the 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 no longer had any contract with the NPA.”
At the end of it all, however, Bala Usman said she was grateful that the panel did not find anything incriminating against her.
She writes: “I thank God that the stories reporting the findings of the panel that there were no unremitted funds came out before the announcement of the appointment of the new Managing Director.
“Items four and five of the terms of reference of the administrative panel of inquiry mandated it to examine and investigate ‘the procurement of contracts’ from 2016 until May 2021, as well as ‘determine the revenue and expenditure profile’ of the NPA within the same period.
“I supervised the full implementation of the 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 budgets of the Authority. This amounted to N968,095,758,859.00 (Nine hundred billion, ninety-five million, seven hundred and fifty-eight thousand, eight hundred and fifty-nine Naira), which is about $3,039,352,450.80 (Three billion, thirty-nine million, three hundred and fifty-two thousand, four hundred and fifty thousand US dollars, eight cents).”