An 11-man ,panel of inquiry will probe the activities of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) between 2016 to 2021 under suspended Managing Director Hadiza Bala-Usman.
The MD was suspended on Thursday for various infractions, including failure to remit surpluses to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Minister of Transportation Chibuike Amaechi inaugurated the panel headed by Mr. Suleiman Auwalu, the director of maritime service of the ministry.
The other members are: Ben Omogo, Director Organisation Design and Development (OHCSF); Dr. Hussaini Adamu, Director Procurement; Mrs. Mercy Ilori , Director, Transport Planning Coordination; Mr. Muhiy-deen Awwal, Director, Human Resources Management; Mrs Blessing Azorbo, Director Legal (OHCSF); Mohammed K. Usma, Director Finance and Accounting (OHCSF); Mohammed Lawal Garba, Director Audit (OHSCF); Mrs Rose Olaniyi, Deputy Director, Administration (OHACF); Dauda Ismail, Assistant Director, Procurement (OHSCF); and 11. Mr. Gabriel Fan, Deputy Director, Legal Services.
Six of the members, including the co-chair, are those nominated by the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF), which according to Amaechi, is to allow fairness for the suspended MD, who he added, had not been declared guilty.
He said since about N1.5 trillion is involved in the investigation, adding that the panel does not have a time limit.
He pleaded with members of the public to allow him and the Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki to do their job.
He listed the terms of reference of the panel as follows:
*Examine and investigate the administrative policies and strategies adopted by the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority and confirm compliance with extant laws and rules from 2016 till date.
*Examine and investigate the administrative policies and strategies adopted by the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority and confirm compliance with extant laws and rules from 2016 to date.
*Examine and investigate Issues leading to the termination of pilotage and other contracts of Nigerian Ports Authority and confirm compliance with the terms of the respective contracts, court rulings and Presidential directives.
*Examine and investigate compliance with the communication channel as obtained in the Public Service.
*Examine and investigate the procurement of contracts from 2016 to date.
*Come up with suggestions and advice that would strengthen the operations of Nigerian Ports Authority and forestall such occurrences in future if any and any other matter that may be necessary in the course of the assignment.
Amaechi said: “Actually, this is in discharge of our responsibility as Ministers of Transportation and I don’t see why anybody is complaining. What is wrong if we look at what is happening in NPA? I don’t see what is wrong in that.
“As the Minister of Transportation for four years, I hardly know what is happening in NPA and I want to know now. And the president agreed with me that it is my responsibility as the Minister of Transportation to enquire what is going on.”
Amaechi said he took the right step by asking the Auditor-General of the Federation to conduct an audit of NPA, but he declined despite the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He added: “Nobody should forget that we had asked the Auditor-General of the Federation to allow us do an audit and he declined. Despite the approval of the president, he declined.
“In declining the approval of the president, we had no choice than to do proper enquiry and it worries me that people are saying that we should not enquire.”
Amaechi asked the panel to be diligent, thorough and fair to all in its assignment.
He said if infractions are traced to him, he will be glad to appear before the panel.
He said: “Nobody has been indicted. It is just that we are saying can we know what is going on in NPA. That is the question. I won’t want to go outside that so that nobody says by my speech, you are influenced.
“We want to enquire what the procurement process is. If everything is right, why do we have to bother at the end of the day? So, when you complete your assignment, we would be glad to pass on the report to the president.
“But, don’t forget your assignment includes the fact that you have to look at the procurement and the procurement processes from 2016 till date and that is why you don’t have a time limit because we really want to know.
“I think that NPA’s revenue has exceeded about a trillion naira in the past five years and I am going by the budget submission and the submission that was tendered before the budget office.
“So, if their budget in three to five years is about N300 billion annually, then, multiply it by five years. That would be nearly a trillion or slightly above a trillion Naira.”