Hadiza Bala Usman and the NPA: Four Years of Uncommon Leadership
By Sylvanus Ekpo
The Audacity of HBU
For chutzpah, Hadiza Bala Usman, the Managing Director/CEO of the Nigerian Ports Authority, really takes the biscuits as she confronts the huge challenges of her office in a pragmatic manner.
In the four years she has held sway, in style and content, she has left a reformer’s footprints on the sands of time. In this Special Report, we shall chronicle and put on record the milestones of her four-year odyssey at NPA.
Appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2016, she assumed office on 18th July and in her maiden address to the executive management, she promised to make the NPA a model agency.
Out and out, Maritime Vision News sees Hadiza Bala Usman as a bespoke craftswoman, a promise keeper who has redefined leadership at the corporate level. For NPA, the coming of this Amazon has put breaks to the tendency that dulled the great heights the organization had attained under Bamanga Tukur, Bello Gwandu, and Chief Awoye. For Usman, whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well. She has brought panache and excellence to the office after the dark days of sychophancy in early 2000’s – the years of the locusts !
In the words of Stan Toler, “Leaders are never willing to settle for second best. They start a task thoughtfully, continue it diligently, and finish it thoroughly. Each step from the inception to the benediction is a commitment to excellence.
“Leaders know that excellence is learned. Just as the scientist trains his or her mind to understand theories and methods to accomplish some scientific achievement, leaders commit themselves to the theories and methods necessary to reach their organisation’s goal. They train themselves to focus on the plans and techniques for accomplishing their purpose. They make personal sacrifices for corporate success.”
For a Northern Nigerian girl who has broken the glass ceiling to reach the top and remain there, excelling every step of the way, is a profound statement that should open the floodgates to others – those who were still lurking in the shadows have now seen a great light, a pathfinder who is secure enough to show them the way.
HBU is a pacesetter. She never follows the crowd. She proved her mettle as Chief of Staff to Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. Before her, history never recorded any Northern woman who held that office in the entire 19 States of the North.
In four years, Usman has taken leadership to another level by positioning managers where they truly belong. Under her, more women were appointed Port Managers than ever before – Mrs Olotu of Lagos Port Complex and Mrs Asien of Calabar Port Complex, both of whom have proved beyond reasonable doubt that what a man can do, a woman can do even better !
The Maritme Community Stakeholders and Media, have interfaced with the HBU administration and the consensus is that she has done well. According to Stan Toler, “leaders aren’t content to go for the silver. They like the feel of real gold.”
We couldn’t agree less. Love or hate her, you have to admire HBU’s chutzpah !!!
In four years, her Administration has been anchored on transparency and accountable governance. Some of these milestones include:
* Her administration commissioned the Command and Control Communication and Intelligence Centre in Apapa to serve as surveillance point of all activities including security agencies in the ports.
* Port infrastructure upgrade are ongoing across the six port locations of Apapa, Tin can, Onne, Rivers, Delta and Calabar. Rail lines have been constructed to ease transport of goods to reduce traffic and stress on the roads. Intermodalism is the new swan song and every stakeholder is required to key into it. Today, barges are conveying boxes to Ikorodu Lighter Terminal to beat the traffic gridlock in Apapa !
* In 2018, the NPA launched the Revenue Invoicing Management System (RIMS). It is a web-based, fully automated billing system aimed at improving the Authority’s service offering, partner relationship, create efficient payment method and block revenue leakage.
* Acquired and commissioned six new tug boats in all, to further improve operational efficiency.
* In January 2018, it successfully berthed the Egina FPSO project, a pointer to the readiness of NPA to collaborate with the private sector to achieve port efficiency.
* Declassified port terminals to make room for competition among players in the field.
* Threw open its budget to the public by signing an MoU with the BudgiT Open Budget System Platform and Implementation of a Public Data Dissemination programme.
* Introduction of new licensing regime to ensure transparency and due process.
* Review of Port concession to ensure compliance with agreements signed with Terminal Operators.
* Review of 25-year Port Development Master Plan.
* Establishment of dedicated port terminals to handle export aimed at diversifying the economy. They include Ikorodu Lighter Terminal for Lagos; Shoreline Logistics Terminal for Calabar Port; BUA Ports and Terminals and Ports and Terminal Operators Limited for the Rivers Port.
* Under her, the NPA has initiated steps with the Nigeria Customs Service aimed at easing cargo evacuation from the ports under a Single Window arrangement. This framework further aims to simplify and harmonise procedures, exchange of information and documents between agencies in the ports.
* The Authority partnered with AG Dangote Construction Company and Flour Mills of Nigeria PLC for the reconstruction of Wharf Road, Apapa, contributing #1.8 billion to the project.
* The ports are involved in 24-hour operations and provision of marine services such as Pilotage and Berthing of vessels in line with the Executive Orders signed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in 2017.
* Staff Welfare: Under her administration, staff have enjoyed unlimited bus services across all port locations and this has improved timely attendance of staff at work.
