NPA: Hajia Bala- Usman Stirs Up A Hornets’ Nest

By Stephen Ubanna

 Barely two years after Hajia Hadiza Bala- Usman, a former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, was relieved of her appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari at the instance of Rotimi Amaechi, an immediate minister of Transportation and a former governor of Rivers state she has Authored a book, titled’’ Stepping On Toes: My Odyssey at NPA’’, which appears to have stirs up the hornets’ nest.

Prior to her removal from office in May, 2021, by the Katsina state born Nigerian President, the  former NPA Managing Director and CEO, was said to have carried out a hatchet  job for the  Buhari’s government  at the Federal Ocean Lighter Terminal, FLT, Onne, Rivers state.

Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN and minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, AGF,  was said to have conveyed  the government’s decision ‘’to terminate the Integrated Logistics Services, NINTELS, Nigeria Limited, boat Management contract’’   to Hajia Bala- Usman  in a letter  dated September 27, 2020, for her to  carry out the order.

Atiku: Part-Owner Of INTELS

  The minister may have alluded to the fact that the agreement, which had allowed INTELS, in which Atiku Abubakar, Adamawa state born politician and one of the founders of the Opposition, People’s Democratic, PDP, and Presidential Candidate of the party for the 2023, general election has vested interest was not good enough for the All Progressive Congress, APC, government.

 Going by the joint venture agreement between NPA and INTELS, the later was said to   have been receiving revenue on behalf of the Authority    over the last 17 years from the International Oil Companires, IOCs, and which the AGF, had said ‘’violates sections 80(1) and 162(1) and (10) of the Constitution of the 199 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’’.    

It was therefore not very surprising that she has no option but to terminate the boat pilotage contract with the Logistics Provider company in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre, Warri, Bonny, PortHarcourt and Calabar districts.

 Many believe that there is a political undertone to the termination of the INTELS, multi-million naira contract,but the NPA, immediate CEO, would want Nigerians to believe that there was no political colouration to the termination of the boat pilotage contract with INTELS.

 She had told those that cares to listen that the 10 year-old contract which the agency  had entered with the service provider  on August  8, 20220, to provide  boat monitoring  and supervision  services and collect revenue  on its behalf  at 72:28 percent sharing formula  has expired.

The question on the lips of most people was ‘’if the Boat pilotage contract won by INTELS had expired as alleged by Hajia Bala –Usman,  why was the  Nigerian President in a hurry to cancel  the contract  on January 2021, to forestall being given the job back by the  Authority now or in the future.

 Recall that in executing   the 10 year –old  contract, INTELS  said to have entered  into a loan agreement  to the tune of N428.4 billion or $1.4 billion  with a consortium of Nigerian banks  based on the understanding that the debt  would be  offset  from  monies realised  from the execution  of the contract.  

An insider informed The Value News that before the Logistics service provider entered into a joint venture agreement with NPA, the Authority was said to have only be realizing a little above $6 million per annum but the company moved up the revenue profile, to over $200 million per annum. This may not  have stopped stop Hajia Bala-Usman, from doing what she wants to do: terminal INTELS boat  management contract  many did not find funny.

A former General Manger, GM,  in NPA , whose name remained a closely guided secret  and who could not hide his feelings had said that Haji Bala- Usman, persistent flouting of the provisions  of contracts, particular, dredging, particular, caused financial blunders to the Authority, in  his over five years at the helm of  Affairs at the Authority.

The former NPA, GM, may have been forced to open up on the activites  Hajia Bala- Usman, in NPA, when she made reference in her book  why the INTELS contract was terminated, noting that it was done  ‘’to break the company’s monopoly in the nation’s oil and gas sector of the economy’’. He may have exposed Hajia Bala-Usman, when he revealed that on assumption of   office, he has targeted the service boat monitoring agency contract handled by INTELS for dismantling. 

A maritime analysts asserted that she may have developed hatred for the Gabriele Volpi an Italian, and Atiku owned company over an alleged failed unofficial meeting with the company along with a sitting governor from one of the north western states in London in 2018.

  Indeed, she may have had at the back of her mind to use the opportunity of the unofficial  meeting in the United Kingdom, UK, to discuss the issue of being given shares in the profit making business but was disappointed that it could not hold.

 A source, confirmed that Narsi El-Rufai, a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, during Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration and now governor of Kaduna state, andd who has the ears of the Nigerian President may have been the northern governor at the failed unofficial London meeting.  

INTELS Investment At FLT, Onne, Rivers State

 Note that the aggrieved retired NPA GM, had stated    that’’ no reasonable and experienced Administrator will see the multi-billion dollar investment of INTELS in FLT, Onne, and will try ‘’ to push them out’’.

