Nigerians were shocked and petrified to the marrow when the news of the suspension of the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, took over the airwaves on Thursday evening.
For whatever it is worth, Bala Usman, with some of the controversies bordering on confrontations with industry heavyweights that have trailed her tenure, has proved to be a shining light in the Buhari administration particularly in the maritime industry, Persecondnews reports.
Usman’s stellar performance a lot of Nigerians felt account for President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to reappoint her in January this year for another term of five years. To turn around and suspend the same person four months later took Nigerians by surprise. If not any other thing, it shows the administration’s tardiness and inability to understand how much such flipflopping impact on the country’s reputation.
Industry players who understand NPA politics, however, suggest that this same appointment might be the reason for Bala’s Usman’s current travails. According to industry sources, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi was against the return of Bala Usman as NPA MD.
Persecondnews recalls that just like he stood against the return of his erstwhile protégé, Dr Dakuku Peterside, as Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in 2020, he was said to have sworn that Bala Usman was not going to return to office at the end of her first tenure.
Sources in fact, indicated that he had already “anointed’’ a successor who would reportedly do all of his biddings as opposed to the irrepressible and independent-minded Bala Usman, which he could no longer stand. Buhari’s decision to re-appoint her months ahead of the expiration her tenure, therefore, hit Amaechi like a thunderbolt. His upset and frazzle, according to those who know, was compounded by the replacement of the NPA Board headed by Akin Ricketts, which he had inaugurated months earlier by the President.
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According to sources, the minister had since then, started to plan how to get back at the NPA CEO for what he considered to be a slight.
To confirm the position of sources, Garba Shehu’s Thursday evening statement showed Ameachi’s hands in the decision to suspend the Managing Director. According to the statement: “…President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the recommendation of the Minister of Transportation under Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi for the setting up of an Administrative Panel of Inquiry to investigate the Management of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA…”
Although the statement claims that the ministry recommended an administrative investigation of the management of the NPA, Bala Usman, was the only member of the management team suspended, while Mr Mohammed Koko, Executive Director, Finance and Administration, under whose purview the finance and running of the organisation was became the Acting Managing Director.
The question, therefore, is if you are truly probing the entire management why single out the managing director? Answer: Ameachi did not want Bala Usman, period !
Garba’s statement also indicated that the panel will be headed by the Director, Maritime Services of the Ministry while the Deputy Director, Legal in the ministry will serve as secretary. Now, even if Ameachi did not handpick and foist these members on the presidency, the fact that they work under his ministry already suggests whose bidding they would do and the outcome of the investigations.
To a worst degree, the same minister, who recommended the agency for investigation and is boss to the chairman and secretary of the panel, has also been left with the task of selecting other members of the investigative panel.
Invariably, everyone working on this panel would have been handpicked by the minister, who is believed to have an axe to grind with Bala Usman’s re-appointment and is said to have recommended the impending investigation to the President!
With all of these, the Presidency has just given Ameachi a carte blanche to roast Bala Usman when and as he pleases.