Journalism in the service of society

Even as minister, Amaechi expected gift from me – Hadiza Usman

A FORMER Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala-Usman, yesterday told an audience, which included the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima and other prominent Nigerians, how her failure to, from time to time, took gifts of appreciation to her former boss, the then Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, contributed to her unexpected exit from office.

Bala-Usman, who spoke shortly after reading some portions from her newly unveiled book “Stepping on Toes: My Odyssey at the Nigerian Ports Authority”, at Rovingheights Bookstore in Garki, Abuja said the long years spent by the former minister on corridor of power had affected him so much that he expected gifts from every Tom, Dick and Harry.

Reacting to a question that bothers on her claim in the book that Amaechi told one of the concerned people, who wanted to intercede on her behalf that part of why he (Amaechi) wanted her out of NPA was because she was selfish, Ms. Bala Usman said, “Having spent many years in government, Mr. Amaechi’s entitlement mentality made him think everybody must patronise him. As I painted in the book, he told one of the people who intervened that I did nothing for him from NPA and never even gave him a birthday gift.”

In May, 2021, Bala-Usman was suspended from office following allegations of the NPA’s non-remittance of about N165billion operating surpluses into the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account of the federation.

The suspension orders approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, followed a request for the probe of the accounts of the NPA made by Amaechi.

The minister subsequently set up an administrative panel of inquiry to investigate the affairs of the NPA, including awards of contracts from 2016 to May 2021.

But beyond the probe and allegations levied against her, the former NPA boss said in the new book, which was written “as a token of the spirit to always render account with which I was raised”, that the minister had made up his mind to get rid of her regardless of how anybody try to convince him about her record of service. Bala-Usman disclosed in the book how interest groups, leaders of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) also made efforts to resolve the issue by intervening at various levels.

“The Governors’ team met the Minister to discuss a resolution of the matter. He insisted that my management of the NPA had to be investigated because of the amount unremitted to the CFR (Consolidated Federation Revenue). He even tried to sway the governors’ resolve by suggesting to them that the budget of the NPA was bigger than most of their state budgets, so they shouldn’t bother about me.

“When the governors persisted, he told them that the matter was no longer within his purview and that they may need to approach the Head of Service of the Federation.

“He told another person who tried to intervene that I was so selfish that I did nothing for him from the NPA, and never even gave him a birthday present!” she said in the book.

Giving further details in the book on the calculated attempt made by Amaechi to embarrass her, she stated, “Unknown to me, in his determination to get me out of office, Mr. Amaechi had been fishing for a couple of months. In his desperation, he had approached the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze, and obtained details of the NPA’s operating surpluses upon which he apparently arrived at the conclusion that a huge sum of money was unremitted.

“Without raising any queries about the matter with the NPA, the Minister wrote to the President informing him of the shortfall in yearly remittance of operating surplus by the NPA between 2016 and 2020. He then concluded: ‘In view of the above, I wish to suggest that the financial account of the activities of NPA be investigated for the period 2016-2020 to ascertain the true financial position and the outstanding unremitted balance of one hundred and sixty-five billion, three hundred and twenty million, nine hundred and sixty-two thousand, six hundred and ninety-seven naira only (N165,320,962,697.00),” she said in the book.

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