The former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Hajia Hadeza Bala Usman has given insight into why she decided to write a book titled ‘Stepping on Toes’ which captured her Odyssey in office.

She presented the196-page book to detail some important events that defined her five-year leadership in office.

Despite replying to a query issued by the Ministry of Transport, Hadiza Usman was replaced as managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), without a definite response from the ministry or a formal indictment by its probe committee

Hajia Usman had been at loggerheads with the former Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, over sundry issues regarding the running of the agency. Mr Amaechi’s ministry supervised the NPA, alongside other sister agencies when held sway. 

The minister had alleged that the NPA recorded an outstanding unremitted balance of N165 billion (N165, 320, 962, 697), claiming that the financial account of the NPA be investigated and audited. 

The book further exposes “the elite capture of the Nigerian states and their struggle to retain strongholds matter what it takes.”

Hajia Usman, whose second term at the agency had just been approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in January 2021, was suspended and a committee was set up to probe her tenure.

Speaking on Saturday at a Reading and signing for a book titled; ‘Stepping on Toes’ She noted that the reason for writing the book was to preserve history and speak the truth because she is not one to be “cowered by the authority or people in the public sector”. 

“Some people actually don’t consider me a victim, they actually think I am the aggressor so there are two sides to this. Left for me it is about looking at the impunity that people in public service are fund of. If we shed light in this, it means that people in public service will be careful about how they behave when they are holding that office 

“Sometimes something like this happen to you and you leave the office and your hands are tied and you can not do anything, there is this shadow that is cast over you wherever you go, oh that is the judge that was removed, oh the MD of NPA that was removed because of N165b that was missing, so that is the shadow that you carry except when you feel you need to go otherwise by putting your own story out there. 

“In doing that you may be told, don’t do it, nobody will give you a job again. You know aggressive people will come after you. So this is the thin line you have to sort or fight for yourself. “What is it that is hurting you, will you go everywhere and they will be pointing finger at you, you know she is the one, the then MD of NPA, oh, I have written a book, there is an account of it go and and read it and then you will be able to clarify your own position on what it is that transpired. 

“So recognizing those and taking on, some of us are bolder and are able to take all the attack, some others will just go quietly, they will just explain to their extended family that they did not do it.

Hajia Usman responded to a poser by one Barrister Nasir’s poser on what she would do if opportunity is given to her whether she will ensure that the aggressor in the public service even political are brought to book even after they exit public office?

Barrister Nasir said

“As a lawyer I had a privilleged to fight some kind of injustice, one of them the recent one pertains to one of the judges that was recommended for dismissal by NJC, chief judge of Taraba State. 

“Up till now the injustice that happened to the client I represented could not be remedied because he had left the system and he could not be traced and he suppressed the judgement and the judgement till date could not be accessed.

Nasir had wanted to know if Hajia Usman is given the opportunity in the near future whether she will ensure that an institution of government is set up to ensure that justice is met on the victims of this kind of illegality.

Another person in the audience Abubakar Hussaini expressed his displappointment with President Nuhammadu Buhari who did not do anything to ensure justice was done

He averted that there are lessons for everyone in the book:

“You could clearly see flagrant abuse of procedure and above the law posture of top political office holders:

“Same directive and counter directive issued on Calabar dredging by successive govts as if we have no shame in this country.

“The Secretary to the Government of the Federation has issued a circular on suspension of CEO of government agencies, but in the case of Hadiza Usman, the minister flouted this circular by writing directly to the president and even dictating to the personnel in the presidency on  particular channel of communication he wanted for the memo.

“The president intervened with the NPA boss to correct certain anomalies in the board composition but still allowed himself to be misled in suspending her later, without due regard to established procedure. These are the lessons for aspiring leaders.

The book further exposes “the elite capture of the Nigerian states and their struggle to retain strongholds matter what it takes.

She cited an instance where President Muhammadu Buhari approved the reversal of the monopoly of the Integrated Logistics Services, known as “Intels,” is one of the major players in the Nigerian maritime sector, because restrictions on oil and gas cargo to certain terminals were contrary to the agreements of the concessionaries, a move the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi opposed and did not convey this message to NPA.

“It was curious why the Minister was holding it so for me to call the (Late) Chief of Staff (Abba Kyari), he conveyed the letter to us and cc’ed me and the Nigerian Ports Authority so we drew his attention to the fact that we had not received a conveying directive. It was okay for him to say ‘Okay Hadiza, I will speak to the Minister and ensure he communicates but he choose to tell me that I should go ahead and if there is anything, he will revert”, she said.

She explained that although her seeking approval from the late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari meant that she was “going above” Mr Amaechi but for her, it was “getting things done”.

“People should not stand in the way of what the President has approved because, at the end of the day, all of us are there by his pleasure. You just don’t sit on approval because you can or because you occupy an office, there are other people that are also senior to you”, she added.

Why I rejected NIMASA DG position given by Amaechi’

She felt it was in his interest at that time to appoint someone from Rivers State because the Rivers political space was very disadvantaged.

“He (Amaechi) had lost the gubernatorial seat, and they (Rivers State) felt he did not have anything for them and I advised him that it was better for him to appoint the candidate. So although they lost a governor they got a federal appointment”, she clarified.

Breach of oath of secrecy as a government official

Responding to a question about breaching the oath of secrecy as a public officer, she noted that she relied on the Freedom of information act and other legal instruments to ensure that this book is out to the public and to unveil the secrecy shrouded in governance.

“I am a believer of demystification of governance meaning let government ad governance be out in the open. It reduces confusion. Insulating or protecting what we do as government officers allow us to continue or imbibe the culture of impunity. That mystery that government is shrouded in is what is allow the government to keep misbehaving. You are serving at the instance of people so why can’t those people know what you are doing?” she asked.

Elder statesman Funtua kicked against my appointment

Hajia Usman mentioned three reasons why her appointment received a lot of criticism- her gender, her age and “politicians who preferred the appointment of other politicians from Katsina State ”.

One of the politicians she named was late elder statesman, Ismaila Isa Funtua who she claimed accused Amaechi of not consulting him before she was appointed.

“I found it awkward and I told the Minister so. Although Alhaji Isa Funtua was a good friend of my late father and someone for whom I had a lot of respect…I did not understand his rejection. I later got to know that the late politicians had recommended to the President that another Katsina State indigene, late Engineer Usman Abubakar be appointed as Chairman of the Governing Board of the NPA”, she said.

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