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NPA: Hajia Usman Forced To Step Aside By Buhari Over Undisclosed Reasons

By Stephen Ubanna

 Barely three months after the reappointment Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, by President Muhammadu Buhari, ppular, PMB, a retired Army General, on the recommendation of Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state, and now minister of Transport,  appears to have fallen out of favour with the NPA Managing Director  over an undisclosed reason.

Signs that the NPA boss may have played into the hands of the minister emerged when he visited the premier port, Apapa, Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre last February. The widening gulf between the minister and he NPA Managing Director may have been made worse  by the April15, 2021, protest  by members  of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, over alleged anti-Labour malpractices at the port. The protesters were said to have blocked  the exit of   freight  from the port.

There was further disruptions  of services at the port, an insider said, which the minister did not find funny. The minister was said to have engaged some people  who gave him updates and  confirm  all Maritime shipments if the  disruption persists . They may have given the former Rivers state governor their reports which was said to be very indicting.  

More so, there  have been a controversy  over  the Electronic  Truck Eto, Call-up system designed  for the movement  and access from the Lagos ports of Apapa and Tin can Island.  The policy had required that all trucks doing business at the port will park at the approved Truck park until they are called up into the port through the Eto application had remain a source of controversy. The policy  which is responsible  for the scheduling , entry  and exit  of all trucks into the port the ports had kick-started on February 27, 2021. The Association of  Maritime Truck Owners , MMARTO, opposed to the Eto,  had protested   against the irregularities associated with the policy and had threatened to withdraw their services at the ports which could have caused more obstructions in port activities had protested by putting green leaves on their trucks.

The Senate Accounts Committee may have given the minister ammunition to probe the Hajia Usman led NPA Management,  when it called on the office of the Auditor General of the Federation to  beam its searchlight  on the happenings  of the big revenue revenue generating agencies including NPA and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.  The Lawmakers had accused Adolphus Aghughu, the Auditor General of the Federation and his staff of putting the smaller agencies on their watch list  excluding agencies such as NPA AND NIMASA, which are heavy spenders in the award of contracts.

Amechi: Recommended Hajia Usman, MD, NPA, Suspension To President Buhari

The Lawmakers had said that  the refusal of the  Auditor General to look into the activities of NPA and other big agencies  has led to the  institution  of Corruption. The aggrieved Senator may have challenged Aghughu, the Auditor General of the Federation,and his staff   to undertake a performance Audit  at every stage  of every  project  instead of waiting  for it’’ to be Completed  before  raising the alarm  and allow the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to step in  and collect huge sums of money  to fight Corruption’’.

  Recall that when the going was good between Amaechi ad the NPA,  boss,  he had Commissioned  two boats : MT Musawa and MT Ikor-Ekiti, procured by the Authority to facilitate the ease of doing business at the Nigerian ports. It could not be ascertained the cost of the contract of supplying the two tug boats to the Authority and  several other juicy contracts awarded under  Hajia Usman, the former Managing Director of NPA.

 The minister of Transport who may be getting worried over what is happening at the Lagos ports and the gridlocks may have seen that something is wrong that needed to be corrected and further Compound the Apapa gridlock.  Indeed, this is what Amaechi, the minister of Transportation had been avoiding  to avoid throwing the port into crisis.

Hajia Usman may have gladdened the heart of  NPA Customers,  importers, exporters and other agencies working at  the port environment in July 2016, of going to improve on the Authority service delivery to the nation,, stressing that she will do everything within  her capacity  to turn the Nigeria into world –class in the delivery of services  but that was how far she could go.  

Convinced that  Hajia Usman, the NPA , boss, has a case to answer in the  Authority in the running of the affairs of Apapa, over the years particular, recent happenings in the Authority, Amaechi, the minister of Transportation,  was forced to set up an Administrative  Panel of Inquiry to investigate the Hajia Usman led NPA Management  which was said to have been approved by  President Muhammadu Buhari, popular, PMB, a retired Army General.

 He may have had at the back of his mind that if the NPA, Managing  Director is allowed to remain  in office while the investigation is ongoing,  she might interfere with the  process and the report  will not  enjoy  wide acceptance. This may have informed  why he had recommended to the Katsina state born Nigerian President for her immediate suspension from office which was said to have been approved by the Nigerian President.

Hajia Usman could  not believe that her political mentor, retired General Buhari,  who had brought her into limelight to Head, NPA,  could still  be the one  that would give approval for her to step aside  as the Managing Director of NPA, pending the outcome of the Investigation of the Authority.

 A Statement by Garba Shehu a senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, had  said that  the retired army General has approved  the appointment of  Mohammed Bello –Koko, Executive Director , Finance and Administration, as the acting Managing of the Maritime agency and will  perform her duties’’ while the Investigation on the  NPA Management is carried out’’.

Hajia Usman And President Buhari: When The Going Was Good

There was palpable calm at the Authority Marina office and the ports,  late Afternoon on Thursday , May 6, 2021,  as  information filtered out that  Hajia Usman, described as the Iron Lady inmaritime circles had been forced to step aside by the Nigerian President.

 Her suspension from office had dominated the discussions of the staff from Lagos, Warri, Delta ports to Calabar ports, in Cross river state.  They could not fathom what might have prompted the minister , who had a good working relationship with the former NPA Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of NPA,  to set up an Administrative panel of Inquiry to probe her Management which was approved by the retired army General without a second thought, an indication that something may have gone wrong. The Administrative , according to Shehu, the Media Aide to Buhari is Headed  Auwalu Suleiman, the ministry of Transport , Director of Maritime Services Director,  while the Deputy Director Legal services would serve as the Secretary of the Pane. It was not clear when the Pane will submit tits report to the minister for consideration as Shehu, the MMedia Aide to the President did not capture it in the Statement issued announcing the suspension of the NPA, Managing Director from office..  

Stephen Ubanna

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