At first, I took Ikechukwu Amaechi, author of the piece “NPA and Hadiza Bala Usman’s Puerile Tales,” as a relative of former Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi.
Blood and affinity seem to colour the eyes of people, jaundice their perception, and make them turn issues on their heads. And if Mr. Amaechi, the writer, was related to the former minister, one could attribute his attempt to muddle up issues to bias. I was disappointed to realise that Amaechi, the writer, is a journalist of many years standing.
This is because a journalist is supposed to know better. Not only should objectivity be the watchword of anyone worthy of the tag “watchdog of society,” but journalists are also expected to gird their every word with the belt of truth.
American businessman and politician, Phineas Taylor Barnum was once interviewed by a woman who told him that she was writing a book and that it would contain something disagreeable about him. “No matter, madam,” was his reply, “say anything you like about me, but spell my name right — P. T. B-a-r-n-u-m, P. T. Barnum —and I’ll be pleased anyway.” The blackmailer retired in confusion.
Amaechi can write anything to defend his friend or whatever, but he should at least get his facts right. The starting point is for him to read Bala Usman’s book, after which he can now go ahead and arrive at informed conclusions. With this piece, he ended up embarrassing himself by commenting on a matter he does not know anything about.
Had Mr. Amaechi read Bala Usman’s “Stepping on Toes,” he would realise that facts about the emergency purchase of 28 new operational vehicles in the sum of N1,277,669,183.95, which he related to readers like some out-of-the-world scoop, were discussed by the author. As a matter of fact, Bala Usman did not just list the items of the query issued to her by the Federal Ministry of Transportation; she published the entire document and her response to it as appendices.
Pages 167–170 of the book reveal the following:
UNILATERAL AND IMPROPER USE OF THE EMERGENCY PROCUREMENT MODE TO PROCURE VEHICLES
That you acted in flagrant breach of the Public Procurement Act and Extant Procurement Regulations and Guidelines binding on the Federal Government entities when you embarked on the emergency procurement (purportedly under Section 43 of the PPA) of twenty-eight new operational vehicles in the sum of One Billion, Two Hundred and Seventy Seven Million, Six Hundred and Sixty Nine Thousand, One Hundred and Eighty Three Naira Ninety Five Kobo (N1,277,669,183.95 only) as a result of the destruction of the NPA’s asset during the #EndSARS protest. When you were aware that the said sum of N1,277,669,183.95 was above the threshold of NPA’s procurement powers and should have been approved by the Federal Executive Council. This is unbecoming of a public officer.
…the Authority decided to embark on replacement of the vehicles through emergency procurement, which was the best, ideal, and legitimate option in the circumstance.
This procurement type was conducted in line with Sections 43 (1) (a), (2), (3) and (4) of Public Procurement Act 2007 (PPA) cited hereunder: 43 – (1) “A procuring entity may, for the purpose of this Act, carry out emergency procurement where:
(a) The country is either seriously threatened by or actually confronted with a disaster, catastrophe, war, insurrection, or act of God;”
(2) In an emergency situation, a procuring entity may engage in direct contracting of goods, works, and services.
(3) All procurements made under emergencies shall be handled with expedition but along principles of accountability, due consideration being given to the gravity of each emergency.
(4) Immediately after the cessation of the situation warranting any emergency procurement, the procuring entity shall file a detailed report thereof with the Bureau, which shall verify same and, if appropriate, issue a Certificate of “No Objection”.
You may wish to note that under emergency procurement, as stipulated in Sections 43 – 1, 2 , 3 and 4 of the PPA cited above, the procuring entity are advised to proceed expeditiously with the execution of the emergency procurement and thereafter file a detailed report to the Bureau of Public Procurement for verification, and if appropriate, will issue a Certificate of “No Objection”. From the foregoing, it is obvious that the vicious act of #EndSARS protesters at the Authority was a disaster and catastrophe. The resultant effect disrupted the activities of the Authority vis-à-vis loss of revenue generation. The decision to embark on emergency procurement was to facilitate quick replacement of the burnt operational vehicles to halt further loss in revenue generation to government.
The Authority complied strictly with the provisions of the PPA cited above and carried out the emergency procurement of the vehicles successfully. Immediately the vehicles were delivered, the Authority, vide letter to the Federal Ministry of Transportation dated April 14, 2021, filed a report of the procurement to be conveyed to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) for issuance of Certificate of “No Objection” for regularisation of the emergency procurement.
The BPP considered the Authority’s report vide letter Ref. No. BPP/ RPT/21/Vol.I/113 dated July 12, 2021 (copy attached as annexure 8B for ease of reference) and granted provisional Due Process Certificate of “No Objection” to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for the Ratification of Emergency Procurement of Twenty-Eight (28) Operational Vehicles at the total sum of N1,224,669,183.95 inclusive of all taxes in favour of Messrs. Globe Motors Holding Nigeria Limited in Report No. BPP/DPR/SP/ REPORT/2021/068 (attached as annexure 8C). The approval was granted subject to when NPA forwards the under-listed documents:
a) A copy of its 2020 approved budget, which made provision for the sum of N850,000,000 for Motor Vehicles.
b) A copy of approval for virement of a sum of N1,000,000,000.00 with Ref. No: NASS/JC/VIRE/2020/2/VOLII dated 1st December, 2020.
c) Evidence of indemnification of the lost/burnt vehicles from the Insurance Company to enable the Bureau take an informed decision
d) Due Diligence Report carried out on Messrs. Globe Motors Holding Nigeria Limited
It is instructive to note that the BPP, on page 9, Item 3.6.6 of their Due Process Review Report No. BPP/DPR/SP/REPORT/2021/068 dated July 12, 2021, affirmed that the Authority’s decision/emergency procurement is in line with the provisions of PPA 2007.
