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Powerful forces behind my sack as NPA MD—-Hadiza Bala-Usman

The Eyewitness reporter

Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman, the immediate past Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has broken her silence for the first time since May 2021 when she was suspended from office as the Managing Director of the agency, a position she never returned to as she was eventually replaced by Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko who was then the Executive Director, Finance and Administration.

Hadiza, who was a member of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organisation, chose to disclose the details that led to her unceremonial removal through her book titled: “Stepping On Toes: My Odyssey At The Nigerian Ports Authority” which was launched Tuesday.

She explained that her battle to restore sanity, and due process in the nation’s port system led to her removal from office.

Hadiza further disclosed that expired contracts, breaking Intel’s oil and gas monopoly, violation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy by Intels, LADOL vs Samsung issues and the tango with BUA are part of the issues that led to her exit.

According to her, the refusal of the authority under her watch to pay $22 million for the dredging of the Calabar channel and the renewal of the INTELS Boat Service contracts also caused her to lose her job as the MD of NPA.

In the book, the former NPA boss, who revealed issues behind the dredging of the Calabar Channel, said by the end of her first six months as Managing Director/CEO of the NPA, it was obvious to her that she was going to be swimming with sharks.

She said, although she had some inkling of irregularities, there was no way of knowing the pervasiveness until one got into the system.

Usman said dredging of the four ports would throw up additional risks with an attendant increase in insurance premiums due to insecurity issues and inadequate road infrastructure.
“In addition, decisions as to the destination of cargoes are at the discretion of the consignee. To that effect, consideration for the cost of transportation of cargo to the ultimate destination is a major factor in reaching a decision.

”Lagos remains the commercial capital of the country and most consignees prefer to ship their goods through the Lagos ports where there are ready consumers. Goods designated for other parts of the country are then transported by road by middlemen or directly to consumers.
“Consumers may also receive the goods in Lagos and make their own arrangements for transportation.”
She further explained in chapter seven of her book that, there is the vexed issue of the shallow draughts of the ports outside Lagos, except for the Onne Ports, which she said has an average depth of 12 metres.

She said none of the Eastern ports has a draught deeper than 8 metres, and that even the 8 metres were achieved at the Warri Port with the Escravos Channel in 2019.

Usman said the answer to the question of why NPA hasn’t dredged the Warri, Onne, Port Harcourt and Calabar Ports, is that the ports are currently river-based ports with limitations of depth because of the design depth of the quay structure.

She said her problems started in 2017 when her office received a letter from the Ministry of Transportation, entitled: ‘Joint Venture Partnership between the Nigerian Ports Authority and Messrs. Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company Ltd on the Management of the Calabar Channel,’ with a petition attached by the Minister from the law firm of Martin Aguda & Co.
“The law firms were solicitors to Messrs. Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company Ltd and requested the minister’s intervention in their client’s claim for the sum of $22m purportedly owed to their client by the NPA.”

She explained that upon investigation as directed by the Minister of Transportation then, Rotimi Amaechi, the authority found no proof of the work that the company claimed to have executed, even though they had already received the sum of $12.5m.

She said NPA set up a committee, which discovered several irregularities surrounding the work and that the NPA was therefore constrained to decline the request for payment and instead, demand a refund of the sum previously paid.

In chapter 8 of the book, Usman spoke about the Integrated Logistics (INTELS) boat service contract. She said, “The Nigerian government adopted the landlord ports model, which allows for separate roles and tasks between public and private sectors.

According to her,25 private terminal operators out of about one hundred bids received for the three major categories of cargo that were established in accordance with global best practices emerged from this exercise. INTELS was one of these 25 terminal operators.

She said the company is better known for the service boat operations management, which was a constant source of altercations between NPA and INTELS from 2017 until the end of her tenure.

On how she got the appointment as NPA MD, Bala Usan said that Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the then Minister of Transportation, nominated her for the position.

It was speculated on the assumption of office that the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, whom she was serving as Chief of Staff, influenced the plum job for her, a position that has never been occupied by a woman in the annals of NPA.

“I was surprised. It was the last thing I expected at this time, just as I was settling into my role as the Chief of Staff” she revealed in her book ‘Stepping on Toes, my odyssey at the NPA.
“As Chief of Staff to the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the workload was enormous. I usually did not take most calls until I accomplished my daily deliverables. But this was no random call.

