Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director, Nigeria Ports Authority

The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has called on anti-corruption agencies to carry out investigation of corrupt practices of inflated airfare rates for members of staff of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

A release issued by CACOL and signed by Adegboyega Otunuga, the anti-corruption organization’s Coordinator, Media and Publications on behalf of its Executive Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran, stated, “It would be recalled that the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, started operations in April 1955 following the implementation of the Ports Act of 1954.

“As records have it, the public corporation managed only the Lagos and Port Harcourt ports, ab initio while some private companies managed the remaining Nigerian ports. In addition to managing cargo handling, quay and berthing facilities at the Lagos and Port Harcourt ports, the initial law also gave it the responsibility of managing harbours and approaches to all ports in the country.

“By 1963 the firm had grown successfully, it was operating a cargo ship from Lagos to Port Harcourt and also began dredging the Bonny terminal for oil operations. After the Nigerian Army’s directive for cement supply in order to enable it build adequate number of barracks to house almost all its soldiers and the influx of ships bringing cement (cement armada) to the country, Tin Can Island port was hastily constructed in 1976 to ameliorate the problems; and it comprised of 10 berths and 2.5km of hard quay, while about 24 terminals were later concessioned for greater efficiency and resourcefulness.

“However, over the years, the NPA has been embroiled in a number of corruption allegations, leading to the arraignment and conviction of its chairman from 2001 to 2003, along with five (5) other board members for ‘approving contracts beyond their approval limits’.

“This and many other acts of impropriety have made the NPA one of the most corrupt agencies in Nigeria, latest of which is an internal memo of the Nigerian Ports Authority dated January 24, 2020, an online news medium, SaharaReporters, reported how management of the agency had been siphoning public funds”, the group revealed.

The release said, in the document with reference number: Ref: HQ/GM/C&SC/OP/VF/045 and addressed to the Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, by the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communication, Engr Adams Jatto, and titled: Review of airfare rates (local), the management could be seen engaging in sharp practices by jerking up the current rate of local airfares astronomically.

It quoted Jatto as saying “The Division has observed the recent hike in prices of local tickets across the country.”

“In view of the above and in order to keep abreast with reality of our times, it is hereby recommended that the rates for local flights be reviewed upwards accordingly as detailed below.”

The anti-graft body said, “Considering the strategic and critical role of seaports operations in any country, we are seriously concerned about the enormity of corruption going on in the administration of ports functioning in the country.

“We therefore, call on the federal government to quickly wade into ports administration with a view to sanitizing it and bringing those responsible for their under-performance to book so as to serve as a deterrent.”