More details have emerged about some of the actions of Hadiza Bala-Usman, the former managing director of the Nigerian Port Authority, which angered the President, leading to her dismissal.
Amid numerous allegations including financial impropriety, high-handedness and cronyism, Ms Bala-Usman, who held the position since 2016, was asked to step aside for a proper audit of the NPA’s financials and investigation into her wrongdoings.
Ms Bala-Usman’s suspension, initially announced by the Presidency on Thursday, was delivered in a letter addressed to her on Friday. The panel to carry out the investigation has been set up afterwards.
But, while Nigerians await the report of the probe, credible reports have exposed different shady acts of the ousted NPA boss, including her ties with Africa’s richest, Aliko Dangote, which led to several concessions, at the expense of the government’s revenue.
Earlier this week, it was widely reported that she had used her position to reduce fees as well as compel port operators to collect charges in Nigeria’s currency, the Naira, from only Mr. Dangote’s businesses whilst other importers continued to pay their charges in USD, which is the norm.
Also, reports have revealed her role in shortchanging Mr Dangote’s rivals in the maritime sector in a bid to please her close friend.
Meanwhile, still in the eyes of the storm, a leaked memo obtained by this newspaper showed how Ms Bala-Usman violated a long standing presidential directive in 2019.
The NPA, in November 2019, revoked the land lease agreement signed with the Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL), saying that the company violated the terms of the land lease at Tarkwa Bay, near Light House Beach in Lagos.
This led to brickbats and legal tussle between the company and the maritime agency until President Muhammadu Buhari waded in 2020.
It is widely acknowledged in various circles that her unilateral revocation of LADOL’s lease was done to favour her friend, Messrs Dangote – a childhood friend and longtime associate of a certain Senator (unnamed) who was also in Partnership with SHI. In the heat of the crisis, the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in a leaked memo, argued that the revocation done by Bala-Usman-led NPA, was contrary to the Presidential Executive Order 2 on the need to support and promote local content.
This newspaper’s analysis of the memo shows that the Justice minister was given his legal opinion on the matter, which will later be approved by the President.
Mr Malami also stated that multimillion-dollar investment of LADOL and other partners including Nigeria’s Bank of Industry (BOI) will be in jeopardy if his legal opinion is not complied with.
Based on the minister’s opinion, President Buhari, in an approval dated May 26, 2020 instructed him to write to the NPA and other stakeholders to comply with the prayers in Paragraphs 6a & b in the letter which stated that, “NPA be directed to comply with Mr. President’s subsisting approval for 25 years lease covering 114.552 hectares granted to Messrs Global Resource Limited since 2018”, and “Direct all relevant agencies to comply with the Legal Opinion attached hereto which is geared towards resolving the dispute, restoring investor confidence to the industry and bringing NPA’s actions in conformity with extant laws and Federal Government’s Policy on Local Content.”
While it was revealed in the letter that Hadiza had failed to comply with several legal opinion on the matter regarding the illegitimacy of the revocation, her actions also put over 50million dollars and 6.09billion in bank guarantees from Nigeria’s Bank of Industry, NCDMB and CBN in jeopardy as well as a USD250million investment by Messrs GRML/Ladol.
Were it not for the Government’s direct investment in the Shipyard and Zone over the years, perhaps LADOL may have lost out of the struggle with Hadiza, her lover and cronies?
Our sources within NPA and government circles further said that despite the President’s instructions and advice to Hadiza by those in the know, she refused to comply immediately.
This was said to have angered the Presidency as it was seen as an affront and undermining the President’s authority.
These actions are said to now be working against her as it was assumed that she had developed a ‘larger than life’ posture where she may have felt she was answerable to no one and more important than the President.