Since she left office in 2021, the former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, for the first time has revealed in her book titled: “Stepping on Toes”, how her battle to streamline excesses in the nation’s port system cost her job.
According to her, the refusal of the authority under her watch to pay $22 million for dredging of Calabar channel and the renewal of the INTELS Boat Service contracts caused her to lose the job as the MD of NPA.
In the book, which is scheduled to be launched today, the former NPA boss who revealed issues behind the dredging of the Calabar Channel, said by the end of her first six months as managing director/CEO of the NPA, it was obvious to her that she was going to be swimming with sharks.
She said, although she had some inkling of irregularities, there was no way of knowing the pervasiveness until one got into the system.
Usman said dredging of the four ports would throw up additional risks with attendant increase in insurance premiums due to insecurity issues and inadequate road infrastructure. “In addition, decisions as to the destination of cargoes are at the discretion of the consignee. To that effect, consideration for the cost of transportation of cargo to the ultimate destination is a major factor in reaching a decision. Lagos remains the commercial capital of the country and most consignees prefer to ship their goods through the Lagos ports where there are ready consumers. Goods designated for other parts of the country are then transported by road by middlemen or directly to consumers.
“Consumers may also receive the goods in Lagos and make their own arrangements for transportation.”
She further explained in chapter seven of her book that, there is the vexed issue of the shallow draughts of the ports outside Lagos, except for the Onne Ports, which she said has an average depth of 12 metres.
She said none of the eastern ports has a draught deeper than 8 metres, and that even the 8 metres was achieved at the Warri Port with the Escravos Channel in 2019.
Usman said the answer to the question why NPA hasn’t dredged the Warri, Onne, Port Harcourt and Calabar Ports, is that the ports are currently river-based ports with limitations of depth because of the design depth of the quay structure.
Usman said her problems started in 2017, when her office received a letter from the Ministry of Transportation, entitled: ‘Joint Venture Partnership between the Nigerian Ports Authority and Messrs. Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company Ltd on the management of the Calabar Channel,’ with a petition attached by the minister from the law firm of Martin Aguda & Co.
Niger Global is a company floated by the current Imo state governor, Hope Uzodimma.
“The law firms were solicitors to Messrs. Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company Ltd and requested the minister’s intervention in their client’s claim for the sum of $22m purportedly owed to their client by the NPA.”
She said upon investigation as directed by the minister of transportation, the authority found no proof of the work that the company claimed to have executed, even though they had already received the sum of $12.5m.
She said NPA set up a committee, which discovered several irregularities surrounding the work and that the NPA was therefore constrained to decline the request for payment and instead, demand a refund of the sum previously paid.
In chapter 8 of the book, Usman spoke about the Integrated Logistics (INTELS) boat service contract. She said, “The Nigerian government adopted the landlord ports model, which allows for separate roles and tasks between public and private sectors. 25 private terminal operators out of about one hundred bids received for the three major categories of cargo that were established in accordance with global best practices emerged from this exercise. INTELS was one of these 25 terminal operators,” she added.
Intels was part founded by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
She said the company is better known for the service boat operations management, which was a constant source of altercations between NPA and INTELS from 2017 until the end of her tenure