Reactions have continued to trail the suspension of the embattled Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Hadiza Bala Usman with the Women in Maritime Africa, Nigeria (WIMAFRICA) and Women in Logistics and Transport (WILAT) describing the suspension as sudden and lacking due process.
Usman was suspended last week Thursday over alleged financial theft at the agency. President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the suspension on the recommendations of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, to allow for an independent audit of the accounts and remittance of the NPA.
According to details of the letter sent to President Buhari by Amaechi, the yearly remittance of operating surpluses by the NPA from 2016 to 2020 was “far short of the amount due for actual remittance.”
In the letter dated March 4, 2021, Amaechi said within the stipulated years, the NPA recorded an outstanding unremitted balance of N165billion (N165, 320,962,697).
But in response to the allegations, Usman argued that the basis for arriving at the operating surplus of the NPA, upon which the budget office calculated the amount due as remittances to the federation account was flawed and not in tune with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
She said the figures provided by the budget office as the operating surplus for 2017 and 2018 were higher than the actual figures derived from the NPA’s audited financial statements.
Speaking in a separate interview with MARITIMETODAY ONLINE, the groups, while calling for a thorough investigation into the allegations levelled against Usman, urged the panel to ensure fair hearing and justice in the matter.
President, Women in Maritime Africa, Nigeria (WIMAFRICA), Bola Muse, said the group is solidly behind Usman owing to the strategic reforms she has put in place to enhance efficiency at the nation’s port in the past five years of her administration.
“This is a fight for all the women because Hadza Bala Usman has done a lot not just for the women folks in the maritime industry but she has turned around the port for high efficiency. This is the time for us to stand by her. As the President in Women in Maritime Africa, we stand for justice and peace.
“We want the right people to be in the panel because the Transport Ministry cannot be the judge and the jury in this matter. The issue brought forward by the Transport Ministry is only an allegation, it has not been proven, and so we need to give her fair hearing. We need to wait for the report of the panel on inquiry set up to carry out the investigation but I believe she will be vindicated. I believe she will be reinstated back to her seat,” she said.
On her part, President, WILAT, Mrs. Folake George, said Usman’s suspension, which according to her did not follow due process, will cause a setback to the advocacy for women inclusion in the maritime industry.
“We are solidly behind Hadiza because we found out that the suspension did not take due process. We have few women in the industry so I don’t know why they want her out. It will be a major setback for the industry. We are not trying to be confrontational with the government in any way but we are advocating for fair hearing.
“We are waiting to see those who will make up the panel. We are in solidarity with her knowing her pedigree as a woman of integrity. Until proven otherwise, we don’t want to believe all the allegations,” she said.