By Dirisu Yakubu – Abuja
Against the backdrop of financial infractions allegedly perpetrated by Hadiza Bala-Usman, the suspended Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, Monday, inaugurated an 11-man panel to investigate the activities of the agency from 2016 till date.
Vanguard reports that on May 6, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the recommendations of Amaechi to set up an administrative panel of inquiry to investigate the management of the NPA under the stewardship of Hadiza.
Inaugurating the panel on Monday, the Minister charged the members to be diligent in order to do a thorough job.
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.
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“Examine and investigate compliance with communication channels, as obtained in the public service.
“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.”
In his brief remarks, Amaechi noted that the decision to take a look at the books of the agency is in furtherance of the mandate of the ministry to oversee the activities of agencies and parastatals under its supervision.
He said: “This is in the discharge of our responsibility as a ministry and I don’t see why anybody is complaining.
“What is wrong in looking at what is happening in NPA? I don’t see what is wrong in that. As the Minister of Transportation for four years, I hardly know what is happening and I want to know now.
“The president agrees with me that it’s my responsibility as minister to find out what is going on
“It worries me that people are saying we should not ask questions. Nobody has been indicted.
“Can we know what is going on in NPA? That’s the question.
“If everything is right, why do we have to bother at the end of the day?
“When you have completed your assignment, we will be glad to pass on the report to the President, but don’t forget your assignment will include activities of procurement and its processes from 2016 till date.
“And that is why you do not have a time limit. So, it will take you some time. You are not auditing, but finding out the processes.
“Please be diligent, invite anybody you want to invite, including the minister, if there are infractions you need me to clarify,” he said.
According to Amaechi, NPA is an agency that manages maritime trading activities in Nigeria which is expected to generate huge resources for the government to run the country.
Also speaking, Minister of State (Transportation), Senator Gbemisola Saraki said the investigation was within the purview of the ministry.
“This is why the ministry supervises and part of that role is looking, asking questions, and ensuring that things are done with due process.
“For the panel, there is so much noise, so it’s best you block your ears. Keep your head down and do what is in the interest of the entire country,” Saraki said.
Responding, Chairman of the committee, Suleiman Auwalu, who doubles as Director of Maritime Services of the ministry pledged the commitment of other members to diligently carry out the duties assigned to them.
“I assure you that we are going to work; we are going, to be honest, and fair in the discharge of this responsibility.
”At the end of the day, we want to turn up a report that will be true and it will be in the interest of the country.
“So, we are seeking God’s guidance for us to do the right thing at the right time,” Auwalu said.
The 11-man committee is made up of five directors from the Ministry while the remaining six, including the co-chairman, Ben Omogo, are drawn from the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.
It would be recalled that President Buhari last week, directed Hadiza Bala-Usman to step aside for the entire duration of the Investigation while directing Mohammed Koko (Director, Finance and Administration of NPA) to step in an acting capacity.