The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman, was suspended as part of moves to allow independent audit of the accounts and remittance of the agency, documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES have shown.
According to details of a letter sent to President Muhammadu Buhari by Nigeria’s transport minister, Rotimi Amaechi, the yearly remittance of operating surpluses by the NPA from 2016 to 2020 was “far short of the amount due for actual remittance.”
In the letter, dated March 4, 2021, Mr Amaechi said within the stipulated years, the NPA recorded an outstanding unremitted balance of N165 billion (N165, 320, 962, 697).
Mr Amaechi thereafter suggested that the financial account of the NPA be investigated and audited.
Ms Usman’s suspension was made public first on Wednesday amid allegations of witch-hunting.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, on Thursday night announced that Mr Buhari had approved the recommendation of the Minister of Transport, Mr 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 said.
A PREMIUM TIMES report Friday morning showed the NPA managing director was not told what her offences were or formally communicated before her suspension was announced by the presidency.
When contacted on Friday, Ms Usman confirmed that she neither received a query nor a suspension letter. She, however, declined further comments on her ordeal.
Documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES show that after Mr Amaechi wrote to the president requesting the audit of NPA. Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to the President, responded on March 30 conveying Mr Buhari’s approval of the minister’s prayers.
Thereafter, the Ministry of Transport wrote to the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation on April 6, intimating it of Mr Buhari’s approval of the minister’s prayers that NPA be audited.
However, the ministry in its letter signed by Magdalene Ajani, the Permanent Secretary, listed five audit firms and requested the Auditor-General’s office to approve any of them for the audit. In the alternative, the ministry requested the Auditor-General’s Office to grant it authority to advertise and select qualified audit firms to conduct the exercise.
The audit firms listed by the ministry include KPMG Nigeria, Deloitte Nigeria, Price Water House Coopers (PwC), Ernest and Young Nigeria, and McKinsey and Company.
Things however took a dramatic turn when the Auditor-General, Adolphus Aghughu, in a letter dated April 16, notified the transport ministry that the NPA board had engaged Messrs Muhtari Dangana & Co (Chartered Accountants) and SIAO Chartered Accountants as external audit firms.
In the letter which he personally signed, the AG added that the said audit firms had indeed audited and published the accounts of NPA in 2016, 2017, and 2018 financial years, and the 2019 audit is ongoing. The Auditor-General added that its office had conducted periodic checks and released appropriate reports on the checks.
Quoting extant laws establishing the NPA and the Nigerian constitution, the Auditor-General concluded that “reputable professional audit firms are already being engaged by the Board in line with the enabling Act”. It added that there was “no justification for the Ministry to advertise and select qualified Audit firms to conduct the exercise.”