A former board member of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Binta Garba, has accused the suspended NPA managing director, Hadiza Usman, of mismanaging the agency’s finances.
Ms Masi, a former senator who represented Adamawa North Senatorial District between 2015 and 2019, claimed in a statement Sunday said she was unjustly removed as a NPA board member after she raised concerns about the discrepancies.
Ms Usman has denied the allegations, calling them “spurious and improved”.
“Apart from the fact that Senator Binta Garba really said nothing substantial, making only spurious, unproved allegations in the statement she issued on Sunday, she also gave herself away as coming to the board of the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) to lend herself to the agency of destabilisation rather than contribute to its development,” she said.
Ms Usman was suspended last week by President Muhammadu Buhari based on a request from the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
The minister clashed with Ms Usman over contracts and alleged the NPA failed to make due payments to the federation account.
The president has authorised an independent audit of the accounts and remittances of the agency.
In her statement, Ms Garba said, “I noted discrepancies, I raised observations, I asked questions but I was completely ignored and disregarded. Answers were never provided, until my removal was plotted.”
She accused Ms Usman of removing some board members board without the permission of the supervising ministry.
“I was appointed into the board of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) sometime in March 2020. In January 2021, Sen. John Akpanudoedehe and I were removed from the board and our removal was clearly orchestrated by the now suspended Managing Director (MD) of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman,” she said.
“Before my removal, I was not comfortable with the way the board and authority were run. I consistently expressed my discomfort and displeasure with the way the MD was running the place and this, I have no iota of doubt in my mind (this) made her to orchestrate my removal from the board. Note, I was removed without the knowledge of the supervising ministry/Minister of Transportation, which was very uncommon.”
She said her observations were more about the financial statements of NPA, and that she worried that if Ms Usman continued that way, “there would certainly be trouble and her sudden removal would be inevitable.”
She said, “scrutinising the financial reports of the NPA is a very critical and very important aspect of my role and function as a member of its board, appointed by the president. I was not ready to abdicate that core responsibility. For me, my board membership of NPA, like every other public office I have held, was a call to serve my country and I was prepared to give it my all. But the suspended MD felt offended by my observations, questions, spotting obvious inconsistencies and acted like someone with a lot to hide. Answers were not forthcoming and, when they did, were less than satisfactory.”
According to Ms Garba, she approached Mr Amaechi as she was no longer interested in being on the agency’s board.
“Instead of making amends, the suspended MD’s next move was to go against the NPA Act by designing my removal from the board,” she alleged.
But Ms Usman in a statement on Monday said since 2016, the NPA has been transparent with all its activities. She mentioned steps taken by the agency to show its readiness for accountability.
She listed some of those steps as, “Signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Budgit Open Budget System Platform and Implementation of a Public Data Dissemination programme. Publishing the tariff regime of the Authority on the website for the whole world to see in line with the vision of transparency and accountability. Conducting the statutory Audit of the backlog of Authority’s financial statements for 2013-2016 and presenting same for approval and submission to the appropriate quarters.”
Others are, “Engaging international renowned auditing firms for the audit of NPA’s financial statements up until 2019 with full compliance to all Nigerian laws and the International Financial Reporting Standards. The 2020 financial statement is currently being audited.
“Engaging international renowned auditing firms for the audit of NPA’s financial statements up until 2019 with full compliance to all Nigerian laws and the International Financial Reporting Standards. The 2020 financial statement is currently being audited.”
Ms Usman said: “When the Auditors presented the financial statement to the finance committee of which she was a member, did she seek clarifications on areas that seemed opaqued or suspicious? If she did what happened? If she was not satisfied with the answers provided by the Auditors, why did she not consider withholding assent to the statement? Why did she not formally document her discontent? Why did she not issue a minority opinion on the statement, instead of now speaking after the fact?”
“All said and done, while I concede to Senator Binta Garba’s right to whatever opinion she desires concerning our relationship when she was a board member, I remind her that those who allow themselves to be used to malign innocent people have their own days of reckoning waiting for them,” she said.
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