President Muhammadu Buhari had suspended Hadiza Bala Usman as the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority.
In a statement signed by Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, on Thursday, the suspension followed a recommendation by Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, to set up an administrative panel of inquiry to investigate the management of the NPA.
Buhari also approved the appointment of the director of finance “Mohammed Koko” to take over while “the investigation is carried out.
Ms Usman who was aware of her suspension from office is still yet to receive any formal communication to that effect from the Ministry of Transport.
Officials at the NPA praised Ms Bala Usman as “highly competent and innovative” in her leadership role, but said her long-running battle with Rotimi Amaechi ultimately led to her removal from office.
“The minister removed her because he could not intimidate or control her,” an official said under anonymity. “It is unfortunate that the minister has now sacrificed competence for undue loyalty.”
Officials said Messrs Koko and Amaechi are allies, but the minister was able to easily promote the finance director because it was a choice that appealed to the president’s sentiment.
“Amaechi knew that the president would be indifferent as long as the replacement is a northerner,” the official said.
It was unclear whether or not Ms Bala Usman would contest her removal. She was reportedly confirmed for a second term barely a few weeks ago.
Mr Amaechi also visited her on a working visit to the NPA barely four weeks ago, giving the impression that all was well between them.
“It is shocking to see that she has been removed barely four weeks after they were seen working together in Lagos,” a source familiar with the matter said. “Many of us had assumed that they were back on good terms.”