The suspension of the Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala-Usman, clearly violates the government’s own procedure, The Eagle Online can authoritatively report.
On Thursday, presidential spokesperson, Malam Garba Shehu, announced Bala-Usman’s suspension, saying President Muhammadu Buhari had approved that she stepped aside pending conclusion of investigation into allegations against her and that Mohammed Koko would act in her stead.
According to Shehu, this followed the President’s approval of the recommendation of the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, to set up an administrative panel to investigate the management of the NPA headed by Bala-Usman.
The Minister had in a letter to the President dated March 4, 2021 noted that records submitted by the Budget Office of the Federation showed that the yearly remittance of operating surpluses by the NPA from 2016 to 2020 had been “far short of the amount due for actual remittance.”
Specifically, he noted that there had been an outstanding unremitted balance of N165,320,962,697.
He had “suggested” that the financial account of the NPA be investigated.
However, based on a circular issued from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, dated May 19, 2020, signed by Boss Mustapha, on: “Approved Disciplinary Procedure against Chief Executive Officers of Federal Government Parastatals, Agencies and Departments,” Bala-Usman’s summary suspension is clearly in the breach of laid down “streamlined procedure” approved by the President himself.
According to paragraph 3, sub-paragraph 1 of Mustapha’s circular, when there is an act that borders on serious misconduct against a Chief Executive Officer, the supervising Minister, through the Permanent Secretary, would refer the matter to the Governing Board of the agency for necessary action in accordance with the provisions of the Establishment Act and the principles of the guiding Chapters 3 and 16 of the Public Service Rules.
The board will then issue the affected chief executive a query requesting an explanation in line with its enabling law and chapters three and 16 of the Public Service Rules on discipline and government parastatals, and subsequently advise the minister of its findings and recommendations.
Sub-paragraph (iv) of the document stated further: “In the event that the governing board is the initiator of the report on the alleged serious misconduct, the minister on the advice of the permanent secretary ensures that sub-paragraphs (ii) and (iii) have been fully complied with, fully.”
None of these was complied with before the NPA chief executive was suspended.
Bala-Usman was said to have confirmed to some sources that she neither received a query nor was she communicated, directly, on her offence(s) before she was suspended.
However, in a memo addressed to the Chief of Staff to the President, Bala-Usman appeared to supply information on the purported outstanding unremitted surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account, referencing a letter (not directed to her, but which was brought to her notice) conveying the president’s approval for the Ministry of Transportation to audit the Agency’s accounts and its remittance to the CRF.
According to her, the figures provided by the Budget Office of the Federation as the Operating Surplus for the respective years on which basis the purported are derived the submission “of budgetary provision, not the actual amounts derived following the statutory audit of the Authority’s financial statements.”
For the 2017/2018 remittances, she said: “Audited Financial Statements of the Authority provides operating surpluses of N76.782 billion and N71.480 billion respectively…contrary to the sums of NN133.084 billion and NN88.79 arrived at from your office from the budgetary submission.
“In line with the template issued by the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, the accessible Operating Surplus of the Authority stands at N51.09 billion and N42.51 billion for 2017 and 2018 respectively.
“This amount will give rise to a remittance due to the CRF in the sum of NN40.873 and N34.065 billion representing 80 per cent of the surpluses for the year 2017 and 2018 respectively.
“Accordingly, the Authority consequently made a remittance of N42.415 billion and N33.969 for the years 2017 and 2018 respectively.”
For 2019-2020 remittances, Bala-Usman said the Authority has so far remitted N31.683 billion (for 2019), and N51.049 billion (2020), “while awaiting the audited of the financial statement to determine the final amount required for both 2019 and 2020 at which point the Authority will make the payment of the balance as required.”