By Musa Akwanga
Behavioral academic and author, Steve Maraboli, could not have said it any better in his book, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience, when he said, “The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.”
This is exactly the picture, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman, the former Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) cuts in her book of innuendoes, half-truths and absolute falsehoods.
For an individual, especially a woman, to have found herself in such an influential position against the run of play, there is the expectation that she will take responsibility for her actions and inactions.
However, her book, “Stepping on Toes: My Odyssey at the Nigerian Ports Authority,” shows that those who helped her up the perch of such sensitive position did not know her well.
In the patently dishonest book designed to hoodwink and confuse the pliant and those not in the know of how things went, Ms. Bala-Usman amongst her several allegations, listed as one of her “sins” to be channel management (capital/maintenance and wreck removal) in chapter 14 of the book.
According to the former MD, the former Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, had facilitated her appointment without any input from her or those she is close to.
It is, therefore, incongruous, for any suggestion by her that the same individual that was responsible for her ascendency to the NPA headship will be the clog in the administration of the authority.
Her inability to take directives and follow laid down administrative procedure remains her albatross.
On the channel management contracts, she alleged that it was her refusal to kowtow to the minister’s request to extend the 15 years agreement terminating in 2021 by a year to the existing contractors was part of the reason for her sack.
According to her, it was more cost-effective for new rounds of bidding even in a Covid-19 financially challenged time, and the fact that the ministry had opted for direct labour to cut cost and build the expertise of the personnel of the authority.
Rather than heed to the ministerial directive, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman not only ignored the directive for three months, but wrote directly to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to make the minister look bad.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Administrative Panel of Inquiry into the Activities of the NPA 2016-2021, in their report to President Muhammadu Buhari, noted, “Channels Management Contracts: With respect to the allegation of Suppression of Records contrary to PSR 030301(m) by disregarding Ministerial Directives made vide an FMT letter dated 2nd February, 2021 to provide information on the volume dredged, the number of wrecks removed and navigational buoys replaced or maintained annually in respect of the Bonny/Port Harcourt and Lagos Port Channel Management Contracts, Ms. Bala Usman has responded to the effect that the period between 2nd February, 2021 and…May 2021 (a 3-month period) was insufficient for her to respond to the ministerial directive and that the authority was working on compiling the information” up to the time she was suspended on 6th May, 2021.”
Tellingly, the report in its summation held that Bala-Usman’s response was “untenable and unsupportable as it betrays a total lack of organization of a core activity of the NPA under her watch.”
The report further observed that there was “no evidence in her response to indicate that the NPA made any effort to obtain the requested information from its Channel Management contractors in order to satisfy the Ministerial Inquiry. Furthermore, given the significant human and technical resources available to the NPA in managing such a core function as Channels management, it is inconceivable that the Authority would require more than three months to provide information to the Ministry on such a core function on which the Authority expends billions (over N60billion) on an annual basis.”
It is imperative to stress that before the ministerial panel, the permanent secretary, Dr Magdalene Ajani, had disclosed that while channel management contracts had been routinely awarded over the years by the NPA at a cost of between N50 billion and N60 billion on an annual basis, Minister Amaechi had adopted a firm position that the NPA should undertake the job of channel management on an in-house basis through the acquisition of the necessary machinery and professional capacity to stop the humongous annual sums paid out to dredging contractors by the agency.
But Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman in her sanctimonious garb would see no reason with the wise counsel as apparently there was unexplained interest in bids. Perhaps financial gratification?
Another hallucinatory tale of hers is in Chapter 12 of the book wherein she skewed the narrative of her decommissioning of BUA terminal at the Port Harcourt Port.
While she claims that it was for “safety concerns,” and the Authority did not seek to bring the judiciary to opprobrium owing to the pendency of an injunction against the NPA, the facts speak otherwise.It is gratifying to note that the Ministerial Panel saw through her conflicting stance.
While in one breathe she claims it was for safety concerns that prompted the decommissioning of the BUA terminal, on the other hand she denied violating the subsisting injunction. So, which is which?Having being tainted and struggling to rebrand herself, it is a sorry pass that Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman will indulge in fancy tales and twisting facts to be the heroine that, unfortunately, she is not.
*Akwanga writes from Lagos