Bala-Usman, Controversy trails suspension as stakeholders tackle Buhari

Bala Usman

Controversies have continued to trail last Thursday’s sacking of the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, as Federal Government insiders are expressing displeasure and concern over the process that led to her being axed three days ago.

Those miffed by the process said Usman was neither queried, officially communicated nor was she made aware of the allegations against her management prior to the action by President Muhammadu Buhari. According to them, the decision violated the government’s policy under an extant law that provides guidelines for suspension or sack of senior government functionaries.

For instance, maritime stakeholders while reacting to the presidential directive at the weekend said the news of the removal of Bala-Usman came as a shock to the industry.

They argued that the president should have followed due process in removing her, given the steady growth the industry was beginning to record.

In a memo dated March 4, 2021, he sent to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had alleged that the yearly remittance of operating surpluses by the NPA from 2016 to 2020 was “far short of the amount due for actual remittance.”

He further stated that within the stipulated years, the NPA recorded an outstanding unremitted balance of N165 billion. The minister then suggested that the financial account of the NPA be investigated and audited.

But acting on the letter and subsequent correspondences, the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari, ordered the suspended NPA MD to forward records of the agency’s remittance of operating surplus.

In her response via a letter dated May 5, 2021, a copy of which was obtained by Sunday Sun, Usman explained to Gambari that the purported failure of the NPA to remit an outstanding balance of N165.32 billion from 2017 to 2018 was a misrepresentation of facts.

Usman said that contrary to the figures given by the Budget Office as outstanding operating surplus, the NPA had remitted all that was due to the Consolidated Revenue of the Federation (CRF) as stipulated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007.

The embattled NPA MD faulted the net profit as listed by the Budget Office, insisting it was in excess of the actual amounts and that it was contrary to the template provided by the FRA 2007.

In a letter to the Ministry of Transportation, the Budget Office had said that the NPA’s operating surpluses were N133.084 billion and N88.79 billion for 2017 and 2018 respectively.

But on the contrary, Usman informed the presidency that the NPA had N76.782b as operating surplus for 2017 and N71.48 billion for 2018 in its financial statement prepared in line with the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Accordingly, she explained that the figures provided by the Budget Office as operating surplus for the respective years on which basis they arrived at the shortfall were derived from submission of budgetary provision and not the actual amounts derived following the statutory audit of the NPA’s financial statements.

“The Authority’s (NPA) computation of its remittances to the CRF are arising from numbers from audited financial statements using the template forwarded to the Authority from the Fiscal Responsibility Commission as herewith attached and not budgetary provision.

“The authority has remitted the full amount due to CFR for the periods of 2017 and 2018 arising from the operating surplus derived from the audited financial statement for the period totalling N76.384 billion as evidenced in attached treasury receipts.

“The Authority has remitted a total of N82.687 billion for the period 2019 and 2020 pending the audit of the financial statement at which point the amount so computed arising from the value of the operating surplus in the audited financial statement will be remitted to the CFR,” she added.