By Suleiman Ibrahim
As President Bola Ahmed Tinubu begins the task of assembling a crack team that would help him recalibrate the ship of the Nigerian State, two things are crucial to guide his choice of those to appoint as ministers and other officials of government if he must succeed. One, he must downplay political party patronage and prioritise pedigree, track records, character and competence.
The second compass for his guide in constituting the highly functional, smooth-running team is avoiding politicians or individuals with political baggage. This is more so when the president has already committed himself to a standard Nigerians now expect from him. Tinubu himself had earlier declared that in selecting key actors in his government, he will “not be weighed down by considerations extraneous to ability and performance.”
This note of caution is necessary against the backdrop of scoops that some powerful influence are pressuring Tinubu by lobbying for some Nigerians with questionable past public service engagement to be appointed as ministers. One of the names that are being peddled is the former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman.
From the experience of her time at the NPA, it is clear that power in the hands of Hadiza Bala Usman is like a knife in the hands of a mad man; he will use it to injure others and himself. Similarly, the great motivational speaker, Myles Munroe, famously posited that “when the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is inevitable.”
This is the greatest problem of Hadiza. She sees political power as an end in itself, instead of a means to an end. With this narrow mindset, abusing public office comes natural to her.
However, let it be known that Hadiza may have escaped prosecution as a result of interventions by powerful individuals, but she shouldn’t be given another chance in Tinubu’s government. Doing so will amount to reinforcing failure and institutionalising corruption. Besides, Tinubu’s government is the only hope of redemption Nigerians have now; hence, appointing her kind of person will certainly dash their hopes of a better Nigeria.
In his review of Hadiza’s book on what transpired between she and former Transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi, a public commentator observed that the former NPA MD “may have gotten away with the farce that passed as her stewardship at NPA and may, indeed, be rewarded with even bigger portfolios in the new dispensation, but she should spare us this fatuous heterodoxy.”
This is a sad commentary on how past administrations have always rewarded corruption by sacrificing integrity and competence on the altar of partisanship.
This is a litmus test for Tinubu who the great mass of despondent Nigerians are now looking up to as God-sent to wriggle the country out of the economic and social morass it is enmeshed in.
Though there have always been cases of influence peddling and corruption concerns in Ports operation, corruption at Nigeria’s Ports assumed alarming dimension when Bala Usman was appointed Managing Director in 2016. She was humiliated out of that exalted office on account of alleged gross incompetence, pilferage, nepotism, high-handedness, disloyalty, arrogance and influence peddling.
Hadiza’s negative energy is enervating. For a reason best known to her and her henchmen, she turned her fangs at Intels despite the huge resources, expertise and boost the company has brought to bear in Ports management in Nigeria. By turning her frustration to a credible and reputable organisation like Intels, she proved at once that the enemies of Nigeria planted her to sabotage a strategic agency of government like the NPA. Except in her infinitesimal head, it is unheard of that a globally reputable company like Intels was stripped of contract.
Despite the company’s offer to write off $100million interest from NPA indebtedness to the company; reduce operating commission from 28 percent to 18 percent; reduce cost of funds from libor + 6.5 percent to 3 percent only, Hadiza rejected the offers for selfish reasons.
The reason for Hadiza’s fight with Intels is not far-fetched. She needed to bundle Intels out of the way to enable her to bring in her cronies and henchmen. Interestingly, all the companies Hadiza split the Intels pilotage/service boat contract into are linked to her and her front men. Regrettably, none of the companies has the capacity to carry out the service boat pilotage contracts. In fact, one of the companies is still using the father’s house address as its office address.
Needless to emphasise that one of the response criteria of the PPA 2007 for a bid to be prequalified is the possession of previous experiences in the job being bidded for, which none of the companies had. As a result of these assaults on Intels, revenue has dropped drastically.
In fact, it can safely be posited that the late ‘Idi Amin’ of Uganda is not a match for Hadiza’s frugality. How on earth can a public official be so reckless and unpatriotic? She breached due process and procedures with reckless abandon. For instance, she allegedly concessioned berths 9, 10 and 11, FOT Onne, without recourse to the relevant provisions of the ICRC for the concession of Public Assets.