“It was Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, who until a couple of months back, was the man I worked for in the Campaign Directorate for the Muhammadu Buhari 2015 Presidential campaign.

“Good morning, sir, “ I said as I picked up the phone with a smile.

“How are you, Hadiza?” He responded.

“I am fine, thank you, sir. How are you too?”

“The President has approved your appointment as Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority; you have to start work immediately!
“Before he hung up, I asked if he had told my boss, Governor el-Rufai about the appointment and he replied in the negative.
He reiterated the need for me to come over to the ministry and see the permanent secretary, whose duty it was to facilitate my resumption at the NPA.

Bala Usman, said internal reforms, expired contracts, breaking Intels oil and gas monopoly, violation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy by Intels, LADOL vs Samsung issues and the tango with BUA are part of the issues that made his relationship with Amaechi went sour.
“I found it incomprehensible that a Minister could ask that we stop a public tender process and instead re-appoint a company whose contract had also expired without a tender process.
“Without raising any queries about the matter with the NPA, Amaechi wrote to the President informing him of shortfalls in yearly remittance of operating surplus by the NPA between 2016 and 2020,’’
She said the former Minister of Transportation went further to seek Presidential approval that “I step aside”.

“As the days went on, many people encouraged me to meet with him to find out why things had degenerated to that extent, and apologize if need be. So, on 20 May 2021, I went to see him in Abuja. At the meeting, he accused me of writing directly to the President without recourse to the ministry.
“He said he made the move because he wanted me to resign as he didn’t want me in the office anymore. He concluded by saying that I should resign or go to court.

“I told him I wasn’t going to do either, especially now that a probe panel was in place. The Public Service does not in fact accept resignations from staff under probe.
“I told him that I would rather wait for the panel to complete its task and present their findings as I was sure that I had done nothing wrong,’’ writes Bala Usman.
She also said Amaechi told her that he would ensure that the investigation went on until 2022 when political activities would have started, and the President would not remember that she was still on suspension.
“He also said that what mattered to him was that I was no longer MD of the NPA.’’ Hadiza explained in her book.

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IMO tasks Mobereola to sustain NIMASA’s leadership role in regional maritime industry

—– hails his appointment as DG
The Eyewitness Reporter
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has lauded the leadership role of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in the maritime industry within the West African sub-region which it said has stabilized maritime administration in the region.
In his congratulatory letter to Dr. Dayo Mobereola, the new NIMASA DG, the Secretary General of IMO Arsenio Dominguez, observed with satisfaction the collaborative efforts of NIMASA that have brought relative peace to the troubled Gulf of Guinea (GoG).
He therefore charged Mobereola to sustain the tempo of activities that will keep the momentum going in the areas of safety, security and building of strong maritime institutions.
In a conveyance letter personally signed by him, the IMO Secretary-General recognized the strides of the Agency in building a robust maritime sector in Nigeria, adding that the IMO commends the significant effort, initiatives, and investment that Nigeria has made in strengthening its maritime institutions.

In the words of Dominguez, “The focus on strengthening maritime law enforcement and security architecture has been welcomed by seafarers and flag States.

“The Deep Blue project and the C4i Centre as well as maritime piracy laws under the SPOMO Act are just some of the many investments that have set a new gold standard in the region in maritime security capacity building”.

“IMO has long supported the regional role of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and its Member States in strengthening maritime security and law enforcement.

” In this respect, we have been greatly encouraged with the continuation of this regional ownership with the formation and work of the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum and Shared Awareness and De-confliction (GoG-MCF/SHADE) in 2021”.

He commended the Agency’s partnership with the various regional bodies and expressed the readiness of the IMO to work with Nigeria and other member states on many maritime issues with the aim of jointly tackling these issues.

“NIMASA’s partnership with the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC) and the collaboration with the shipping industry, navies and the Yaoundé architecture has been instrumental in suppressing the threat of piracy to merchant vessels and seafarers in line with UN Security Council resolution 2634 (2022) on piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea and IMO Assembly resolution A.1159 (32)”.

” I look forward to working with you and your colleagues on many of the maritime issues that we are jointly tackling and hope to welcome you in person at the IMO, he said.

