By Danjuma katsina
The suspension of the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hajiya Hadiza Bala-Usman by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, contravened the Approved Disciplinary Procedure Against Chief Executive Officers of Federal Government Parastatals, Agencies and Departments approved by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 2020.
Findings shows that the transportation minister, relying on some unsubstantiated information from the budget office about alleged non-remittance and without recourse to hearing from Bala-Usman, surreptitiously wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari to get the NPA managing director suspended.
The suspended NPA boss was not told what her offences were or formally communicated, before her suspension was announced by the presidency. Not querying or making her aware of her offence(s) before suspending her is a clear breach of the procedures enshrined in the government’s own regulation for disciplining heads of government agencies.
For instance, in paragraph 3 of the Approved Disciplinary Procedure Against Chief Executive Officers of the Federal Government Parastatals, Agencies and Departments signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in May 2020, states that due process shall apply whenever a chief executive officer is to subjected to disciplinary action.
It said: “When an act bordering on serious misconduct against a chief executive office is reported, through the parmanent secretary to refer the matter to the governing board for necessary action in line with the relevant provisions of the Establishment Act and the principle guiding chapter 3 and 16 of the Public Service Rules”.
The board will then issue the affected official a query and subsequently advise the minister of its findings and recommendations. But if the board itself is 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.
It further stated that upon receipt of the submission from the minister, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) shall 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 of 030405 and 030406 of the Public Rules, pending the outcome of the independent investigators.
But in the case of Hadiza Bala-Usman, neither the governing board nor the SGF was carried along before action was taking against her. Therefore, the suspension of the NPA managing director by Amaechi, is unconstitutional, illegal, irregular and gross violation of the victim’s fundamental right to fair hearing as capsulated in the nation’s 1999 constitution as amended.
It is on record that Amaechi as the mantle of leadership of the transportation ministry, things began to degenerate when he found Hadiza too independent to control and the suspended MD would not serve in his court full of political courtiers.
Things came to a head when Amaechi wanted to renew all dredging contractors of the agency. Many of the contractors had served for decades and Amaechi got Hadiza to cancel her public advertisement for bid but was later overruled by the BPE, acting on the orders of the president that a public bid be held.
Fully equipped with the laid down rules of the NPA and administrative principles, Hadiza insisted on due process and more often had presidential backing to the anger of Amaechi, who then promised that Hadiza would be a one term MD. To the Amaechi’s shock, Hadiza got a second term without his input and since then vowed to oust her.
To put the record straight, the mimister accused Hadiza and the NPA of not auditing their books and recommended KPMG Nigeria; Deloitte Nigeria; Price Water House Coopers, Ernst and Young and Mckinsey and Company Nigeria.
But the Auditor-General of the Federation informed Amaechi that the NPA had engaged Messrs Muhtari Dangana and Co (Chartered Accountants) and SIAO Chartered Accountants in that respect. He also told the minister that the agency was in compliance with yearly audit unlike other federal government agencies.
Sadly, however, because Amaechi did not succeeded in what many Nigerians termed power of an non-egalitarian leader, he brought another issue called non-remittance of operations’ surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Funds between 2016 and 2020 to Consolidated Revenue Funds (CRF) and the CBN.
The minister, in a letter addressed to the office of the President on March this year, alleged that NPA’s yearly remittance of operating surpluses from year 2016-2020 fell short of the actual amount due for actual remittance.
He alleged that the NPA under the watch of the suspended MD could not account for N165.320 billion between 2018 and 2020 in the record of its remittance of operations surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Funds.
The allegation which hadiza replied in a letter to the president through chief of staff and was available to the media.
In the letter she gave a full a explanation and datas.which make Amaechi letter baseless.
Surprisingly, despite violating constitutional provisions and civil service rules, Amaechi still went ahead to inaugurate an 11-man investigative panel saddled with different terms of reference as against the early claim of non-remittance, to probe the suspended managing director of the NPA.
For the avoidance of doubt, investigative panel is single handedly picked by Amaechi from his acronies in order to unjustly nail his victim-Bala-Usman. The committee’s terms of reference include examining and investigating the administrative policies and strategies adopted by NPA’s Managing Director, Hadiza Usman, and confirm compliance with extant laws and rules from 2016 till date.
Others include “examine and investigate issues leading to the termination of other contracts of NPA and confirm compliance with the terms of the respective contracts, court ruling and presidential directives. Examine and investigate compliance with communication channels, as obtained in the public service.
The committee is to also “Examine and investigate the procurement of contracts from 2016 to date. Come up with suggestions and advice that would strengthen the operations of NPA and forestall such occurrences in the future. And any other matter that may be necessary for the course of the assignment”. These terms of reference are totally against the early request of the minister to investigate the non-remittance.
This, perhaps, indicates that Amaechi is fighting Hadiza Bala-Usman for his personal gains not the alleged non-remittance of N165.320 billion operating surpluses from year 2018-2020 fell short of the actual amount due for actual remittance.
Consequently, there is high need for President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mallam Abubakar Malami to immediately intervene and tackle this flagrant breach of the fundamental rights of Hajiya Hadiza Bala-Usman.
Danjuma is a publisher of a local online newspaper: katsina city news.@ www.katsinacitynews.com. 07043777779.