She approved and commissioned high quality restaurants across the ports and headquarters, allowing workers to enjoy their meals in a condusive environment.
She regularly consults with her workers. In 2018, it is on record that she’s the first Managing Director to organize a Management/Workers Town Hall Meeting which was held at the NPA Sports Ground, Bode Thomas, Surulere, Lagos.
In terms of staff promotions, she radically cleared a backlog of outstanding arrears in promotions, making it possible for those who had been on the queue to be promoted.
It is to her credit that the tradition of Long Service Awards for loyal and committed staff continues to be held every year, with workers carting home expensive home appliances as gifts.
Succession planning has been taken to new heights as staff are encouraged to take up responsibilities in their areas where they have competencies, thus making way for them to assume positions of leadership in the organisation.
On sports infrastructure, it is to her credit that the moribund NIPOSA Games which was last held in 2001, was resurrected in 2018 and has continued ever since. The Bode Thomas sports facility has been upgraded to International standard, giving sportsmen and women the motivation they need to excel.
Finally, the organization continues to train and retrain its staff, both locally and overseas, to equip them for the challenges ahead, especially in a Covid-19 era. Overall, with the deployment of core professionals in various departments, it can be said that the NPA has continued to be a frontline organization for providing efficient and safe port services in a demanding port environment. Truly, it continues to be the gateway to the Nation’s Economy !
Hadiza’s many battles:
Her first major battle as Managing Director was trying to implement the Treasury Single Account (TSA). This was fought against International Logistics Services Ltd (INTELS), company owned by former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar. The TSA directs that all government revenue be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The policy met a brickwall from Intels. After a series of negotiations with NPA and the office of the Attorney General of the federation, the Intels contract was cancelled, paving the way for counter-accusations by Intels and it’s sympathisers. Against all odds, Usman stood her ground and with the backing of the presidency, Intels was forced to apologise, with a promise to abide by the rules of TSA.
The second battle involved the Safe Anchorage Area (SAA). When the news of SAA first filtered out, maritime stakeholders were aghast at the level of illegality and impunity that could go on in government. A private company, Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL) owned by Capt. Hosa Okunbo, had gotten approval to collect revenue from shippers to secure sage passage for their vessels. Usman tried to stop this racket which she considered unlawful and leading to high cost of business in the economy. The battle took NPA and OMSL to the National Assembly for redress. The NASS sided with OMSL, a judgement that did not go down well with industry stakeholders.
The third battle she fought was with BUA Ports and Terminals Ltd, for their inability to concretize the terms of agreement in Rivers Port.
This Special Report will not be complete without touching on the aftermath of the #Endsars protests that led hoodlums to loot and burn the NPA headquarters in Marina, Lagos. A beautiful edifice by any standard, their actions is a sad reminder that citizens are yet to appropriate government assets as their own.
Since the incident, scores of maritime Stakeholders have commiserated with the NPA Management over the incident, some donating needed office accessories like computers to the organization.
Hadiza was born on January 2nd 1976 in Zaria, Kaduna State, holds a B.Sc degree in Business Administration from Ahmad Bello University (ABU), Zaria and a Post Graduate in Development Studies from the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, 2009.
In her career history, Hadiza has taken roles across the government and non-governmental sectors starting with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
She was hired by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as Special Assistant on Project Implementation to the Minister for the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) from October 2004 – January 2008 after which she worked as Director of Strategy of Good Governance Group, a Non-Governmental organization in Abuja from 2011-2015.
She started her career with a Non-Governmental organization, Centre for Democratic Development and Research Training (CEDDERT) Zaria in June, 2002 as a Research Assistant.
In response to the unfortunate abduction of Chibok school girls in Borno State in April 2014, knowing the implication for girl-child education in the northern part of Nigeria, she co-founded the global movement, #BringBackOurGirls which demands the rescue of the Chibok girls and all girls that have been abducted by the insurgents. Even now that she holds public office, Hadiza has continued to identify with the campaign by displaying her BBoG badge on every occasion.
In August 2015, she was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari to serve as a member of Professor Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC).
She has served in several committees at the highest level of government, including
* Member of the APC Strategy Committee from January to December 2014
* Member/Secretary of the APC National Elections Planning Committee, June 2014 to April 2015.
* Member/Secretary, National Convention Committee. This committee supervised the nomination of the party’s 2019 Presidential candidate.
In 2014, she was named by Financial Times, as one of the Most Influential Women; the CNN as Most Inspiring Woman of 2014; Ebony Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Black Women in the world; in 2018, a member of the Class of Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD).
On November 30, 2017, she received the BusinessDay Excellence Awards in Public Service; DAAR Communications award for Outstanding Leadership in Public Sector Transparency and Open Budget System.
Currently, Hadiza has been reappointed as Vice President (Africa Region) of the International Ports and Harbours (IAPH) as well as the Vice Chairperson of the International Maritme Organization (IMO) Facilitation Committee (FAL).