By Danlami Nmodu
It came like a bolt from the blue.The reports were swift and furious last week, to the effect that Hadiza Bala Usman, the activist Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority,NPA had been suspended from office, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Naturally editors moved, seeking to crosscheck the story.And in a rather swift manner too, the Presidency issued a statement that MD had been asked to step aside based on the reports by Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
In fact, one highly placed source contacted for hint about what was going on shortly before the presidency’s statement told NEWSDIARYONLINE, “We just want to investigate the Management of NPA.”
It turned out, that is exactly what the Presidency had in mind: to probe Hadiza’s tenure at NPA.According to a statement by Garba Shehu: “President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the recommendation of the Ministry 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.
“The President has also approved that the Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman step aside while the investigation is carried out. Mr Mohammed Koko will act in that position.
“The panel is to be headed by the Director, Maritime Services of the Ministry while the Deputy Director, Legal of the same ministry will serve as Secretary.
“Other members of the panel will be appointed by the Minister.”
NEWSDIARYONLINE reports that hours after the statement from the Presidency, an avalanche of memos emerged giving some insight into why the Presidency moved against the NPA. Better still, one of the memos clearly shows how Amaechi had as far back as March this year convinced President Buhari to probe NPA. Another memo, with accompanying documents, also shows the suspended MD clarifying claims made against the NPA under her leadership as she registered her protest literally.
A copy of Amaechi’s memo to the President, sighted by NEWSDIARYONLINE was titled: Remittance of operating surplus to the consolidated revenue fund account(CRF) by the Nigerian Ports Authority from 2016 – Date.
In the memo dated 4 March, 2021, Amaechi told the president: “It has been observed from the records submitted by the Budget Office of the Federation that the yearly remittance of operating surpluses by the Nigerian Ports Authority from year 2016 to 2020 has been far short of the amount due for actual remittance (see the tables attached).
“In view of the above, I wish to suggest that the financial account of the activities of Nigerian Ports Authority be investigated for the period 2016 to 2020 to ascertain the true financial position and the outstanding unremitted balance of one hundred and sixty five billion, three hundred and twenty five million, nine hundred and sixty two thousand, six hundred and ninety seven Naira only (N165,320,962,679).”
NEWSDIARYONLINE reports that President Buhari approved Amaechi’s prayers on 17 March 2021. Another memo dated March 17, 2021 shows that Buhari’s approval was conveyed to the Minister of Transportation by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim A. Gambari.
In her memo addressed to the Chief of Staff to the President, titled: Re:Request for the record of Remittance of Operating Surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Funds Account CRF By the Nigerian Ports Authority, dated 5th May 2021, the suspended MD wrote :”The attention of the Authority has been drawn to a letter conveying Mr President’s approval for the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMoT) to conduct an audit of the accounts of the Authority and its remittances to the Consolidated Revenu3 Fund(CFR).This arose from a correspondence between the Budget Office of the Federation(BOF) and the Federal ministry of Transportation where the Budget Office of the Federation conveyed to the FMoT an observed shortfal of the Authorities remittances to the CFR.(Copy attached for ease of reference)
“We wish to state that the Authority’s basis for arriving at the Operating Surplus on which basis the amount due for remittance to the CFR is guided by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 as amended and further based on the statutory mandate Party,S.3(1) (b) & (d) whereby the Fiscal Responsibility Commission issued a template for the computation of Operating Surplus for the purpose of calculating amount due for remittance to the CRF(attached herewith as annex 2 is the template as conveyed to the Authority.
She protested: “Accordingly, the figures so provided by the Budget Office of the Federation as the operating surplus for the respective years on which basis they arrived at the shortfall are derived from submission of budgetary provision not the actual amounts derived following the statutory audit of the Authorities (sic) financial statements.”
She added more information on the 2017 and 2018 remittances thus: “Audited Financial Statements of the Authority for the period 2017 and 2018(copies herewith attached )provides(sic) operating surpluses of N76.782 billion and N71.480 billion for 2017 and 2018 respectively as contrary to the sums of N133.084 billion and N88.79 billion arrived at by your office from the budgetary submission.
In line with the template issued by the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, the accessible Operating Surplus of the Authority stands at N51.09 billion and N43.51 billion for 2017 and 2018 respectively.This amounts(sic) will give rise to a remittance due to the CFR in the sum of N40.873 billion and N34.065 billion representing 80%of the surpluses for the year2017 and 2018 respectively.(Attached herewith as annex 3 is the schedule of the computed template for the respective years).Accordingly, the Authority consequently made a remittance of N42.415 billion and N33.969 billion for the years 2017 and 2018 respectively for the full amount required as remittance for the period(attached herewith are the treasury receipts).”
Hadiza also availed the presidency details of remittance for 2019 and 2020.According to her,”The Audit of the 2019 Financial Statement has been completed and awaiting consideration of the Authorities (sic) Board at which point the final figures for the 2019 operating surplus will be determined for consequent computation of the amount due for remittance to the CFR.But thus far, the Authority has made a remittance of N31.683 billion for the 2019 remittance while the sum of N51.049 billion has also thus far been remitted for 2020 while awaiting the audited (sic) of the financial statement to determine the final amount required for both 2019 and 2020 at which point the Authority will make the payment of the balance as required.(Attached are the treasury reipt for the respective payments).
She concluded her clarifications by making some assertions. According to her,” based on the above, we wish to clarify the following: “The Authority’s computation of its remittances to CFR are concluded from numbers from Audited Financial Statements using the template forwarded to the Authority from the Fiscal Responsibility Commission as herewith attached and not budgetary provision.
“That the Authority has remitted the full amount due it to CFR for the periods 2017 and 2018 arising from the operating surplus derived from the Audited Financial Statement for the period totalling N76.384 billion as evidenced in attached treasury receipts
“That the Authority has remitted a total of N82.687 billion for the period 2019 and 2020 pending the audit of the financial statement at which point the amount so computed arising from the value of the Operating Surplus in the audited financial statement will be remitted to the CFR.
The suspended MD concluded her memo saying, “We wish that the Chief of Staff requests the office of the Accountant General of the Federation who are the statutorily (sic) custodian of status of payment to the CRF to provide clarification on the above so as to establish the true position of the Authorities(sic) remittance to the CFR”.
Despite her protest and clarification, there is the no indication that her suspension may be reversed immediately as some have hoped for. In fact, it is preparation towards the probe ordered by the president that appears to be gaining momentum.
NEWSDIARYONLINE reports that some quiet observers see power- play in the entire saga.Those ‘behind’ Hadiza are believed to be losing out, some observers claimed. How true that claim may be and whether Hadiza Bala Usman will return to her seat as MD remain to be seen.