Former Director-General, Nigeria Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala-Usman, has said efforts by stakeholders to intervene and resolve issues that led to her suspension from office proved abortive as the then Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, shunned all parties.
Recall that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), through his media aide, Garba Shehu, in May 2021, asked Bala-Usman to “step aside” to allow for investigation into allegations against her.
She said Amaechi orchestrated the process that led to her removal from office, adding that governors on the platform of the All Progressives Congress and the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali, made efforts to speak with him but he insisted on removing her as the NPA DG.
Bala-Usman who disclosed this in her recently launched memoir titled, ‘Stepping on toes’, also said the former minister took advantage of Buhari’s stance on financial misappropriation and convinced him (Buhari) to approve her suspension, describing the allegation as untrue.
She said, “It became evident that Amaechi only used the issue of remittances to convince the President to accede to my suspension, knowing how he reacts to allegations of financial misappropriation.
“In his utterances, the minister further justified his decision to probe the activities of the authority (NPA) and alleged as he had done on other occasions, that he knew nothing about the running of the NPA since 2016. This was one of the untruths about my service at the NPA.
“When people raised this issue, I told them to ask the minister if he did not present NPA’s requests for procurement approvals to the Federal Executive Council from 2016 to 2021 when I stepped aside.
“Interest groups and leaders of the All Progressives Congress also tried to intervene. I know for instance that governors elected on the platform of the APC, the Progressive Governors Forum, chaired by Governor Atiku Bagudu, deliberated on the issue of my suspension and constituted a committee to intervene.
“He (Amaechi) even tried to sway the governors’ resolve by suggesting that the budget of the NPA was bigger than most of their state budget so they shouldn’t bother about me. When the governors persisted, he told them that the matter was no longer just within his purview.
“He told another person who tried to intervene that I was so selfish that I did nothing for him from the NPA and never even gave him a birthday present!
“The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), also made efforts to resolve the issue by intervening at various levels.”
Speaking on why she refused to yield to Amaechi’s advice to resign, she said such is against the public service rules, adding that it would have presented her as guilty of the allegation.
She said, “I went to see him in Abuja. At the meeting, he was accused of writing directly to the President without recourse to the Ministry. He said he made the move because he wanted me to resign as he didn’t want me in the office anymore. He concluded by saying that I should resign or go to court. I told him I wasn’t going to do either, especially now that a probe panel was in place.
“The public service does not in fact accept resignations from staff under probe. I was convinced that doing either of the two would make me appear guilty. I told him that I would rather wait for the panel to complete its task and present their findings as I was sure that I had done nothing wrong.”