By Anthony Nwachukwu
Contrary to claims that she fraudulently transferred the Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT) berths 9, 10 and 11 at the Onne Port to a Dangote Group proxy, the suspended Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, said the agency had “no contractual agreement” with Integrated Logistics Services (INTELs) on the said facility.
Citing a leaked memo dated May 13, 2020, which was signed on behalf of Usman by the NPA Director of Lands & Asset Administration, Yusuf Ahmed, a news platform had alleged that Usman transferred the berths confiscated from INTELs to a proxy company traced to Aliko Dangote, International Container Terminal Nigerian Limited (ICTNL).
It further claimed that the said clandestine transfer of the berths was done five months earlier than the September 2020 when the NPA issued a notice terminating INTELS’ boat service operation at the facility.
However, in a rebuttal dated May 9, 2021, entitled, “Re: How Suspended NPA Boss, Hadiza Usman Awarded Coastline Terminals to Dangote’s Proxy Company in Shady Deal,” by Sahara Reporters, Usman said the allegation was “false, without any foundation and a figment of some wild imagination of the news platform.”
According to her, the NPA has an executive management team that always considers and takes business decisions on all assets of the agency in the best interest of Nigeria. Therefore, “to claim that I single-handedly awarded a contract in my capacity as managing director is, therefore, irresponsible, mischievous, and defamatory.”
She noted that the report also mischievously lumped together the now expired service boat contract between the NPA and INTELs, which took off in 2007, with a review of a 10-year extension in 2011 to expire in August 2020, with the lease under focus.
The service boat contract expired at the end of its duration, and the agency initiated a procurement process in which INTELs participated, in line with all extant laws, she said.
Concerning Onne Berths 9, 10 and 11, “which the report alleged was ‘clandestinely’ taken from INTELs, the Authority offered these berths to INTELs in 2013 without any contractual agreement, even though the offer letter required that the company should pay rent to the Authority for the use of the berths,” the statement explained.
“In 2018, the Authority realised that INTELs had neither been making these payments for five years nor putting the berths to optimal use.
“The Authority then wrote INTELs to request for the arrears of monies that were unpaid and expand the utilisation of the facility.
“With the continued under-utilisation of the facility, the fact that there was no contractual agreement with INTELs from the outset and the urgent need to decongest the ports in Lagos, the Authority offered the berths to an internationally renowned container handling company, Messers International Container Terminal Nigerian Limited (ICTNL), for the use of the berths for container cargo discharging.
“ICTNL has signed a contract for the lease of the berths with the Authority and has commenced the installation of container handling equipment when INTELS instituted a court action challenging the withdrawal of the offer. That case is still in court!
“And according to reports in the media, ICTNL has refuted allegations that it has connections with Aliko Dangote. This exposes another disgraceful fabrication by Sahara Reporters.
I also note the insinuation of a non-existent monetary transfer between Dangote and I during the 2015 elections. As I told People’s Gazette when I was approached about this story, no such transaction occurred.
“Having gone through the trouble to give this explanation, I demand that Sahara Reporters publish this rebuttal and give it the same measure of prominence given to the false story, which runs against all known ethics of journalism.”