Hadiza Bala-Usman and the Nigerian Calamity

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Ring True with Yemi Adebowale, Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; Tel: 08054699539 (text only)

Ring true

Phone number 08054699539
Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

Hadiza Bala-Usman assumed office in 2015 as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) with so much enthusiasm. She came with a reform agenda, largely, to block leakages of revenue and to stifle companies/contractors taking advantage of the NPA to line their pockets with money due to the federal government. Hadiza hit the ground running, tackling the big boys milking the country at the ports. It was as if for once, all revenues due to government at the ports would be realised and those exploiting the system would become history. But five years down the line, most of the steps taken by this young woman to block leakages have been successfully reversed by the powers that be in Abuja. Hadiza is obviously tired, but still hanging on for God knows what. Her brawls with our system present some of the contradictions that have kept our country paralysed. They exemplify the tragedy of the Nigerian nation.

Let’s look at the Secure Anchorage Area, created on the Nigerian high sea by a Nigerian private company since 2014 and provides security at a high cost in USD to vessels calling at the Lagos ports. Normally, the business of protecting ships on the sea and our territorial waters is largely that of the Nigerian Navy. This is backed by our laws. Over the years, the NPA assists the Navy with equipment to carry out this task. Unfortunately, the leadership of the Navy provides the services to the Hosa Wells Okunbo-led firm in charge of the so-called Secure Anchorage Area exploiting foreign ships heading to Lagos ports. Vessels purchased by the NPA for the Navy to secure our waterways are used to service the secure anchorage.

The SAA managers tell ship owners that they run the risk of being attacked by pirates if they don’t use the secure anchorage. Nigerian consumers are paying heavily for this. How? The cost of shipping goods to Nigeria increases with this extra security bill for ships, which is invariably passed on to the final consumers – Nigerians.

Hadiza moved against the cartel, declared the operation of the secure anchorage firm illegal and pressured the Navy to assume its responsibilities.

Unfortunately, nothing happened thereafter. The Navy snubbed her and refused to kick out Hosa Wells Okunbo, while the powers that be in Abuja refused to back Hadiza. Of course, one powerful cabal is running the show at the secure anchorage. Hosa Wells Okunbo is a key member of the ruling APC. He dines with any government in power. His conspirators, the Nigerian Navy leadership inclusive, are Nigerians above the laws of our land. This is why a private company can slice out a portion of our territorial waters and name it, “Secure Anchorage Area”, then, charge foreign vessels in USD for protection. It can only happen in Nigeria.

The big men in Abuja are not concerned about Nigeria’s security and the rising cost of shipping goods to Nigeria. For obvious reasons, those with statutory responsibility for the security of the country’s waterways – Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Marine Police, and the Nigerian Navy – are unperturbed by the activities of the secure anchorage firm.

Early this year, a frustrated NPA wrote to all Mariners in the Lagos Pilotage Area, warning against patronising the Hosa Wells Okunbo’s SAA. It states: “NPA is ensuring a safe NPA Lagos Anchorage (NPA LA) in the Lagos Pilotage District (LPD). The Secured Anchorage Area (SAA) whose Centre Point Coordinates 06° 17’30N/003° 12’00E and radius of 2.5NM is discontinued with immediate effect. NPA Lagos Anchorage (NPA LA) is now the only designated anchorage in the Lagos Pilotage District (LPD). Owners, Agents and charterers should ensure that the contents of the Lagos Pilotage District notices to Mariners are made known to their Masters and persons in-charge of their vessels and marine operations whilst within the jurisdiction of this Pilotage District.”

It is still business as usual at the SAA. As at press time, Hosa Wells Okunbo and the other schemers were still smiling to the banks with their US Dollars from the secure anchorage, while Nigerians are forced to pay more for goods shipped into the country. Vessels pay $2,500 for the first day at the anchorage and $1,500 for following days. Some stay as much as 30 days before exiting the anchorage. The talk about war against corruption does not apply here. What a country!

Hadiza’s NPA also moved to ensure that the federal government gets full value for its land at Tarkwa Bay, Lagos, by sanctioning Amy Jadesimi’s Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL) for allegedly violating the terms of the land leased to it in the area. LADOL is profiting at the expense of the federal government by sub-leasing 11.2 hectares of the total 121 hectares leased to it at huge amount without recourse to NPA. The firm is believed to have collected $45 million from Samsung Heavy Industries Nigeria Limited (SHIN) for the sub-leased land for which it paid $524,105 to the NPA.

The land lease was revoked by Hadiza and the firm was granted a fresh lease under new terms, excluding the 11.2 hectares that constitute the premises of the fabrication and integration yard of SHIN. The 11.2 hectares was then leased to SHIN at $219,700 annually. The powerful LADOL mounted pressure on the big boys in Abuja and Hadiza was told to step back. So, LADOL retains its deal with SHIN, and it is still beaming to the bank at the expense of Nigeria.

What about the Calabar Channel dredging contract scam? NPA paid $15 million to a company called Niger Global Ltd for the dredging of the Calabar Channel.

