In 2016, Nigeria lost N1 trillion through The Nigerian Ports Authority due to corruption. Yes, N1 trillion was lost to corruption, which is closely linked to inefficiencies in the ports’ operations.
I observed with keen interest as one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s most efficient appointees, Madam Hadiza Bala Usman, the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, has brought great transformation to what can be described as one of Nigeria’s most redundant and corrupt government agencies.
The inception of Hadiza’s administration into the NPA, has ushered in a consistent barrage of achievements.
One of her biggest achievements so far was revealed earlier this year, when the NPA declared a total revenue of N299.56 billion for the 2017 fiscal year.
This feat will not be well comprehended without mentioning the fact that the NPA previously declared the sum of N154.50 billion in 2013, which later increased to N159.30 billion and N180.50 billion in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The agency’s revenue, however, dropped to N162.20 billion in 2016 which happens to be the year Hadiza Bala Usman was appointed as head of the agency.
This achievement once again reiterated the crucial mandate of Nigerian ports to generate revenues for the country.
The 2017 revenue generation feat can be traced to an increase in the revenues derived from traffic, harbours, administrative and other sources in the sums of N136.04 billion, N66.80 billion, N86.06 billion and N10.75 billion respectively.
However, the major trajectory for the steep hike in the 2017 revenue, in comparison to that of the previous year, cannot be over-emphasised. It can be said categorically that the anti-corruption disposition and actions taken by Madam Hadiza are majorly responsible for this hike, apart from other administrative expertise. Hadiza has shown exemplary leadership from the first day she assumed office at the NPA.
A major first step she took in achieving all she has, in retrospect, is the positioning of the Ports Authority As the first and only government agency to sign an open budget partnership with BudgIT, a civic organisation that applies technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement, and facilitate societal change.
By using an array of technological tools to simplify the budget and matters of public spending for citizens, NPA and BudgIT partnered with the primary aim of raising the standards of transparency and accountability in the agency’s operations.
This was one of many moves that birthed the anti-corruption crusade in the NPA, a government agency which a lot of Nigerians had given up on, due to the endemic nature of the corruption perpetuated in it by previous administrations.
Hadiza Bala Usman fully understood the weight of the assignment she was entrusted with and as such came in fully prepared. She hit the ground running, understanding the urgency with which the NPA needed to be revived, especially for a country struggling to exit a recession.
She mapped out her plans properly and never for once minced on them. She played her cards well and was able to get the much-needed support. She knew that if she was coming to the table of equity, she must show up with clean hands. Hence, the reason she threw open the doors of the NPA budget to the public, in order to allow for monitoring and tracking. Perhaps, also to show that the agency, under her administration, had nothing to hide from the public. That, for me, was a brazen move.
After the open budget partnership, Hadiza figured that there were so many concession agreements in the records of the NPA that violated due process and global best practices. So, she ran a comprehensive review of such agreements and then rightfully terminated them.
The drive to clean up the rot in the NPA led Hadiza Bala Usman to abort the joint venture with Calabar Channel Management Company over its non-compliance with the public procurement act as stipulated by the Bureau of Public Procurement.
As stipulated by the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government, Hadiza Bala Usman, in a well-calculated effort, directed the NPA towards adopting the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy. The policy was enacted to ensure that revenue generated by all government agencies across the country goes directly into the coffers of the government to plug leakages and conduit pipes for corrupt practices like embezzlement, misappropriation of public funds, etc.
After these anti-corruption structures had been put in place, Hadiza Bala Usman, through her determination to rid the NPA of all forms of corrupt practices, decided it was time to deal heads on with NPA officials who had been involved in corruption till that moment.
This led to the sack of about 20 officials who were in connection with the $20 million bribery scandal that rocked the NPA in 2017.
She is also known to have ordered the immediate removal of officials caught soliciting or receiving bribes from port users and disciplinary as well as criminal proceedings in line with extant laws and regulations.
In one of her recent interviews, Hadiza Bala Usman was asked what she does personally to check the corruption amongst members of her staff. She responded: “I turn around my things within 24 hours. Any payments that are not made, I go to the finance department to ask them where are your documents? Why have you not paid these people?”
That statement gives insight into a strong leadership trait. Mrs. Usman personally visits the finance department of the Nigerian Ports Authority to check on their operations. She does not leave the smooth running of the agency to chance.
Credited to her anti-corruption crusade, Hadiza Bala Usman discovered about N11.23 billion funds hidden in certain commercial banks through the collusion between the bank officials and some officials of the NPA.
Hadiza has started and would stop at nothing to ensure that she delivers on the assignment handed over to her by President Buhari.
I personally admire her courage and tenacity. Her commitment and steadfastness as depicted in the contract row with the powerful Intels, which is a huge lesson for every young Nigerian who aspires to holding public office.
She has dispensed her duty in a way and manner which is not only impressive but also compelling. If in just two years, NPA has experienced much reforms, it is only left to the imagination what is to come in the next few years.
Corruption was a clog in the wheels of development at the NPA. However, Hadiza Bala Usman is removing the clogs one after the other and the wheels of development are beginning to turn again.
Adeeko Ademola, @OmoGbajaBiamila, is a writer and digital content creator.