Divided Positions on Real Reason Hadiza Bala Usman was Suspended from NPA
Was Hadiza Bala Usman suspended from her position as the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) because there were genuine allegations of missing funds under her watch or because she was critical of the governmnet of President Muhammadu Buhari’s seeming inability to resolve Nigeria’s security challenges?
Her suspension may be connected to the alleged non-remittance of about N165bn operating surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, according to the version in government circles.
A probe is underway to unravel the whereabouts of the alleged missing fund, which the government suspects may have been diverted.
The government is working under the assumption that the surplus was not remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund for two consecutive years under the leadership of Bala-Usman.
Nigerians have however questioned the reason why the embattled Bala-Usman was not interrogated about funds not remitted for two years, until when she took a critical swipe at the government’s seeming incapacity to handle security challenges in the country.
A total of about N73.61bn (N56.3bn in 2017 and N17.31bn in 2018) that were realised in the past two years were alleged not to have been remitted to the consolidated account, The PUNCH reported.
The mother ministry of the NPA, the Ministry of Transportation in May 4, 2021 wrote a letter to President Buhari to say that the NPA did not remit N165.32bn to the consolidated account from 2016 to 2020.
The ministry therefore called for a probe, and she was removed before she could say her part.
But the suspended NPA MD provided explanations afterwards.
The PUNCH cited a letter with reference MD/17/MF/VOL-XX/541, dated May 5, 2021 and addressed to the Chief of Staff to the President, wherein “Bala-Usman said the NPA was aware of Buhari’s approval for the Federal Ministry of Transportation to conduct an audit of the accounts of the NPA and its remittances to the CRF.
“The letter was entitled, “Re: Request for the record of remittance of operating surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Funds account by the Nigerian Ports Authority.”
“In the letter, she explained that the audited financial statements of the NPA provided operating surpluses in 2017 and 2018 that were contrary to what were arrived at by the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President.”
The letter was partly quoted: “Audited financial statements of the authority for the period 2017 and 2018 provides operating surpluses of N76.782bn and N71.480bn for 2017 and 2018 respectively as contrary to the sums of N133.084bn and N88.79bn arrived at by your office from the budgetary submission.”
The letter stated that the presidential approval for the audit of the NPA accounts arose from a correspondence between the Budget Office of the Federation and the Federal Ministry of Transportation where the budget office conveyed to the FMoT an observed shortfall of the authority’s remittances to the CFR.
The daily quoted her to have said, “We wish to state that the authority’s basis for arriving at the operating surplus on which basis the amount due for remittance to the CFR is guided by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 as amended.
“It is further based on the statutory mandate Part 1, S.3(1) (b) &(d) whereby the FRC issued a template for the computation of operating surplus for the purpose of calculating amount due for remittance to the CRF.
“Accordingly, the figures so provided by the Budget Office of the Federation as the operating surplus for the respective years on which basis they arrived at the shortfall are derived from submission of budgetary provision not the actual amounts derived following the statutory audit of the authority’s financial statements.”
She was further quoted to have said that in line with the template issued by the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, the accessible operating surplus of the authority stood at N51.09bn and N42.51bn for 2017 and 2018 respectively.
“This amount will give rise to a remittance due to the CFR in the sum of N40.873bn and N34.065bn representing 80 per cent of the surpluses for the year 2017 and 2018 respectively.
“Accordingly, the authority consequently made a remittance of N42.415bn and N33.969bn for the years 2017 and 2018 respectively for the full amount required as remittance for the period.”
On remittances for 2019-2020, the suspended MD said the audit of the 2019 financial statement had been completed and awaiting consideration of the authority’s board at which point the final figures for the 2019 operating surplus would be determined for consequent computation of the amount due for remittance to the CFR.
She noted that “… thus far, the authority has made a remittance of N31.683bn for the 2019 remittance. The sum of N51.049bn has also thus far been remitted for 2020, while awaiting the audited financial statement to determine the final amount required for both 2019 and 2020 at which point the authority will make the payment of the balance as required.”
She stated that based on the above, the authority wished to clarify that the computation of its remittances to the CFR were concluded from audited financial statements using the template forwarded to the authority from the Fiscal Responsibility Commission and not budgetary provision.
“The authority has remitted the full amount due to it to CFR for the periods 2017 and 2018 arising from the operating surplus derived from the audited financial statement for the period totaling N76.384bn as evidenced in attached treasury receipts,” she was said to have explained, adding that, “The authority has remitted a total of N 82.687bn for the periods 2019 and 2020 pending the audit of the financial statement at which point the amount so computed arising from the value of the operating surplus in the audited financial statement will be remitted to the CFR.”
She was said to have requested the Chief of Staff and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation who were the statutorily custodian of status of payment to the CRF to provide clarification on the above so as to establish the true position of the authority’s remittances to the CFR.
There have been suspicions that Bala-Usman was suspended for reasons other than non remittance of funds.
The suspended MD, on the 27th day of February, 2021, lamented the state of insecurity in Nigeria in a tweet.
She wrote that: “The state of insecurity in the country that has led to the kidnap of Kagara buys and Zamfara girls need to be addressed URGENTLY… We can’t go on like this! Rescue our children and Secure our country that’s all we ask.”
Replying to her in a manner that has now been identified by Nigerians as ‘prophetic’, a certain Simeon of Lagos cautioned the MD to be careful of the consequences of her critical jabs at the government she was serving.
He tweeted his reply in Pidgin English: “Dem go soon sack you as MD of NPA now…. You better behave yourself.”
Sani Dan Malam from Katsina State sent an e-mail to Nigerian Sketch to say that “Non remittance of funds is commonplace under this government. There have been open allegations of corruptions which the administration has refused to act upon.”
A current affairs analyst, Bala Ibrahim, also wrote in an article that “… if indeed Hadiza Bala was under investigation, why was her tenure renewed for another five years, few months ago, only for it to be terminated shortly, and followed by the setting up of an Administrative Panel of Inquiry to investigate the entire Management of the Authority?
“It may interest the President to know that, a cliche that may ridicule his anti-corruption posture and the pledge of, “I am for none, I am for all” is currently circulating on whatsapp, where mention is being made of an embarrassing NPDC oil deal, to the tune of $7m, allegedly involving his P.A., Sabiu Tunde, Hajiya Yusuf Magaji Bichi, wife of the DG, DSS, and oil minister Timipre Sylva. The storm is building momentum within the Itsekiri community of the south south.”