By Dirisu Yakubu
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, a few days ago, ruffled some feathers following the suspension of Hadiza Bala-Usman as Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Amaechi whose Ministry supervises NPA is not happy that the agency has not been financially prudent in the management of its finances since 2016 when Bala-Usman was appointed to oversee the plum agency.
In a letter dated 4th March 2021, addressed to President Buhari, Amaechi prayed the Commander-in-Chief to cause an investigation to be carried out to ascertain the financial records of NPA.
Titled “Remittance of Operating Surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) account by the Nigerian Ports Authority from 2016-Date,” the Minister drew the attention of the President to what he believed counts for a financial misdeed.
The letter read: “It has been observed from the records submitted by the Budget Office of the Federation that the yearly remittance of operating surpluses by the Nigerian Ports Authority from the year 2016 to 2020 has been far short of the amount due for actual remittance.
“In view of the above, I wish to suggest that the financial account of the activities of NPA be investigated for the period 2016-2020 to ascertain the true financial position and the outstanding unremitted balance of one hundred and sixty-five billion, three hundred and twenty million, nine hundred and sixty-two thousand, six hundred and Ninety-seven naira only (N165, 320, 962, 697).”
Two weeks later (March 17), President Buhari minuted on the letter with these words, “HMT (Honourable Minister of Transportation), your above prayer is approved,” followed by yet another letter signed by Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to the President conveying Buhari’s approval for the investigation of the alleged financial shenanigan.
Although, Hadiza Bala-Usman has since pleaded her innocence of the allegation, she has been replaced in active capacity by Mohammed Koko, who until his recent elevation, was the agency’s Executive Director in charge of finance and administration.
An official of the Ministry who does not want his name in print told Vanguard that Amaechi’s action is in line with his stand on transparency in the conduct of government business.
“There are no scores to settle as some reports are suggesting. The Minister is an anti-corruption crusader and given that the administration he serves has anti-corruption as one of the planks of its agenda; it is only apt for him to speak up when things are not going well.
“He has not pronounced anybody guilty. That is the duty of the panel of inquiry. I believe other agencies under the direct supervision of the Ministry will do their book keeping the right way henceforth if they have not been doing that. That is all I can tell you for now,” he said.