According to reports, Hadiza allegedly excised that berth 9,10, & 11 in Onne from intels Ltd consolidated lease, and leased them out to a company from Philippines (ICTSI Ltd) which she brought into the country.
Also, without approval from the ICRC, FMT and FEC, the former NPA MD allegedly created a new terminal without concession. It was a new terminal with direct port calls. Despite the fact that there was already a qualified contractor for outsourcing of the Apapa Traffic Management System, Hadiza awarded the contract to a less qualified contractor because of her vested interest. Worse still, she did so in flagrant disobedience to due process.
Suffice it to clarify that, long before Hadiza was appointed, the NPA had pre-qualified a company through compliance with the provisions of PPA 2007. But when she was appointed, she unilaterally quashed the whole process and went ahead to award it to Truck Transit Park (TTP), whose operations have been widely condemned by truckers.
In demonstration of her pedestal interest, Hadiza allegedly awarded the (TTP) truck call up concession to her childhood friend in Kaduna, Mr Dayo, without the approval of the FMOT, Certificate of no Objection from ICRC and no FEC approval in contravention of the requirement of the Law. The first bidder, who was the most qualified, was ignored. Hence, Hadiza’s family and friends’ style of administration nearly brought the NPA to its knees.
One of the hallmarks of leadership is team work but in Hadiza’s microscopic world, arrogance is the name of the game. She destroyed the culture of courtesy and camaraderie that existed in the Authority to the extent that her office could not be accessed by a General Manager.
In open contravention of public service procedures, Hadiza was alleged to have appointed a henchman, one of her cronies she grew up with in Zaria, as the General Manager (Procurement), with her PA one Bashir Dabo who coordinated the activities of several companies they used for cornering contracts in the Authority.
Long before Hadiza was appointed, the NPA had in place joint venture contracts for the dredging and regular maintenance of the busiest port channels, the Bonny/Portharcourt and the Lagos channel management companies. When Hadiza assumed duties, she allegedly disrupted the seamless system in place and, as usual, rigged the process to bring in her cronies and fronts.
The following cronies were brought in by Hadiza: Lagos Channel – Jan de Null (promoted by Wafa Dangote); Bonny Channel -Oldham ltd (owned and promoted by her senior brother’s lawyer Braimah Salman and the brother’s office Manager in Lagos, Udoh Martins; Warri Escravos channel – Redstar ltd, owned by her business partner, Shamsudeen Kofa and Abdu Dantata who also happens to be a director in Dangote.
The above decisions were taken without consideration for national interest, but rather to whet the insatiable acquisition tendencies of Hadiza through abuse of public trust. Like a bull in the China shop, Hadiza was all out to disrupt the smooth operations in Ports management. She knew that if everything works seamlessly, she won’t be able to feather her nest.
For example, Hadiza allegedly used her office to settle personal scores. She picked a fight against BUA. It was learnt that the fight is in connection with old relationships and has nothing to do with work processes. Out of her rage, she went ahead to decommission BUA’s terminal, leading to the loss of revenue to the tune of $10 million and ₦555 million.
Most regrettable is Hadiza’s disrespect for the sanctity of our courts. At her discretion, she chooses which court order to obey and which to disregard. For instance, there was a subsisting court order restraining the Authority from closing BUA’s terminal, but as a law unto herself, she disobeyed the order and verbally ordered the closure of the terminal.
Hadiza is dangerous for democracy. Not only is she arrogant and abusive, anyone who lacks respect for rules and procedures, and has contempt for the sanctity of the court poses a great risk to democracy and should be banished from holding public office.
It’s no longer news how Hadiza, out of mischief, arrogance and insensitivity, reportedly mismanaged the dispute between Ladol and one of its tenants, Messrs Samsung Ltd. The matter became an issue of litigation and an eventual intervention by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation following a presidential directive. This is an issue that amicable resolution would have taken care of. But the Authority had to waste scarce resources on needless litigation.
President Tinubu must not go back on his promise to Nigerians to constitute a government of national competence. After his victory at the polls, he had promised in a statement that his quest for competence is an ambition that is higher than even a government of national unity.
In view of the foregoing, the president would do himself a lot of good, if he ignores lobbyists who are pressuring him to appoint the likes of Hadiza Bala-Usman into his government.
– Ibrahim, an economic analyst, sent this piece from Lagos