“Reputations rise and fall almost as regularly as the tides.” – Peter Benchley
Having watched Hadiza Bala Usman’s rise in the corridors of power, from her sudden emergence as lead advocate in the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, to her appointment as Chief of Staff to the Kaduna State Governor and finally as first female Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), it is easy to see that benevolent spirits have been hard at work cracking her palm nuts.
Born in 1976 to a Fulani ruling class family, Hadiza grew up on the campus of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, where her father worked. She received a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2000 from the same university and later bagged a master’s degree in development studies from the University of Leeds in 2009.
In lieu of her aristocratic roots, Hadiza soon joined the employ of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) from 2000 to 2004 where she was embroiled in the first of many controversies that were to trail her career. It was gathered that during her stint at the BPE, Hadiza received her salary in US dollars, as against provisions of the Public Service Act regarding remuneration.
Hadiza, initially a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), campaigned for and lost the federal constituency of Musawa/Matazu as a candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change in 2011. She then joined the Good Governance Group in Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation, as the country director of strategy from 2011 to July 2015.
Hadiza broke into the limelight in 2014 when she co-founded the Bring Back Our Girls campaign group to advocate the rescue of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. Subsequently, she transitioned to the Buhari Campaign Organisation where she first met and worked with Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi who was the Director General.
Shortly after in 2015, Governor Nasir el-Rufai appointed Hadiza as his Chief of Staff in Kaduna State where she cut her teeth in politics. She served in this capacity until July 2016 when President Muhammadu Buhari, against all expectations, appointed her as Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority. Her appointment generated a lot of controversy as many questioned her suitability for the job.
Industry watchers have asserted that Hadiza’s assumption of the apex job at NPA changed her into something akin to a monster. It is said that “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”, and this maxim was on full display in the five years that Hadiza bestrode the ‘Gateway to Nigeria’s Economy’.
The period witnessed blatant disregard for statutory provisions of the NPA Act, insubordination and arbitrariness in decision making. In a bid to consolidate her grip on the agency’s power structure, Hadiza, upon assumption of office, dismantled the zonal structure that would’ve reduced the burden on her. This is in sharp contrast to the Police, Customs and Immigration Service among others who are manned by core professionals and have maintained the zonal structure of operation.
Some of her transgressions are evinced in her dealings with the Minister of Transportation whom she displayed utter disrespect for by usurping the statutorily constituted NPA board to replace the Chairman with her desired candidate.
She was also constantly at loggerheads with major industry stakeholders, masquerading her antics as sanitization efforts at the agency. Intels Logistics, BUA Nigeria Plc, LADOL and SAMSUNG Heavy Industries (SHI) among others are just a few organisations scorched by Hadiza’s fiery hubris.
In 2019, Hadiza drew the attention of the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF) who indicted her in an audit report for breaches in the Procurement Act, over bloating of expenses, contract splitting, coupled with lopsided promotions and recruitment. Keen observers of her administration have unearthed verifiable records of transactions, some of which have been the subject of investigative reports into allegations of financial irregularities and corrupt practices at the NPA.
According to findings, NPA’s policy on implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects have fallen short of the required level of compliance with the Public Procurement Act since Hadiza was appointed in 2016. This position was accentuated by her recent suspension as Managing Director by President Muhammadu Buhari, in what could potentially be the biggest financial scandal to rock the NPA. The Federal Budget has accused her of failing to remit over NGN165 billion into the Consolidated Revenue Fund between 2016 and 2020.
It is still bewildering as to what performance metrics were applied in the ill-advised decision to renew her appointment six months before the expiration of her current tenure. Stakeholders have likened Hadiza’s stint at the NPA to pitting a featherweight boxer against an opponent in the heavyweight division. She was ill-qualified, ill-equipped and technically deficient to lead such a vital national infrastructure.