GUEST Column by Zayyad I. Muhammad
By Zayyad I. Muhammad
By 2020 the tenure of Hadiza Bala Usman, the Managing Director (MD) of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) will come to an end. It is either she gets re-appointed or someone else takes over from her. Nonetheless, the battle for who succeeds her has commenced.
The politics for NPA’s leadership is not new to both ordinary Nigerians and the political class. Today, the only difference is the Buhari administration, which tends to do things differently. Probably this time around, performance, competence and only little politics will play a role in the appointment of the new Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority.
It is certain Hadiza will want her tenure renewed and at the same time, there will be persons lobbying to take over from her. But there are questions that need to be answered. Has Hadiza Bala Usman performed excellently to deserve a renewal of her appointment? Are there other experienced Nigerians that can do better than her? Will the On-the-job experience and new approaches she introduced give her an edge over other persons?
In 2016, Hadiza’s appointment as Managing Director (MD) of Nigerian Port Authority generated some grumbles from few quarters- many people suggested that, Hadiza was appointed because of Rotimi Amaechi and Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s influence – and President Buhari will always give the duo whatever they wanted. This is 2020; the politics and high-wired power struggle of 2023 will have a degree of impact on the appointment of the new MD for NPA.
Whether Hadiza gets renewed or a new candidate is appointed, certain questions remain pertinent. What degree of politics should drive the appointment of the MD of NPA? Should merit be the sole factor in the appointment process?
Many observers have opined that the seaport governance in Nigeria should be free of politics and government interference. They say, in some nations, seaport systems are usually not in control of the central government. For example, the United States of America, where over 183 commercial deep sea ports along the US coast lines are administered by a decentralized port administration system. The port administration is shared across the three levels of government-federal, state and local and some of their board members are even elected.
The Chinese with 7 of the 10 biggest ports in the world by cargo also have port governance which also differs from the traditional landlord port system. For example, the Port of Shanghai in China is world largest in terms of cargo volume and it is managed by a public listed company, the Shanghai International Port, but Shanghai Municipal Government owns 44.23 percent stake.
A study by some experts and Port Economics found out that Chinese new geo-economic policies such as the ‘Go West’ strategy and the ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) initiative have triggered strategic and managerial implications on Chinese ports. Putting the findings of the study into the Nigerian context, has the Hadiza Bala-led NPA management effectively keyed-in into government policies in port governance.
Buhari is a thorough man and often unpredictable. Will Muhammadu Buhari president will reappoint Hadiza Bala Usman as MD of the NPA, when her tenure ends? Hadiza is an expert in development and research. She is ‘young’ and a goal-getter in a class of her own. Anyone who wants to replace her will contend with some of her achievements. Her saving of the SHIN’s fabrication and integration yard – $270 million was borrowed for the project, the stoppage of INTELS’ monopoly of oil and gas cargo and the compliance to TSA, the stoppage of the contract scam- SAA fees on the Calabar dredging, all these are notable Hadiza achievements. She has also sanctioned LADOL for violating the terms of the land lease at Tarkwa Bay, near Light House Beach in Lagos. The dismantling of the Secure Anchorage Area, operated by OMSL Limited on behalf of the Navy is also one of her good jobs. After just 6 months in office, she uncovered a N11.23 billion fraud at the maritime agency. Investigation exposed that some banks conniving with some officials hide monies collected as revenue in secret accounts instead of remitting same into the NPA’s Treasury Single Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria. Hadiza has blocked leakages and recovered unremitted revenues and debts running into billions of naira. She is the first female MD of the NPA. Has she done exceptionally to deserve a reappointment? The answer is everybody’s guess.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa state, firstname.lastname@example.org