The court hearing regarding the reappointment of the suspended Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman was stalled on Thursday following a discovery that the matter was heard 24 hours before the scheduled date.
SaharaReporters gathered that the court had on Wednesday admitted a motion over the case from the defendants’ counsel in the absence of the plaintiff’s counsel which is against legal practices.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in May, approved Usman’s suspension, to allow a probe of allegations of improprieties against her to take place unhindered.
The probe is at the instance of the supervising transport ministry, headed by Rotimi Amaechi.
At the heart of Usman’s suspension is a Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) contract given out to a Lebanese syndicate by top government officials.
Further investigations revealed that the controversial CTN contract was prepared for the Lebanese proxies by Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi alongside the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami to rake in money into their coffers.
In March, Elder Asu Beks alongside Tompra Abarowei and Miebi Senhe, filed a suit challenging the powers of President Buhari to prematurely reappoint Hadiza Usman, six clear months before the expiration of her statutory five years tenure.
The plaintiffs, among other reliefs, are also urging the Court to declare the composition of the current Board of Nigerian Ports Authority, a nullity as it did not meet the statutory requirements, prescribed by the NPA Act.
At the first hearing of the suit on July 5, 2021 and filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by Chief Mike Ozekhome, the Presiding Judge, Justice Tijani Garba Ringim, was informed that the defendants, including the President, Minister of Transportation, Hadiza Usman and Emmanuel Abisoye, NPA Board Chairman, had no counsel representing them, which prompted the case to be adjourned to November 4.
Meanwhile, on resumption to court on Thursday, the counsel for the plaintiff learnt that the hearing had taken place 24 hours aforetime.
Barr Ejieke Onuoha, representing Chief Mike Ozekhome Chambers said: “I just cannot understand what is going on. We (plaintiffs and counsel) were in court on July 5. The Judge went through his diary and picked November 4 as the date for the next hearing which is today.
“But to my surprise, I was informed by Registrar that the matter came up for mention the previous day and even admitted a motion from Barr E. A Ogboji, counsel for Hadiza Usman and Emmanuel Abisoye, withdrawing their representation. We will get to the root cause of what may have transpired.”
SaharaReporters had earlier revealed how the Attorney-General of the Federation, Malami opted to defend Usman in the suit.
From documents obtained by SaharaReporters, Emmanuel Ogboji, counsel for Usman and Adesoye, Chairman of NPA Board stated that he had resigned from defending Bala Usman and Adesoye following the intervention of the Attorney General.
A source had noted, ”As the hearing of the originating summons resumes at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi on Thursday, President Buhari is opting to defend Hadiza in court.
“Also, the AGF has taken over defence of Hadiza and Emmanuel Adesoye. He had asked Hadiza’s lawyer to hands off.
“Imagine, President Muhammadu Buhari is opting to defend a public office holder who is on suspension based on alleged corruption charges.”Meanwhile, Ogboji in the document dated August 13, 2021, explained that he had to withdraw from the case considering the status of Malami as the Law Officer of the federation.
The document reads, “Take notice that this Honourable court moved to the 3rd of November 2021 at the hour of 9:00 clock in the forenoon or so soon thereafter as counsel may be heard on behalf of the 3rd and 4th defendants for:
”Grant the counsel of the 3rd and 4th Defendant permission to withdraw his appearance and other processes filed in this suit due to the intervention of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
“And for such further or other orders as this Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”
Another document dated 13 of August 2021 reads: “Barr. Ogboji A Emmanuel, Male, Christian, a Citizen of Nigeria of No. 30B, Juliana Ibeyem plaza Opebi road, Ikeja, Lagos, do hereby make Oath and state as follows: That I am the above-named person whose passport photograph is attached herein.
“That I am the Solicitor representing the 3rd and 4th Defendants in this suit and by virtue of the position, I am conversant with the facts of this case. That Nigerian Ports Authority that instructed me to defend the 3rd and 4th Defendant has informed me that the Attorney General of the Federation has intervened in the suit.
“That the Attorney General and Minister of Justice being the Law Officer of the Federation, I have to withdraw from the Suit. That the Defendants will not be prejudiced by this application. I depose to this affidavit in good faith believing same to be true and in accordance with the Oath Act.”SaharaReporters had also reported that top government officials also got President Buhari to buy into their deal, which is under the NPA jurisdiction, to swindle the country and its ailing economy.
On March 21, the President announced that he had directed Amaechi to reintroduce the CTN, citing the “increase in banditry across the nation and ideas to beef up security in the country.”
Buhari had been cajoled that the CTN contract would play a crucial role in enabling the nation address the growing spate of insecurity around cargo handling, according to top sources.
A competent source had said, “Malami and the Senate President are behind the deal. Finally, they awarded it to a Lebanese. It is 100% confirmed because they even wanted us to do the contract. But when we realised they were interested in looting, we backed out.
“The Lebanese man will be giving them $300,000 monthly. That was one of the reasons behind Usman’s removal. It was a contract on container tracking. But there is still rivalry in the whole contract; there is the Amaechi camp on one side as well as Malami and Senate President on the other side.”
Also, it was gathered that Usman lied to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Malami (SAN), and the Senate about the recommendations of a committee she had set up to investigate the dredging project at the Calabar Port.
Usman had reportedly lied that dredging the Calabar Port was not viable whereas the report of the committee indeed proved that work had commenced at Calabar Port and that it was viable, but Usman ignored the report of the committee and insisted that the job must be stopped.
Sources privy to the issue said Usman took the position because he wanted the job for her cronies and not a neutral company.
Another document obtained by this newspaper showed that the NPA’s budget audit report had uncovered how over N18 billion expenditure could not be explained under Hadiza’s watch between 2016 and 2017.
In documents obtained by SaharaReporters, which are from the audit of the Budget Performance Report (BPR) for 2016 and 2017, the NPA is being investigated for “Excessive Increase in Administrative Expenditure and Operational Expenses” in which the NPA incurred questionable expenses to the tune of N18 billion.
One of the documents reads, “As part of the exercise, the team performed an analytical review of the administrative and operational expenses incurred by the authority as contained in the Budget Performance Report for the year 2016 and 2017.
“It was observed that the total expenditure reported by the Authority increased astronomically by 128% from N87,474,781,088.00 to N198,989,352,119.00 in 2017. Of particular concern was the Administrative Expenses which increased by 72% from N26,126,990,784.00 in 2016 to N44,937,334,999.00 in 2017.”