By Foster Obi
There are fresh concerns at the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria’s cash cow, that those after the job of Mohammed Bello Koko, the managing director of the agency may be fueling reports to denigrate him.
Inside sources said that such reports and revelations may get messier with time if Bello-Koko who is working hard to impress the President decides “to chop alone.”
An NPA staff who pleaded anonymity told a DFC News reporter, “I cannot tell you who is throwing the mud but I can tell you there are aggrieved insiders here who are working with outsiders to push the MD out.
“For instance there are those who are sidelined in the scheme of things who are ready to mess up things for him big time. The man should just watch it to avoid early exit,” he said, as he stared blankly into space.
Asked if he thinks that those loyal to the former sacked MD, Hadiza Bala Usman, may be part of the organised adversary, he said he does not rule out anything, but noted, “if they are, they may not have the blessing of Hadiza who though wrongly accused and sacked has already moved on and is playing active part in APC politics.
It must be recalled that Hadiza Bala Usman, the immediate past MD of NPA was suspended based on alleged superiority tussle and disrespect for the office of the former Minister of Transport, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi .
Her suspension was preceded by Amaechi’s correspondence to President Muhammadu Buhari, seeking her disengagement based on the allegation that remittances to the Federal Government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF), for the years 2016 to 2020, by the NPA, fell short by N165 billion.
He thus prayed the President for approval to institute an audit of the organisation for the four years under review.
An acting chief executive, Mohammed Bello Koko, who until Usman’s suspension was Executive Director, Finance and Administration in the organisation, was appointed in her stead.
Although Hadiza who was cleared of financial impropriety was still sacked, those loyal to her, who see Bello Koko as benefiting from their loss has not stopped licking their wounds.
Recently the Agency was rattled by a Pointblanknews report indicating that the NPA is defying federal government order on single treasury account.
According to the report, while reneging on order of the Federal government on matters relating to the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) is currently operating two secret foreign accounts where payments are made and the monies looted by the management and supervising minister.
It noted that these accounts are not known to the Federal government neither are the inflow declared or remitted to government coffers.
Findings by the news medium revealed that the accounts are plundered by the management and the supervising minister since it is not within the records of the Federal government.
“The two accounts are CITIBANK N.A. 111 WALL STREET, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10043 with ABA CODE 021000089 and another CITIBANK N. A. CANADA SQUARE, CANADA WHARF LONDON E145LB for NPA Service Boat Revenue Collection.
“In a memo exclusively sited by Pointblanknews.com, the management of NPA ordered that all payments for NPA Service Boat operations should be made to the accounts thereby consciously violating federal government’s directives.
“It is from these accounts that the former Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi allegedly drew funds with which he prosecuted his now extinguished presidential ambition.
“Again, the ex-minister is currently constructing a mansion with an underground at Ambassador Desmond Akawo Street, Guzape, Asokoro District, in the heart of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital with funds believed to have been proceeds from the plunder of these accounts”, the medium wrote.
Pointblanknews.com checks further reveal that NPA London office still collects budget for Nigeria National Shipping Line which does not exist anymore.
“A source close to the workings of NPA said “Port charges and other lucrative charges from NPA are kept in those account. They don’t go to TSA, it is not within the control of Govt. That is the account Transport Ministers, NPA MD used to move moneys, buy houses, shop. They appropriate whatever funds is there like a personal account in connivance with the Banks.
“Both Banks do not make the transactions going on in that accounts public. Annual filings of the Banks do not reflect incomes and expenditures made in those secret accounts. The NPA leadership keeps all transactions in that account secret.”
Another Source corroborated this, saying “it is the account Amaechi and his minion, the MD of NPA, Mohammed Koko, has been using to launder funds, purchase houses in UK. It is a secret account only known and operated by the NPA, the Banks, and Minister of Transport
” It is the account that allegedly funded Amaechi’s failed Presidential ambitions. The currently NPA boss uses the account to do deals for Amaechi. Only him and the Banks know the account and amount there,” the online news reported.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2015 forbade the operation of private accounts, ordering each and every Federal Government Ministry, Department or Agency to start paying into a Treasury Single Account (TSA) for all government revenues, incomes and other receipts.
Responding to the online media report, the NPA General Manager in charge of Corporate and Strategic Communication, Ibrahim Nasiru, said the false report was sponsored as the organisation operates in compliance with Federal Government’s directive on Treasury Single Account (TSA).
