SCANDAL PROBE: WHAT IS GOOD FOR THE GOOSE MUST BE GOOD FOR THE GANDER.
By Bala Ibrahim.
From all indications, the suspension of the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, is likely to open a Pandora’s box, that could generate more complicated problems for the government in particular, and the system in general.
Pursuant to her suspension, which came without any official explanation, the suspended Hadiza seems ready to take everyone involved to the cleaners. To this effect, official memos that under normal circumstances should be kept secret, have begun circulating freely on the social media.
Documents, including one carrying the approval of Mr. President, have gone viral, showing the prominent role played by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi in the suspension saga. This is unclean, for a government that is claiming to uphold the policy of discipline and the philosophy of sanity.
In one of the leaked memos, titled, Re: Request for the record of remittance of operating surplus to the consolidated revenue funds account by Nigerian Port Authority, where, in response to the allegation of failing to remit a large sum of money to the federation account, Hadiza countered the allegation, by giving a detailed breakdown of how much was remitted by NPA from 2017 to 2020.
This crisis is likely going to put to test, the government’s credibility on reputation, and whether or not the President is going to treat the goose and the gander equally. It is an integrity test that would determine public opinion about the President, and his resolve to cleanse the system of double standards, as well as unwelcome and unpleasant activities in service.
In an article by the Cable, titled, ‘How Amaechi Got Buhari To Suspend Hadiza Bala Usman Amid Cold War, the following poser was put:
All members of the panel were appointed by Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of transportation who supervises NPA.
Curiously, only Bala Usman, who had been having a cold battle with Amaechi, was asked to step aside, effectively suggesting that she, and not the management, is the target of the investigation.
To act as MD is Mohammed Koko, who was the Zenith Bank accounts officer to Rivers state government when Amaechi was governor.
Koko was appointed executive director of NPA in 2016 when Amaechi became minister. He is in charge of finance and admin, a logical target for the probe, given that the allegations to be investigated fall directly under his department.
Two members on the administrative panel named so far are from the ministry.
Incidentally, the chairman of the panel, who is the director of marine services, is on the NPA board.
This has raised several questions about the ultimate game plan.
If the probe at the NPA by the minister of Transport is adjudged appropriate, then in the interest of equity, the same should be done to all Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDA’s) of the federal government.
We are all aware of the corruption related scandal rocking the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in which the Minister of Niger Delta. Mr. Godswill Akpobi has been enmeshed.
It may be recalled that last year, the Senate and the House of Representatives resolved to investigate members of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC, over allegations of mismanaging N40 billion, resulting in the two chambers setting up an ad-hoc probe panels to look into the financial transactions of the IMC.
In the course of such investigation, Ms. Joi Nunieh, the former Acting Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC, exposed the scandal that is now referred to as the worst wretchedness of governance in the history of Nigeria.
Ms. Joi Nunieh reeled out criminal allegations against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godwill Akpabio, in the magnitude that ridicules the principal purpose of setting up the commission. Yet he remains in office till this day.
This made the President to appoint a sole administrator to run the affairs of the Commission, wherein Mr. Effiong Akwa, who was the acting executive director, finance and administration assumed headship, pending the completion of a forensic audit. Thereafter, the game of changes, at the minister’s discretion began.
Not long ago, the Niger Delta Minister, Chief Godswill Akpabio, informed the nation that, the forensic audit of the Commission, which he had earlier said would be concluded and the report submitted before April 2021, has now been changed to July. This means the Governing Board cannot be put in place as planned.
As a result of such delay in the absence of a Governing Board, as provided for in its Establishment Act, minister Akpabio is believed to be manipulating the commission to his benefit.
According to a source, “Akpabio has turned the whole forensic audit exercise into a circus, where the process is not only being micromanaged, but that the NDDC is being run by the minister’s handpicked proxies. Akpabio has used the excuse of the forensic audit to stop the Governing Board from being put in place. Now, he shifts the termination date of the forensic audit under spurious excuses to justify running the agency like his personal fiefdom. When he dubiously sold the idea of an Interim Management for the NDDC in October 2019, even after the names of the Governing Board had been sent by the President to the Senate for statutory screening, Akpabio said his illegal Interim Management Committee will only stay in office for six months to supervise the audit, after which the Board will be inaugurated”.
Another source said, “All along, minister Akpabio was only engaging in delay tactics and deceit to perpetuate corruption, because, by the time the expected deadline of March 2020 for the submission of the audit report was near, he sacked the first IMC Acting Managing Director, Ms Joi Nunieh, and appointed a new Acting Managing Director, Prof Pondei, who was his classmate at FGC Port Harcourt, and extended the stay of this IMC to December 2020.By which time, he said the audit will be concluded and the Board put in place. Just when that was drawing near, he sacked the Interim Management Committee and appointed his personal aide, Mr Effiong Okon Akwa, as Interim Sole Administrator with a promised forensic audit completion date of March 2021”.
The challenge now before the President and the Presidency is, how not to treat the goose and the gander differently. If Hadiza can be asked to step aside on the basis of an allegation, why can’t Amaechi also be asked to step aside, pending the outcome of investigation? Especially with the stories making round, that he ignored official advise from the office of the AGF, and went ahead to mislead the President.
Also, if the President can heed the request of minister Amaechi, to suspend Hadiza for alleged financial mismanagement, he should also heed the request of the people of the Niger Delta, against the excesses of another minister of his, in the person of Godswill Akpabio, accused of violating the law and common sense. That is the simple way to prove, “I am for all, I am for none”.
Yes, What is good for the goose, must be good for the gander.