On Thursday last week the Senate gave Hadiza Bala Usman, the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), four days to explain why 282 ships were allegedly “missing” from Nigeria’s ports.
Senator Hope Uzodinma, Chairman of the Senate’s Joint Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff and Marine Transport said: “The NPA is the custodian of the vessels; it received the cargoes and the terminal is theirs. We want to know under whose authority the cargoes were released.” Uzodinma added: “We are looking for these vessels. We have the date of arrival, the ports of discharge and manifest. Everything is with us but in information available to us, no money was collected by Customs, the NPA or any other person”.
The senator from Imo West threatened to charge Usman with financial crimes. Senate President Bukola Saraki was in similar combative mood while responding to Uzodinma’s charges: “We are determined to reverse these financial leakages to enable us to get the much-needed resources to fund our children’s education, healthcare and fix the potholes on our roads. I urge you not leave any stone unturned to ensure that we incrementally eliminate waste and corruption in the management of our resources.’’
However, the reality, as revealed to us by an NPA source, is that these legislooters are more interested in benefiting from corruption than in eliminating it. The senators allegedly asked the NPA boss to give them a percentage of their budget and top it up with a cut from the agency’s revenue from the sort of charges that vessels berthing at Nigerian ports are required to pay. As the NPA was stalling over the attempts to extort money from them, the Senate resorted to blackmail to show they meant business.
The source wasn’t quite sure at the time of writing whether Usman and her advisers would play ball. Another source said that Usman and her underlings, in cahoots with Rotimi Amaechi, the transport minister, have been hoovering money out of the NPA and laundering it abroad. This is all part of a wider programme of grand scale looting going on since President Muhammadu Buhari jetted off to treatment in London in May for a mystery ailment. The source claimed that senior figures in the administration are convinced that Buhari won’t be coming back to office and are stuffing their pockets in expectation of losing their jobs when a new president takes over.