Why Buhari Reappointed Haijia Usman As Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority

By Stephen Ubanna

Not may people were surprised that President Muhammadu Buhari, reappointed Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, an indigene of Katsina state as the Nigerian Ports Authority Managing Director, after completing her first term of four years in office, described in maritime circles, as very eventful. This is because  she had succeeded in putting the Nigeria on  the global map as a maritime nation  that major International shipping Companies  struggle to bring their big-size  Container vessels to Nigerian ports.  Maerskline  Stardhorn, one of Maerskline  biggest Container vessels that landed at Port Harcort  port, I, Onne, Rivers sta, speaks volume.  The Maerskline vessel could not have successfully sailed to the port from the Bonny if the Hajia Usman led NPA,  Management had not been consistment in maintaining the port channels from Lagos, Bonne,  Delta  to Calabar, showing judicious use of its available resources.

Until her appointment as the Managing Director of NPA, IN 2018, may international Shipping Companies had  feared  bring their Container vessels to Nigeria, for fear of Pirates attack in the country waters and the Gulf of Guinea. The NPA boss who  was said to have reached a working arrangement  with past and present Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA,   Bashir Jamoh,  with the backing of the Ibok-Ete  Ekwe Ibas, a Vice Admiral led Nigerian Navy, were said to have put the pirates and other Criminals operating in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea on the check. This may have informed why more Container vessels  have been calling at Nigerian ports  instead of taking transferred vessels from the  high sea to the country or the vessels discharging in Benin Republic ports  and the cargoes subsequently smuggled into the country  through unapproved routes.

 The 10.month Closure of the Border with the neighouring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the CentralAfrican country of Cameroon to forestall smuggling of Foreign rice , small and light arms into the country may have brought the best on Hajia Usman on port Management. She was able to bring back the Nigerian shippers, who had relocated to Benin ports and other ports in the West African Sub-region  with the support of Hassan Bello, a Lawyer and Executive Secretary,  Nigerian shippers Council, NSC,  to Nigerian ports to do their transactions.

The fallout was that  for much of last year the Nigerian ports were running out of space due to increasing overtime cargoes in the various port terminals. This may have informed  why she has thrown her weight behind the establishment of deep seaports  to reduce  the high  cost of tariff  and policies of government on some banned  products which had remained  the major reason for cargo diversion   in Nigerian ports.. ‘’We currently  have huge volumes  of overtime cargoes  in Lagos port terminals awaiting to be auctioned’’, she had said.

She had told Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor o Rivers state and minister of Transportation, but who sees himself as minister of Railway,  that here is need to  facilitate  and conclude the ongoing deep seaport projects being proposed in the country within a time manner. She believes that the Completion of the Lekki deep sea port project this year and the take off the Badagry project , and which must also be completed on schedule  will bring the Nigerian ports  into a Competitive state within the  Sub-region.

The NPA boss may have realised that  the Lagos ports of Apapa , Tin can Island and Port multi-services Termnal limited, PTML, and other ports in the south eat  are currently not Competitive  because the trend the world over now  is to bring  in very large vessels  in view of economy of scale.

The recognition of the good works of the NPA , Managing  Director may have been acknowledged in international maritime circles that she was  elected for the second time  as the Vice –Chairman of the International Maritme Organisation , IMO, Facilitation, FAL, Committee in October 2020.

  Going by its mandate, the Committee,  addresses  the efficiency to shipping  by dealing  with matters  related to enabling international  traffic, including arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargoes from ports. The Committee also ensures that the right balanceis sruck  between maritime security  and the facilitation of international trade.

This may have informed  why she was able to engage the support of Amechi,   to plot for the Cancellation of  Secure Anchorage Area, SAA,  contract , won by the Ocean  Marine Solutions Limited, OMSL,  from the Nigerian Navy. The NPA, Managing Director,  had described the contract as  scandalous  and against the ease of doing business policy  at the ports of the Buhari Administration. She had explained  that with a charge of $2,000 for the first day and $1,500 for the subsequent days paid by every ship calling  in the nation’s waters to use the SAA, which made cost of shipping  in the country to escalate , forcing many shipping Companies to avoid Nigeria.

She had said that the $70million  which  was realised by the Company  in the last 18 months for carrying out the operation in Nigerian waters was nether remitted  into the Federation account or accounted by OMLS. Given her determination to cancel the illegal SAA deal, she was said to  taken the case to the Ahmad Lawan led Senate urging the  members to defend the decision to scrap the SAA. She may have won the heart of Buhari to cancel the SAA.   

Hajia Hadiza Usman: Reappointed MD, NPA By Buhari

The Katsina state born Nigerian President  may have come to the conclusion that Hajia Usman is very ‘’hardworking and a goal getter’’’. More so, he believes that  it is not the issue of pumping  more money for the dredging of  the port channels  that would make Nigerian ports Competitive, with other ports in the West African sub-region or invest on the deep seaports but someone who understands why the projects are being executed to pilot the Affairs of NPA.

The Nigerian President have  no option but to give  Hajia Usman, another four years  to run the  Affairs of NPA. He may have  also been encouraged also to renew her appointment as the NPA, Chief Executive officer, CEO, because of her international records which is yet  to be equaled by an former Managing Director of the agency dead or alive.  

Many believe that even if Amaechi, the minister of Transportation may  not have  wanted her appointment  to be renewed for another four four-year tenure,  it could not have made any impact. This is because the Nigerian President had already made up his mind to reappoint  her to her  position as the NPA Managing  Director because of her  excellent performance in turning the fortune of the  nation’s ports around in the last four years and the development of the  deep seaport to remove the pressure from the regular ports.

Hajia Usman,  may not  have been the only person that survived in the 2015, inaugurated Board of NPA.  The newly  reconstituted Board of NPA, as announced by  Sabiu Zakari, the   Permanent Secretary, ministry  of Transportation shows that Akin Rikkets was returned as the Chairman of the Board. Others appointed to the Board, included   Mohammed Bello Koko, Executive Director, Finance  and Administration,  Idris Abubakar, Executive Director, Engineering and Technical Services,  and Onari Brown,   Executive Director, Marine and Operations.

The Nigerian President was said to have also appointed  Ghazali Mohammed,  John Akpan  Udoedehe, Binta Masi Garba, Mustapha Dutse, and Abdulwahab  Adesina ans Non-Executive  members of the NPA, Board based on political patronage.  The minister of Transportation is expected to inaugurate the new NPA Board, soon.Hajia Usman, may have seen reappoint as the Managing Director of NPA, as a ‘’call for service to complete her unfinished works’’.

A close observation of the ministry of Transportation  agencies  former Chief Executives who were appointed by the Nigerian President  in 2015, shows that only Dakuku Peterside, a close political ally of Amaechi, who was instrumental to his appointment as the Director General  of NIMASA, that was not retained for a second term.

  He was replaced by Jamoh, the Kaduna state  Executive  Director, Finance and Admin. Of the Agency on March 10, 2020. But Bello, NSC and  George Moghalu, Managing Director , Nigerian Inland Water Ways , NIWA, were retained on their expiration of their term in office.  The latest to be appointed was Hajia Usman, the Managing Director NPA.

The refusal of the Nigerian President to reappoint Dakuku, described in maritime circles as a fast learning Maritime  Chief Executives may have forced into political Oblivion  enjoying the wealth which he had accumulated over the years a member of the House of Representatives and a former  Director General of NIMASA.

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