Nigerian Ports Authority:  Amaechi’s Panel Clears Bala Usman of Fraud

The former managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman has been cleared of allegations of failing to remit N165 billion operating surplus to the coffers of the federal government.

However, the 11-member committee set up by the ministry of transportation to investigate the alleged fraud shifted its focus to allegations of insubordination to Rotimi Amaechi, the minister.

She was accused of ignoring ministerial directives and communicating directly with President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigerian Ports Authority  Amaechi’s Panel Clears Bala Usman of Fraud (News Central TV)

Usman was originally suspended in May 2021 by the minister over an allegedly missing N165 billion but the committee did not find any evidence in its account reconciliation.

It was learnt that, when Amaechi presented the report to Buhari and asked for permission to remove Usman based on to “insubordination”, the president refused to give approval but instead directed the minister to issue a query to the former NPA Boss.

Reports say that Amaechi informed the presidency that Usman had already defended herself before the committee, but Buhari insisted that she be allowed to respond to the report before any further action is taken.

“A visibly disappointed Amaechi then directed Magdalene Ajani, the permanent secretary, to issue the query,” the source said, adding that Buhari refused to be presented with a “fait accompli”.

Clearly missing in the 10 items of query is the original reason for her suspension — the allegation that N165 billion was not remitted to the treasury single account (TSA) which made the headlines.

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QUERY AND RESPONSE

An official of the ministry of transportation said Usman responded to the query within one week as stipulated.

“She said that she did not have access to some important documents because she was on suspension but I would say she did justice to the query,” the official said.

Mohammed Bello-Koko, who acted as NPA MD during her suspension, was a bank’s accounts officer to the Rivers states government when Amaechi was Governor. Bello-Koko was on Tuesday officially appointed the MD.

In the query dated January 26, 2022, Ajani said the committee accused Usman of the following acts of insubordination.

  • Disregard for ministerial directive in respect of the Bonny/Port Harcourt and Lagos port channel management contract.
  • Unlawful procurement of the operation of truck transit park for port bound trucks (e-callup) with the non-payment into TSA.
  • Unilateral execution of a supplemental agreement in respect of the Lekki Deep Seaport concession project.
  • Breach of the channels of the communication in the public service.
  • Unilateral and improper use of the emergency procurement mode to procure vehicles.
  • Waiver, rebates and tariffs granted by NPA without requisite approval.
  • Disobedience of court order in respect of pilotage contract between NPA and Intels.
  • Disregard of court order in the matter between NPA and BUA ports and terminal limited in respect of the concession of Terminal B Rivers ports complex.
  • Breach of presidential/ministerial directive in the matter of the LADOL/Samsung dispute.
  • Lease of Koko Port to Messers Creek Shore Jetty and Terminal Ltd.
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In her response, she denied all the allegations.

On the renewal of the Bonny/Port Harcourt and Lagos port channel management contract for which she was said to have disregarded ministerial directive, she said she conveyed the directive to the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) which it clarified that it was an extension of an existing contract and such extensions do not require the attention of either the ministerial tenders board or the federal executive council.

Usman said, with regards to the operations of the e-callup system, that “it is practically impossible to have the e-Wallet account domiciled with the TSA as the amount standing to the credit of the transporters’ wallets still belong to the customers. In addition, the owners of the satellite parks and pre-gates used for gating trucks before their callup into the ports need to be paid weekly from the wallet account based on how many bookings were made for their parks”.

She denied unilaterally executing a supplemental agreement in respect of the Lekki Deep Seaport concession project, stating that it was operational in nature and does not alter any major aspect of the concession agreement “as it only rescheduled construction timeframe for a berth and allowed other players to partake in the development of dry bulk since the company was constrained to embark on the construction”.

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The former NPA MD said presidency communicated directly with her seeking information and clarifications on the activities of the authority and she responded and she was not at any informed that her responses should have gone through the ministry since presidency did not communicate with her through the ministry.

Usman denied “unilateral and improper use of the emergency procurement” to procure vehicles to replace the ones burnt by the End SARS rioters, quoting public procurement laws to back her decision and pointing out that NPA got a provisional “no objection” certificate for the purchases.

She insisted that she did not disobey court orders on Intels and BUA, and that no presidential or ministerial directive was breached in the LADOL/Samsung dispute.

On the lease of Koko Port to Messrs Creek Shore Jetty and Terminal Ltd, she said she acted the legal limits of NPA as provided by the enabling laws.


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