The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman, was not queried, nor was she made aware of the allegations against her management prior to her suspension by President Muhammadu Buhari, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, on Thursday night announced that Mr Buhari had approved the recommendation of the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, to set up an administrative panel of inquiry to investigate Ms Usman’s management of the 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,” Mr Shehu added.
However, PREMIUM TIMES determined Friday morning that the NPA managing director was not told what her offences were or formally communicated before her suspension was announced by the presidency.
When contacted early Friday morning, Ms Usman confirmed that she neither received a query nor a suspension letter. She declined further comments on her ordeal.
Not querying her or making her aware of her offence(s) before suspending her is a clear breach of the processes stipulated in the government’s own regulation for disciplining heads of government agencies.
According to a government circular dated May 19, 2020, and endorsed by the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, when there is an issue of impropriety against the head of an agency, the federal government requires a minister, through the permanent secretary of the supervising ministry, to refer the matter to the governing board of the affected agency in line with its enabling law and chapters three and 16 of the Public Service Rules on discipline and government parastatals.
The board will then issue the affected official a query and subsequently advise the minister of its findings and recommendations.
But whether the board is itself the source of the allegation of misconduct against the chief executive or the chief executive is the chairman of the board, the minister, on the advice of the permanent secretary, still has to ensure a query is issued, requesting an explanation from the accused official.
“The Minister after due consideration of the submission from the Board shall, on the advice of the Permanent Secretary, forward the ministry’s position along with the recommendations of the Board and explanation of the Chief Executive Officer to the Secretary to Government of the Federation for processing to Mr President, for a decision,” the circular stated.
Upon receipt of the submission from the minister by SGF, the procedure then establishes another layer of the probe, requiring the SGF to “without delay, cause an independent investigation and advise Mr President on the appropriate course of action, including interdiction or suspension in accordance with the principles guiding Sections 030405 and 030406 of the Public Service Rules, pending the outcome of the independent investigation.”
Based on the outcome of the independent investigation, “it shall be the responsibility of the SGF to further advise Mr President on the next course of action,” the circular stated.
Continuing, the memo said it is the SGF that will “implement and/or convey the approval and directives of Mr President on every disciplinary action against the Chief Executive Officers in the Public Service.”
In this case, neither the governing board nor the SGF was carried along before action was taking on Ms Usman.
The chairman of the NPA board, Jide Adesoye, was not available to comment on this report. Repeated calls to his known telephone number were not answered. A source close to him said he was travelling abroad.
The spokesperson for the ministry was similarly unavailable.
The allegations against Ms Usman remain unclear as of 2 pm on Friday. But this newspaper learnt that Mr Amaechi and Ms Usman had been at loggerheads in the past few months over the procurement procedures for at least two multimillion-dollar contracts at the NPA.
Government insiders familiar with the matter said while Mr Amaechi wanted contractors handling the projects retained, Ms Usman insisted on a competitive tendering process in line with the Public Procurement Act 2004.
This newspaper also learnt that Mr Amaechi recently accused the NPA management of low remittances of revenues to the country’s Consolidated Revenue Fund and demanded an audit of the agency.
Our sources said both the NPA management and the Authority’s governing board rebuffed him, saying the agency had remitted funds to the government in line with its budget and as detailed in its audited financial statement.
Mr Buhari reappointed Ms Usman for a second five-year term in January several months before the end of her first tenure. That development is said to have surprised Mr Amaechi, with whom Ms Usman has endured years of tension, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.