Why Amaechi recommended my suspension, removal as Managing Director of NPA – Bala Usman

The immediate-past managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman, has said that failure to extend the Intels’ service boat management contract by one year was one of the reasons why former minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi recommended her suspension and eventual removal from office.

In her new book released on Tuesday, titled “Stepping On Toes: My Odyssey Odyssey at the Nigerian Ports Authority,” Usman revealed how stepping on toes to ensure due process and good governance cost her the plum NPA job.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and presidential candidate of the opposition People’s Democratic Party in the 2023 election, co-founded Integrated Logistics Services Limited, otherwise known as Intels, with an Italian-born Nigerian businessman, Gabriele Volpi in the 1980s.

Although the tenor ended in August 2020 by effluxion of time, Abubakar however divested from the country’s largest logistics company in December 2020 in an apparent move to join the 2023 presidential race on a clean slate.

According to the book, the company, which monitored all oil and gas logistic movements of service boats, was appointed by the NPA as monitoring agents for service boats operations in all the pilotage districts since December 1997.

The agency was renewed in 2003, 2007 and 2011 when its tenor was extended to 10 years, terminating in August 2020.

According to the former NPA managing director, a stakeholder told her that the minister wanted her out of office for two major reasons, one of which was the Intels contract impasse.

“At this point, it occurred to me what that stakeholder said about the minister wanting me out of office at the point that two of the most important contracts in the authority were due for renewal.

“The first of this was the capital dredging contract and the second: the service boat management contracts. While the minister had demanded an extension of tenure of the companies providing the capital dredging services without due process, he got approval for the restoration of an expired service boat contract. He got this even though the company was owing the Federal Government, had violated the Treasury Single Account policy, and above all, no longer had any contract with the NPA. I thought that his desperation to keep me out of office was to an end,” she wrote in the book.

Explaining why she went against Intels, Usman said the company had been shortchanging Nigeria for years and it refused to comply with the presidential directive on Treasury Single Account, TSA.

“We, however, got confrontational with Intels performance on the service boat operation contract when the company persistently and blatantly refused to comply with the directive to pay revenues due to the NPA into the Treasury Single Account (TSA) in accordance with the policy of the Federal Government,” she wrote.

“On assumption of duty as President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on 29 May 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari instructed that all revenues of the government must be remitted into the Treasury Single Account. Although this was known to everyone doing business with government in Nigeria, we discovered that the immediate past management had drawn the company’s attention to this fact and demanded action.

“For instance, on 29 June 2016, before my appointment as Managing Director, the then Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Mr. Olumide Oduntan wrote to the company asking that all revenues collected on behalf of the NPA must be paid into the TSA sub account with the CBN. This directive was ignored!

“I found the conduct of Intels unacceptable and in fact preposterous in a constitutional democracy. But we hadn’t heard the last of it. For the next 14 months, we tried to convince Intels to comply with this directive without result. It was like some people in the organisation had concluded that regulations were of no effect in Nigeria and that government could only bark without biting. So, the company continued to collect revenues on behalf of the Federal Government, deduct its 28% commission, deduct the payment for the amortisation of constructing Onne 4B and Eko support facilities to its sister companies and then pay the balance into one of the NPA accounts in a commercial bank.

“The sheer audacity was unbelievable and by May 2017, we felt we already had enough of it. On 31 May 2017, we wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mallam Abubakar Malami to seek legal advice on how to deal with the dilemma,” the former boss of the NPA stressed.