Hadiza came in and terminated the contract for non-compliance with due process and requested for a refund of $15 million payment made to the company for lack of evidence of dredging claimed. The firm is yet to make the refund and the promoters are walking free.

The termination of BUA Terminal lease agreement in Port Harcourt, over non-adherence to development plan, has also been tactically reversed. NPA moved against the terminal over health and safety issues. The owner of BUA pressed the Abuja button and Hadiza was asked to step back.

So, what happened to Hadiza and her reforms at NPA? What happened to all her moves to ensure that the federal government gets good returns from its ports and surrounding land? The NPA boss was simply swallowed by the big men in Abuja and some chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress. Hadiza was told to keep off Secure Anchorage, OMSL Limited, LADOL, Niger Global Ltd, BUA Terminal and the rest of them. At the NPA, the hypes about accountability and transparency by the Buhari government have been discarded. This is the tragedy of the Nigerian nation I have been talking about. For Hadiza, I am shocked that she is still parading herself as the Managing Director of the NPA. She ought to have resigned to make a statement. This is the only way we can build a new Nigeria.

Tales out of Kaduna State Heart-wrenching

Tales out of Kaduna State are heart-wrenching. This state has become a killing field, with the el-rufai-led government and security agents hardly showing any seriousness about ending the carnages. Photos and videos of these killings are traumatising. I could not sleep for days after being exposed to the story of how a lawyer with the state’s Ministry of Justice, Haro Gandu was slaughtered, while his wife and son were abducted from their resident in Chikun Local Government Area of the state. The gunmen broke into their home in the night and slaughtered him. It is the same narrative of ruthless killings virtually everywhere in Kaduna State, with Fulani militias invading communities, breaking into homes, killing, raping and abducting people. From Zango-Kataf to Kajuru, Kaura and Chikun local governments, the story is the same, with the killers still roaming freely.

The butcheries in Southern Kaduna are more pathetic, with so many communities flowing with blood of the innocent. The killings here have been going on for years, but were intensified under the el-rufai government. The last five years have been harrowing for the people of this area, with hundreds of their loved ones mauled to death. Women and children have not been spared. It’s a war between the natives and Fulani militias. This is the truth that must be told. Unfortunately, Governor el-rufai and security agents have compromised. Even with the so-called curfew imposed in two of the local government areas, killers still slip in with ease and murder people. It is so sad. This governor and security agents need to take dispassionate actions to curtail killings in Southern Kaduna in particular and the entire state in general. It was depressing listening to the Commander of Operation Safe Haven in Kaduna, Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, admitting that he has limited manpower to tackle the Southern Kaduna killings. Security agents must be proactive. They often wait for killings to happen before rushing to the area after the damage had been done. I suspect this is deliberate.

Governor el-rufai’s response to attacks by Fulani militias in the state is always predictable. He visits the community, laments the incessant killings and vows to tame the killers. The story ends there until there is another attack and he would repeat the same swagger. The killers are hardly apprehended. Back in March, he told a bewildered nation that the bandits had been wiped out by security agents. It was a subterfuge. It never happened. This governor has to go beyond swaggering to end the killings in his state. Above all, he has to be impartial, if he truly wants result.

Dogara’s Politics of Stomach Infrastructure

The immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, never ceases to amaze me. One moment, he is in the PDP. The next moment, he defects to the APC. Before you know it, Dogara is back in the PDP. This man is a very good example of jesters masquerading as politicians in Nigeria. For the likes of Dogara, there is nothing like principle or ideology in politics. It is just about their stomach and other personal interest. After stacking heaps of rubbish on the APC, Dogara has rejoined this same “rubbish” party and he thinks they will take him seriously. Yes, the same PDP Dogara told us was the only way forward for Nigeria in 2015 is now a beast. The APC he told us was bosh few years back is now the messiah. This is the usual treachery by Nigerian politicians for personal goals. Anybody that believes Dogara would believe anything.

Dogara wants us to believe that he dumped the PDP to join the APC because the mistakes the former administration in Bauchi State made were being repeated by the present administration of Governor Bala Mohammed. He claims the Bauchi governor has been mismanaging the resources of the state.

He queries: “What has happened to LGA allocations since May 2019? What happened to our campaign promise to conduct LGA election within six months of the PDP government? What happened to the N4.6bn loan taken from a bank and paid directly into a private company’s account? Why are we segmenting salaries and why is payment of salaries of state workers outsourced to a private firm as consultants? Why are contracts inflated, awarded and payment of mobilisation done in violation of extant rules on procurement?”

Yes, these are pertinent questions. If Dogara truly believes in the party, he would have used its machineries to get answers to these questions, and tackle the governor without defecting to APC. But there is more to Dogara’s defection than these unanswered questions. There are speculations that he is aiming to become Nigeria’s vice president in 2023. Some are even talking about Dogara contesting for President in 2023. He is a typical Nigerian politician. Let him continue wallowing in deceit.