BY BRIDGET EDOKWE
Suspended Nigeria Ports Authority Manager, Hadiza Bala, was involved in a clandestine ploy to shortchange a company in favour of Africa’s richest, Aliko Dangote, documents obtained by SaharaReporters have revealed.
Last year, some coastline terminals, formerly operated by Integrated Logistics Services’ (INTELs) in Onne ports complex, Rivers State, were confiscated and subsequently awarded to Dangote through a proxy company, International Container Terminal Services (ICTS) Nigeria limited.
Onne Port Complex is one of the largest Oil and Gas Free Zone in Africa, where major industry players from the exploration up to the completion phases operate.
The complex has two major terminals: the Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT) and Federal Lighter Terminal (FLT).
For over a decade, INTELs Nigeria, partly owned by former Vice president, Atiku Abubakar, operated some berths at the Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT) of the complex, providing logistics services until 2020.
The three berths of FOT numbered 9, 10 and were taken over by the NPA in a controversial manner, which many thought was a move by President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration move to witch-hunt Abubakar, his opponent in the 2019 election and break the company’s monopoly.
The NPA, in September 2020, issued a notice announcing that the service operation handled by the Integrated Logistics Services (Intels) Nigeria had been terminated.
It further states that all Service Boats Owners and Operators are to do transactions directly in each of the Port Complex of the Nigerian Ports Authority.
Meanwhile, a memo released to the press, seen by SaharaReporters, showed that Usman had transferred the berths confiscated from INTELs to ICTSI, a proxy company traced to Dangote, five months earlier.
The leaked memo, dated May 13, was signed by Yusuf Ahmed, NPA’s Director of Lands & Asset Admin, on behalf of Usman.
“Please refer to the lease of land and berths 9, 10 and 11 granted to you at FOT Onne and find attached herewith the draft Lease Agreement for a review of its possible contents before the final copy is produced for execution,” the letter addressed to the managing director of ICTSI.
Ahmed urged the company to send their comments for consideration.
“A registered surveyor will be appointed to produce the survey plan of the property to incorporation in the Lease Agreement and you will be required to see the surveyors fees,” it further read.
This was not Usman’s first time dealing with Dangote as money transfers between the duo dates back to 2015.
A Nigerian newspaper, Peoples Gazette, had previously reported how Dangote transferred N200 million to a bank account run by Usman during the build-up of the 2015 general election.
The transactions were sent in two tranches from two different bank accounts of Africa’s richest man to Ms Bala Usman’s account with Access Bank, the newspaper reported.
“Ms. Bala Usman received the first N100 million transfer on February 6, 2015, while the second N100 million came through three days later on February 9. The transfers carried ambiguous descriptions that made it difficult to conclude their purpose.”
Ms Bala was recently instructed to step aside for an independent investigation into a series of allegations of impropriety.
Nigeria’s transport minister, Rotimi Amaechi, also alleged that the yearly remittance of operating surpluses by the regulatory body from 2016 to 2020 was short of the amount due for actual remittance — a claim, which according to him, should be investigated.
On Thursday, no reason was given for the suspension of Usman, who was reappointed for another five-year tenure recently.
She was first appointed as the Managing Director of NPA in 2016.
According to a release by President’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, President Buhari approved the recommendation of the Ministry of Transportation for the setting up of an Administrative Panel of Inquiry to investigate the Management of NPA.
“The President has also approved that the Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman, to step aside while the investigation is carried out. Mr Mohammed Koko will act in that position. The panel is to be headed by the Director, Maritime Services of the Ministry, while the Deputy Director, Legal of the same ministry, will serve as Secretary. The Minister will appoint other panel members,” Shehu had said in the release.
While details of some of the other allegations against Usman remain unclear, sources said acts of favouritism were part. (SaharaReporters)