Nasiru said the agency’s two USD-denominated domiciliary accounts were approved by the Federal Government and are transparently run in accordance with agreed safeguards emplaced by the Office of the Accountant General through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
But while the dust is still settling, some critics are calling for the EFCC to investigate the NPA management over Illegal crude oil shipments on Nigerian waters leading to humongous loss of foreign echange to robbers by the country.
The critics argue that the Nigerian Ports Authority is charged with the responsibility of issuing clearance to allow vessels to berth at the Nigerian Ports terminals and Jetties after payment of port dues based on the size of the ships.
They also note that the NPA while scheduling the vessels for berthing, also collects port charges as revenue accruing to government.
The critics maintain that available evidence supports the accusation of conspiracy of silence amongst Ports Oil Gas and Shipping officials in the illegal shipments of oil on Nigerian waters that made it necessary for vessels to anchor in and out at will, especially as Nigeria is an oil producing country with expected heavy traffic of vessels and tankers.
Such scenario they argue raises questions on ships movement or deliberate ploy to cover up the collusion between its officials and importers.
The call for the port operations of the NPA to be investigated by the EFCC is to determine the extent to which regulatory officials are complicit in the classification of maritime areas for reception of Nigerian exports crude oil by tankers.
Recall that the Nigerian Navy recently arrested a supertanker with capacity for three million barrels of oil, about three times the one million barrels per day (bpd) currently being produced by Nigeria.
From reports, the capacity of the tanker points to the scale and scope of the theft of the precious resource commodity going on thereby denying the country of much needed foreign exchange.
The Nigerian Navy said that the ship in question had been seized in Equatorial Guinea after the 300,000 metric tonnes facility escaped from its forces.
The Nigerian economy has recently been badly hit by the inability of the government to generate dollar revenue from its main source, which is the export of crude oil.
Mohammed Bello-Koko has been the acting managing director of the NPA since the suspension of Hadiza Bala Usman in May 2021. He was made substantive MD in February this year.
Bello Koko is however not new to controversy. In 2021, as acting MD, he was named in the Pandora Papers, a trove of 11.9 million leaked confidential records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, as anonymously owning properties through offshore companies.
The Pandora Papers project was led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which Premium Times is a part of.
The Pandora Papers contain leaked files reportedly gotten from offshore service firms globally.
According to the expose by Pandora Papers, Bello-Koko, with his wife, Agatha Anne Koko, enlisted the services of financial secrecy seller, Cook Worldwide and Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal), an offshore law firm, to secretly register Coulwood Limited (reg. number: 1487897) and Marney Limited (reg. number: 1487944) in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), one of the world’s most commonly used tax havens, in 2008. Both companies were registered the same day, June 19, 2008.
The regulators in the BVI also had his companies under watch for suspected money laundering — a problem Alcogal reportedly helped him tackle with some misinformation provided to the regulators.
Using the two companies, Coulwood Limited and Marney Limited, tucked away offshore, Bello-Koko then anonymously acquired five London properties.
As a public servant, Bello-Koko had violated Nigeria’s Code of Conduct laws by failing to declare his assets abroad, particularly the five London properties.
During the period he acquired the shell companies and the first four UK properties, he was still in the private sector and therefore did not violate Nigerian law.
But one of the properties was said to have been acquired in May 2017 after he took up an appointment at the NPA. He was appointed executive director for finance and administration in 2016 and later acting MD in 2021.
The other four properties were acquired between 2009 and 2012, making Bello-Koko potentially exploit UK tax loopholes that allowed the owning of UK properties using so-called envelope structure, that is, anonymously owning properties through offshore companies.
Analysis of the investments showed that between 2008 and 2012, four years before Mr Bello-Koko joined the NPA, he had spent on four London properties a sum of £995,000, an equivalent of N293 million at 2015 exchange rate of N294 to a pound.
Reacting to the allegation in an interview with ThisDay, Bello-Koko said the properties were “purchased from income from my private business and mortgage loans from a bank in the UK, long before I was appointed to NPA”.
“Those companies are not trading companies. They are Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for the sole purpose of holding an investment, and they were created between 2006 and 2007.
“The property being claimed I purchased in 2017 was actually purchased off-plan in 2013, and completion was supposed to be in early 2016, but it was shifted to 2017, and by then, I was already working at NPA.”
FOSTER OBI is Editor, DFCnewsng.com
Picture: Mohammed Bello Koko, NPA MD