The panel set up by Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation, to investigate the activities of Hadiza Bala Usman, the suspended Nanaging Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has shifted focus from probing the claim that the agency did not remit an operating surplus of N165 billion to the consolidated revenue fund account (CRF).
According to a member of the panel set up by Amaechi to probe Usman, who does not want his name in the media, the focus will now be on investigating Usman for insubordination.
The panel member accused Usman of always bypassing the agency’s supervising minister to communicate directly to the President, an action he described as ‘gross indiscipline and breach of public service communication line.’
“If you look at the terms of reference properly, the 11-member panel are to investigate compliance with the communication channel as obtained in the public service. Insubordination is not a small offence,” the panel member said.
On the N165 billion unremitted claims, the member said that available statistics show that the allegation may not be true because it is a matter of reconciliation of what the Budget Office thought should be the remittances with what the actual remittances should be.
“Since audits have been done over the years, there is obviously nothing more to that. It is not as if NPA’s funds are in private banks, they are all with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). So, if there were no remittances, it is just about looking at NPA’s accounts with the CBN,” the member said.
The member, however, described the investigation on the NPA’s procurement contracts from 2016 to date as a ‘tricky job,’ owing to the fact that at NPA, any contract beyond N50 million for goods and services and N200 million for works are referred to the Ministerial Tenders’ Board (MTB), which is headed by the permanent secretary of the ministry.
“If we go into probing contracts since 2016, we may end up probing the minister himself as about 70 percent of the contracts for capital projects go to the ministerial tenders’ board, after which the minister presents them to the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by the President himself, for approval. We will check if all the procedures were followed, but I am personally not optimistic about that,” the panel member noted.
The panel member further claimed that Amaechi directed Usman to restore all Intels’ contracts that were suspended or terminated, an instruction which she failed to comply with, and this was also an example of insubordination.
Available information shows that Buhari withdrew his approval for the reinstatement of Intels’ contract after Usman wrote to Ibrahim Gambari, the chief of staff, to explain NPA’s position.
Gambari forwarded her response to Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general, for legal opinion. Malami said the NPA was right and that no contracts were terminated or violated. Buhari then withdrew his approval for the reinstatement of Intels’ contract and that is believed to have angered Amaechi, who accused Usman of insubordination.
Despite these efforts, the minister was still able to get the President’s approval to suspend and probe Usman.