By Titus Ogedengbe
Whether you are a discerning or dilettante Nigerian, it is not hard to pick holes in the claim, last week, by Hadiza Bala-Usman, the MD of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, that she was attacked at the sprawling National Assembly complex, Abuja, by thugs purportedly sent by the Chairman of Messrs Ocean Maritime Solutions Limited (OMSL), Captain Wells Okunbo.
Hadiza, whose tenure in the NPA has been pockmarked by more controversies than concrete achievements, petitioned the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, over what she described as the unruly behaviour of some suspected hoodlums.
In the three-page petition dated December 4 and titled “Petition Against Unruly Behaviour, Physical Attack and Threat in the NASS chambers by hoodlums sponsored by Wells Ogunboh of Messrs Ocean Maritime Solutions Limited (OMSL),” she said she was ambushed at the exit door after attending an investigative hearing on the activities of OMSL and other security agencies at the Safe Anchorage area in Lagos at the Senate building the previous day.
According to her, “I was ambushed at the exit door by hoodlums shouting and pushing their way toward me trying to gain close access to my person to physically attack me raining curses at me that I was taking food away from them and their boss, Captain Okunbo, that they will find me and destroy me, that I will never get away with this act.”
She stated that it took the intervention of her security agents and others around to prevent her from being assaulted. She, therefore, expressed concern that she could be openly attacked by suspected hoodlums within the precincts of the National Assembly.
At the risk of being accused of holding the fort for the National Assembly leadership which security architecture has been accused of not being watertight enough for the visit of a preeminent personality like Hadiza, a few things are sacrosanct. The National Assembly is located within the Three Arms Zone; otherwise one of the most fortified places in the country. Entry to the complex is heavily restricted. Except you are a legislator, a worker with a proven identification card or a guest that had been pre-registered for a visit, you cannot enter the complex. One is, therefore, wondering who these phantom thugs are; who booked them in and who did they fill in the forms that they wanted to see? It is pretty easy to decipher all of these except the security officers there have been compromised as Hadiza has claimed.
Now, in this age and time, when citizen journalism is at its most vibrant and profitable, and when everybody from a legislator to an ordinary artisan within a shouting distance of the complex has a smartphone; not forgetting the phalanx of media personnel there with their gizmos, it beggars understanding why since the day of the incident, no photo or video, whether blurry or grainy or otherwise, of the purported incident has been sighted anywhere. Pray, did Captain Okunbo also bribe the hundreds of people, smartphones ever-handy that would have seen Hadiza’s face-off with the thugs if it ever happened? Is Hadiza telling Nigerians that the Senate Building particularly is so porous and lack adequate security for her to have been easily molested yet, nobody was arrested on the spot?
Even if she was assaulted within the National Assembly, pray, would the thugs have escaped? Did they disappear into thin air? Even when the DSS, hooded and armed to the teeth, invaded the Assembly complex in 2018, Nigerians within the complex stood up to them and virtually held them, hostage, until normalcy returned. Pray, how can ordinary thugs escape from there? If any of the thugs were arrested, where are they being held? At what point did they confess to having been sent by the peace-loving businessman? While we would leave the National Assembly and the security agencies to explain themselves to Nigerians, it also bears reiterating some facts about the man involved.
Captain Okunbo is a straightforward billionaire businessman and philanthropist who does not shy away from taking responsibility for his actions or inactions. He is a pacifist and respecter of the Rule of Law. Despite operating in the volatile maritime sector for the past three decades, where envy and competition are cut-throat, every issue that ever arose has ended up in the court. He has never been accused, until now, of such despicable and denigrating act of sending thugs after an adversary much more a woman. Well, Hadiza is no ordinary woman; she is the MD of the NPA
Indeed, recently, she canceled the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) contract of the Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL) claiming that their operations constituted a threat to the national security and had led to an increase in costs of doing business in the nation’s seaport in Lagos. While the NPA has so far succeeded in canceling the contract, the management of OMSL is fighting battling to ensure that the decision is rescinded.
Over the years, the OMSL, established to enhance the safeguarding of maritime-related commercial investments by offering expert advice and real-time solutions to security problems, has gone further by providing premier security solutions that help to promote a safe business environment not only in Nigeria but the entire West African Coast. It is Nigeria’s leading asset protection company dedicated to protecting her natural resources from graft and illegal activities; and has a successful track record of securing strategic national infrastructure and stopping illegal bunkering, vandalism, and oil theft.
So for those who can read between the lines, this claim is nothing but an old wives’ tale.
Titus Ogedengbe, a former legislative aide at the National Assembly, Abuja