The Provisional Due Process Certificate of “No Objection” was conveyed to the Authority vide FMoT’s letter Ref. No. TPROC/NPA/P/C/895/ Vol.I/244 dated 6th October, 2021, attached herein as annexure 8D. The Authority has forwarded the document/ information requested to the Federal Ministry of Transportation for onward submission to the Bureau of Public Procurement to enable conclusion of the reviews vide a letter to the FMoT Ref. No. MD/10/FMT/VOL.XX/1222 dated 30th November, 2021 (attached herein as Annexure 8E).
From all the foregoing, it is obvious that this is in line with Sections 43 (1) (a), 2, 3 and 4 of the same Act. For clarity, and as stipulated in Sections 43 (1-4) of the PPA, the issue of approval threshold is not applicable under emergency procurement. The principle/procedure of the PPA is that, as soon as a situation of emergency is determined (because time is of essence), the procuring entity are to proceed expeditiously for the execution of such emergency procurement without any delay.
As a matter of fact, all the so-called weighty allegations Mr. Amaechi referenced in his article were reported in the book. This included: “disregard of ministerial directives in respect of the Bonny/Port Harcourt and Lagos Port Channel Management Contracts; Unlawful procurement of the operation of Truck Transit Park, TTP, for port-bound Trucks (E-Call Up); Unilateral execution of a Supplemental Agreement in respect of the Lekki Deep Sea Port Concession Project; Waivers, rebates, and tariffs to commercial operators granted by NPA without requisite approvals; Lease of Koko Port to Messrs Creek Shore Jetty and Terminal Limited without due process, among others.” Explanations for every point raised here can be found on pages 157 through 179 of the book. This is the level of transparency that I personally find in this rare effort at documenting public service experiences. She has rendered her own account to the public, and anyone, including former Minister Amaechi, is welcome to enrich Nigeria’s public service history by documenting their experience. This would put public servants on notice and reduce the level of impunity in the country.
However, the most important point of the book is that after eight months of work, the Administrative Panel of Inquiry set up by the minister could not establish the alleged non-remittance of N165 billion, which was the basis for which he sought the President’s approval for the former Managing Director to step aside from office. This deception is a critical point that people like Amaechi, who think everything is about scrambling for office, fail to realise.
Mr. Amaechi wrote this: “the last straw was the evidence that Mohammed Bello-Koko, in the few months he acted as NPA MD before his appointment was confirmed, remitted more money to the Federation Account than Hadiza did in four years.”
One wonders if this was well thought out. Is he under the illusion that without Minister Amaechi straddling Bello-Koko on his back and protecting him like a lackey, the Executive Director, Finance, and Administration in an agency like the NPA would be oblivious to any alleged infraction a Managing Director may have committed? Does it also occur to Amaechi that the fruits that the current Managing Director has reaped during the period he mentioned might have resulted from seeds sown in the days of the former Managing Director? What magic wand did he have during his tenure as Director of Finance that he couldn’t introduce?
Rather than read the book and thereafter present facts contrary to what the author suggests, this senior journalist has relied on snippets from newspaper reports and stories he apparently heard from his friend’s sitting room to draw conclusions. He in fact declared in his article that: “Hadiza grossly mismanaged the NPA in the same way other sacred cows from her neck of the woods are mismanaging other national assets without any consequences.” To imagine that a man of Amaechi’s status will pass this sort of judgement without a court of law having sat and found anyone guilty is, to say the least, a shame! Amaechi falls into the same trap of a single story that he rejected in his article.
On the issue of birthday gifts that he and people like him have made into a sing-song, Amaechi would do well to know that this remains a fringe issue that was mentioned in passing in the book.
After reading the book at the Saturday event, which I was privileged to have attended, Bala Usman explained that she included the point in her book because these expectations have become part of the public service culture in Nigeria.
I do not think anyone can contradict the point. On the birthdays and anniversaries of public office holders, sycophantic celebrations take over offices and the airwaves. Millions of Naira, arguably public funds, go into newspaper advertisements and other self-serving gestures. Public office holders are now gripped by an entitlement mentality, which makes them expect and hold people who don’t patronise them as selfish, disrespectful, or disloyal. She made the point that this tradition has become so entrenched that many people, including Mr. Amaechi, may see nothing wrong with it. Having it in the book was to remind us all that birthdays are private events for which you should only accept patronage from your friends and family, and this does not end with Amaechi. If it happened at all, the fact that Bala Usman allegedly bought a present that the former minister rejected begs the issue. The important point is, did he complain about this? If yes, does that have anything to do with the efficiency and effectiveness of the former Managing Director of the NPA or any other public officer, for that matter?
When Amaechi, the journalist, wants to defend things like this, he should remember the future of his children. We need a country where things are done transparently and orderly. This is the only way Nigeria can be a better place for all. Rushing to justify perfidy is exactly what we don’t need in the country we dream of. Amaechi let himself down on that score. But he can still retrace his steps by getting a copy of the book and taking time out of his busy schedule to get a little bit of education on the rot crippling Nigeria’s progress. Attacking Hadiza Bala Usman will please his bosom friend, but it will not solve any problem.
Sodiq wrote in from Abuja