Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has said that he does not know when the panel set up by the Federal Government to investigate the accounts of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) from 2016 to date will conclude its assignment.
Speaking on a television programme monitored in Lagos, Amaechi said the erstwhile Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, was not suspended but asked to “step aside” pending the outcome of the probe.
He said, “I am not aware that Hadiza was suspended. What happened, I suspect, is that she was asked to step aside to enable investigation to be carried out on NPA, not on her.
“We are investigating NPA. At the conclusion of the investigation, all the reports will be forwarded to the President who would make a determination on the way forward.”
The Minister accused the media of creating “too much noise” on Bala Usman’s suspension.
“The panel is not headed between the ministry of transport and office of the head of service. The office of the head of service contributed six persons including auditors and accountants, and the ministry of transport just brought five.
“So it is a panel of 11 that has been instituted to investigate activities of NPA from 2016 till the present day.
“It is NPA that is under investigation. The Managing Director has just been asked to step aside pending the conclusion of the investigation. And when the investigation is concluded, the President will make a determination and decide what happens next,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari approved the suspension of the NPA Managing Director on May 5, 2021, following a recommendation by Amaechi.
According to the minister, the yearly remittances of operating surpluses by NPA from 2016 to 2020 under Bala Usman was far short of the amount due for actual remittance. The minister accused Bala Usman of disobeying disobeyed ministerial directives.
After Usman’s suspension, Amaechi inaugurated an 11-member investigative panel to probe NPA over all contracts awarded since 2016 when Usman became its Managing Director.
On the perennial traffic on the access roads to the ports in Lagos, Amaechi said, “I was in the train with the President on that day and noticed that everything had disappeared, even inside the port that looked like a market place was very well organized. No persons were found loitering about, no trucks. What it shows is that the problem of the seaport is the problem of efficiency.
“I was there the previous evening (last week) and when I came back in the morning, everything had disappeared. If that can happen in one night, it means that the problem is management, nothing else. Do we need to wait for the President to come before we can be efficient?
“What I have done was to have a meeting with the terminal operators, and I told them that they have to contribute to the reconstruction of the Apapa seaport.
“We must rebuild the Apapa seaport, taking into cognizance all the issues that we are seeing now that are frustrating the seaport, like where do you park the trucks, how many trucks are coming into the seaport at what point in time?
“How can a person come into the seaport who has no business being there? What is he doing at the seaport?
“The seaport is a security area and it is not for everybody. Even me, after my tenure as Minister, I’m not entitled to go into the seaport unless I have business there,” he said.
He pledged the readiness of the Ministry of Transportation to partner with the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Ports Authority to address the problem, adding that freighting of cargoes from the seaport through the rail, when it begins, will also help in arresting the situation.
“We are going to partner with Customs because they are largely involved. Between them and the NPA, they are the operators (or regulators) of the seaport, and see how to arrest this situation.
“I believe that when we begin to freight cargoes from the seaport through the rail, we will reduce some of the challenges that we have at the seaport,’ he said.