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Eastern shippers, freight forwarders on collision course with Shippers’ Council over increase in haulage rate

Akutah Pius Ukeyima, ES, NSC
The Eyewitness Reporter
Importers, Exporters and freight forwarders playing their trade in the South East region of the country have rejected the recent 200 percent hike in haulage rate by the Nigerian Shippers’Council.
They described the increase as “outrageous, arbitrary, and unacceptable.”
In a press conference called by the aggrieved shippers in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, they claimed that if the hike was not reversed, it would bring them on a collision course with the Shippers’ Council.
Addressing journalists on behalf of the aggrieved group, Joshua Ahuama, Zonal Coordinator of the Association of Nigerian Customs Licenced Agents (ANLCA), claimed that the rate will not only lead to spiral inflation but also in contravention of the provisions of the NSC Act.
He disclosed that the group shall give the Shippers’Council a seven-day ultimatum to reverse to status quo or face withdrawal of their services at the Eastern ports.
He accused the council of not consulting concerned stakeholders before arriving at the decision, saying consultations are an integral part of the NSC Act.
 “Recently, the NSC approved a 200 percent increment in haulage rate for transport owners and drivers operating under the Maritime Union of Nigeria.
“To this end, importers and freight forwarders associations in the eastern zone have unanimously disputed the new rate because it is outrageous, arbitrary, and unacceptable to all stakeholders in the zone.
“We have, however, resolved to adopt all peaceful efforts. We started this move on March 14 by calling on the NSC to ensure proper stakeholder engagement and renegotiation.

” These measures are also expected to help all parties to reach a benchmark that would be in the interest of all stakeholders in the maritime value chain,” Ahuama noted.

 “We also urge the NSC to return to the status quo by suspending the implementation of the disputed rate, pending proper renegotiation covering the interest of all stakeholders.

“We are not on a selfish course. Our demands are in the interest of Nigerians because any slight increase in the haulage rate will reflect on the prices of goods in the open market.

“A businessman incorporates total logistic costs into the prices of goods.”

However, the group said they might be constrained to take drastic measures, including suspending all declarations of goods and payments of customs duties, which could negatively affect national revenue and economic output.

Some members of the import and export associations present at the meeting included the Nigeria Shippers Association, the Aba International Traders Association, the Ultimate Importers Association, the POP Importers Association, the Nnewi Importers Association, and the Onitsha Importers Association.

However, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has said that the new approved rate took into consideration the cost, moderation and other cargo transport issues.
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Performance of Apapa Customs scanning officers excites Comptroller Jaiyeoba

The Eyewitness Reporter
The Area Controller of Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Babajide Jaiyeoba has lauded the uncompromising attitude of the officers of the Non-Intrusive Inspection Technology Unit (NIITU) which he said has been invaluable to the overall success of the command.
Comptroller Jaiyeoba, who was on an unscheduled visit to the scanner site, reminded the officers of the importance of teamwork as a strong basis to sustain the gains of compliance and revenue collection recently recorded by the command.
He thanked Deputy Comptroller Salamatu Atuluku, the Officer in charge of the scanning site and encouraged the unit not to be deterred by complaints coming from persons who were made to pay accurate duties to the government after issuance of demand notices
According to him, no business person who is made to part with money will be happy with officers who refused to compromise the ethics of their job
” The main reason for me coming here is to appreciate you. I may not see you but I have seen your work and I won’t keep quiet about what I have seen about your work.
“You are doing very well. I just want to encourage you to work as a team. If you don’t work as a team, you give room for outsiders to come in and when they come in, they divide you and when they divide you,  achieving success will be very difficult
” Do your work without blemish. Once you keep your arm straight, you can stand before anybody. Your work as a customs officer is to ensure that you do the correct thing
” For those of you doing an intervention in the form of Demand Notice(DN), there is no body who part with money that will be happy with you.
“They will want to play intelligent by hiding somewhere. When you fetch them from their hiding place, they become your enemy. Whatever they write about anybody here will still come down to me and if anybody works well, the onus on me is to defend such a person.
“Just have it at the back of your mind that you owe yourself the duty of doing your work diligently whether anyone comes around as a friend or enemy.
“It is not enough for you to rest. The reward for hard work is more work. These demands require sacrifice so that you can maintain the status” he said.
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