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Hadiza Bala Usman with Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi (right)

Hadiza Bala Usman struggling at the Nigerian Ports Authority

Hadiza Bala Usman, the new Managing Director (MD) of the Nigerian Ports Authorty (NPA) is said to be all at sea, struggling in a job that she seems inadequately prepared for.

Usman, who was one of the leaders of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaign for the return of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists, was appointed MD at the NPA in July.

The NPA is one of the biggest “cash cows” in the country, alongside other agencies such as the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigerian Customs Service, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), etc.

A source at the NPA told that Usman is like a fish out of water and is leaning on one or two senior colleagues to be able to carry out her role. And staff are noticing that she seriously needs help, with her increasing the workloads of her juniors due to her incapabilities.

Nothing in her previous experience readied her for such an exalted position in an agency that manages some of the country’s critical infrastructure. She first worked at the Centre for Democratic Development and Research Training (CEDDERT) an NGO in Zaria, Kaduna State as a research assistant. She then joined the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) as an Enterprise Officer. From the BPE she moved to the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTDA) working on “project implementation”. After this came another spell with an NGO – the Good Governance Group before she became Chief of Staff to the Kaduna State governor last year.

While nothing in this CV suggests capacity to be MD at the NPA, what Usman has is the “right connections” for advancement in a government that has taken cronyism to new levels.

She is the daughter of the late and influential radical historian Yusufu Bala Usman, who taught at Ahmadu Bello University for decades. While the father rebelled against the Fulani aristocracy in northern Nigeria, the Usmans are the ruling family in the Katsina emirate.

Her first job at CEDDERT was courtesy of the fact that her father founded the organisation. Hadiza is married to Tanimu Yakubu the former economic adviser to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua (who also came from Katsina State – as does current President Muhammadu Buhari). Yakubu is a crony of Nasir el-Rufai, the current governor of Kaduna State.

El-Rufai, as Director General of the BPE, recruited Hadiza Bala Usman in 2000. He also took her to the FCTDA when he became minister for the Federal Capital Territory. They were together again at the Good Governance Group before el-Rufai was (s)elected governor last year and made her Chief of Staff. El-Rufai is one of President Buhari’s closest advisers and recommended Usman for the MD position at the NPA.

She may not be a good fit for the job in terms of experience and it is showing, but her face fits in a climate that has plumbed new depths of cronyism.

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