 The PPA Act was said to have provided other alternative  procurement methods  to adopt in line  with ‘’accountability  and transparency’’, stressing  that from the unprofessional  decision,  the government ,  has lost  over  N36 billion  over the last three years  that could have been remitted  into the government coffers by INTELS, confirming  what  the former minister of Transportation had said of Non-remittance  of revenue by NPA, from the boat Management source .

The aggrieved former NPA, GM, who may have spilled the bean had said that the Authority is currently owing the sister company of INTELS over $770 million   as of 2020, when Hajia Bala- Usman terminated INTELS, boat pilotage contract.

He disclosed that she had split the service boat monitoring and Supervision contract into four pilotage contracts after terminating the INTELS’ job. She was said to have selected companies she has  a vested  interest, though lacking  in experience  and do not have the capacity to do the  jobs to be given the boat pilotage contract award.

The online Magazine learnt that the management of INTELS were said to have headed to the Court to force NPA, return the boat management contract to it to recoup outstanding indebtedness of the Authority to the sister company and the companies, which were said to have funded some of the agency projects.

An insider confirmed that INTELS has agreed to write off $100 million interest from NPA indebtedness to it, reduce its operating Commission from 28%to 18%, reduce cost of funds from 6.5% to three percent only to enter into a settlement and continuity with NPA on the boat management contract but Hajia Bala-Usman, who has the backing of the Presidency was said to have remained adamant insisting that the company must go for others to come in. She had her way.

Industry operators confirmed that she had advertised the contract for the agency’s boat management contract for bidding as required by Law. The outcome of the bidding was said to have resulted to companies which persons are related to her or that she have direct interest to be   shortlisted as preferred bidders.

Given an insider information, the retired NPA , GM, who has remained annonymous   had revealed that  Isasha Investments Ltd, owned by one  Isa Musa Abba Rimi, son to Abba Musa Rimi,  former Chairman of  African circle, the company currently engaged by the Authority  in its Waste Management contract,  and believed to be linked  to  the former NPA CEO, has direct  interest is one of the beneficiaries.

 Another beneficiaries of the boat management contract, according to the retired former NPA, GM, was Nexttee Oil and Gas Ltd, allegedly owned by a terminal operator in Warri, Delta state and a close associate of Attahiru, the former NPA’s managing Director’s brother.  Perhaps, one person who may have stood his ground for the recall of INTELS to continue their job at the FLT, Onne, was Amaechi, the former minister of Transportation but that was how far he could go.

Amaechi: Former Minister Of Transportation, Incurs Haijia Bala-Usman,Wrath For Master-minding Her Removal from Office As CEO, Of NPA

Asu Beks, Publisher of Shipping World,  who  was  said to have  frustrated Hajia  Bala –Usman, from be reappointed by the President  had said that she was booted out of office   over alleged  ‘’gross financial  impropriety  and insubordination’’ and has nothing to do with the minister.

  But Hajia Bala- Usman, would not agree with Beks.  She may have alluded to the fact that the former minister was responsible for her removal from office at the Launching of her much awaited   book tagged,  Stepping  On Toes: My Odyssey at the Nigerian Ports Authority.

She had accused the former Rivers state governor of ‘’demanding an extension of the contract of the companies   providing capital dredging services and boat pilotage monitoring and supervision, ‘’ without due process’’. She had said that the erstwhile minister of Transportation wanted her out of the agency    because ‘’two of the most important contracts in the Authority  were due for renewal’. They are the capital dredging project and the INTELS boat pilotage Management contracts.

She had said that despite her efforts, to force INTELS, to settle their indebtedness to the Nigerian government its remittances to the TSA, were infrequent as ‘’the company remained largely unaccountable’’. She may have shocked Nigerians with her revelation that   as of the time  she was suspended from office by the minister in May 2021,    INTELS, last remittance  into the TSA  Account was  $30,2333,769.85, made on January 2020, from revenue collected from the  IOCs,  between April 1, 2018 and July 31, 2018 She added that as of May 2021, the sum of $207,646,757.26 had  already been reconciled  as payment  for the period  between April 1, 2018 and September  30, 2019, and remained unremitted.

 She averred that  the total revenue  reconciled  by the joint Committee  for the  period  between  November 2017 and March 31, 2018 was 77,931,005.49  but only $22,270,774.32 was remitted  by the  service boats dedicated  to TSA, noting that the Company still  retained  the balance of $55,702,231.17.

She was said  to have  quoted a letter, dated March 1, 2019, where the Authority  had expressed  concern  over the company’s  failure  to pay  all the revenue  received  on behalf  of the agency from IOCs  into the TSA.  She had said that as at the time she left in May 2021, the Company was indebted to the government to the tune of $270 million.

 The former NPA  strong woman,  had  said  that Amaechi had ‘’got the Presidential approval  for the restoration  of  the expired  INTELS service boats pilotage contract ’’ despite  the company’s  initial deal  being terminated  for violation  of the government  Treasury Account ,TSA, policy.       

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