Administrative Panel Report Indicts Transport Minister

By Paul Udenta
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National Maritime Authority

Panel Report Indicts Transport Minister
… Restless and Confused
. Begs Northern Traditional Rulers for help
. Why minister resigned abruptly from NMA
* Conspiracy at International Maritime Organisation

These are indeed trying times for Yusuf Suleiman, Honourable Minister of Transport (HMOT) as sordid details of his past as a public servant, regarding his tenure as Director, Administration and Personnel in National Maritime Authority, NMA, vide a directive on the recruitment of top management staff in 1999 to Grade 17 that exposed his 'secrets'.

Going by the documents in our possession, it is almost certain that Suleiman would not deny that his colleagues at NMA then like Jaule Vidon Albert (Director, Commercial and Operations), Boniface O. Igwe (Director, Special Duties) and Abdullahi Bako (Legal Adviser) had no fore-knowledge of his indictment by Administrative Panel of Inquiry (Ref. No. T.0588/S.18/1/350) chaired by S.A.Sufi

Terms of Reference of Sufi report
The Sufi report dated November 20, 2000 stated that the Report of the Administrative Panel of Inquiry was instituted to investigate various allegations of impropriety against the management of NMA in the period of June 1, 1999 to July 31, 2000.

Sufi in the report said “The report contains six chapters with each Term of Reference constituting a chapter and the final chapter containing the summary of all recommendations. The report highlighted a number of lapses in the administration of NMA of which were clear violation of the extant Rules and Regulations of government. Some of these lapses include abuse of budget process, violation of tender procedures, inflation of contracts, over invoicing, abuse of approval limits, splitting of contracts for the procurement of unwanted goods and services/ arbitrary implementation of personnel matters. The Panel made far reaching recommendations with which to arrest the administrative anomalies in the management of NMA”.

Panel members that indicted Suleiman

By a letter with Ref. No. 0588/S18/Vol. 1 dated September 7, 2000, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transport notified the Chairman and members of their appointment by the then HMOT, Chief Ojo Maduekwe to serve on the Administrative Panel of Inquiry to investigate some allegations against the management of NMA. Members of the Panel are: Dr. S.A. Sufi (Chairman), Engineer L.K. Ogboye (Member), F. Mustapha (Member), Barrister G. S Ekanem, A.T. Olaleye (Secretary), A.O. Tapere (Accountant) and L. B. Banfa (Computer Operator). The Panel members were mandated among other responsibilities to “Investigate allegations of illegal armed security formed by the Director General, NMA, Assess the employment profiles of the NMA, investigate all cases of termination of appointments for the period under review and recommend any measure which will pave way for greater sanity/transparency in the administration of the organization”.

Indictment of HMOT

Suleiman was offered appointment as Director, Administration and Personnel vide letter Ref. No. NMA 87/DAP/S.S.8/Vol. 3, dated 01/12/99 based on the approval of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, Commander-in-Chief on November 29, 1999. The Ref. No. was NMA/GME/DG/2000/99/06 because the minister claimed to have formally worked briefly in the Presidency, State House. Our investigation revealed that his appointment was not on Transfer Service or on a fresh basis. The Panel recommends that “If the officer is on transfer of service, adequate documentation to that effect should have been made. Otherwise the case should be treated on a fresh case basis and regularized accordingly”. The Minister was unable to prove to the Sufi panel that he had worked in the Presidency and in order to avoid being exposed he quickly threw in his resignation knowing fully well that if he had gone through the employment process all over he would be unable to get the position of Director because it would have clearly shown that he did not have the requisite qualification to occupy that seat

His resignation from NMA

When HMOT got wind that Sufi's Panel report was doubtful of his employment status in NMA and the subsequent indictment that may allegedly lead to his sack, which in turn would dent his image, he quickly resigned unceremoniously. His controversial exit was put in secrecy to avert barrage of attack from the press.

Reasons for his controversial exit

It was alleged that he imposed pressure on the DG/chief executive officer of NMA for 'kick-backs', which led to why maritime laws like Procurement Act, Fiscal Responsibility Act were suppressed then. It was when the information reached the board of NMA, that a panel was set up, which eventually found him allegedly guilty for incompetence and financial malpractices.

Sucour from Northern Traditional Rulers
HMOT has been running to prominent traditional rulers in the North in the heat of the confusion that has trailed him since several scandals regarding his lifestyle in public offices became open. His fear: he may be sacked, arrested and grilled by security operatives anytime soon. Sources in the ministry said, he hardly comes to the office these days, and when he comes late, he closes on time looking angry and wearing depressed facial appearance.

Secret deals with Abubakar Atiku's firm Intels

When he was appointed HMOT we learnt Suleiman is in the habit of granting waivers and all applications made by Intels and he arbitrarily grants permission / approval to companies that apply for mid-stream discharge against the directive of the President who has stated categorically that all vessels should be at Federal Government recognized ports. The use of mid stream discharge has been a major drain pipe to the Nigerian economy most especially customs, NPA and NIMASA and such has affected the ability of agency to carry out their functions as this use of mid stream discharge is used for smuggling and importation of arms and other vices. The Minister's alleged partisan-relationship with Intels has continued to be source of concern to maritime stakeholders taking into consideration the near monopoly of this company of NPA operations in Port Harcourt, Warri and now courtesy of Yusuf Suleiman Lagos. Intels is an oil and gas company in Nigeria, owned largely by Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) seat crisis

In our possession is a copy of Presidential report issued from Office of the Chief of Staff to the President on August 26, 2010 with Ref. No. MT. 206/S.58/C6/11 based on HMOT request for presidential approval to 'financially and morally' offer support to Mrs. Monica Nkechi Mbanefo for the post of Secretary-General in IMO in the forthcoming election which holds in June 2011. The on-going intractable crisis in the maritime agency is traceable to the role of Suleiman and his cohorts in the Presidential Villa.

The memo confirmed how President Goodluck Jonathan directed HMOT and Foreign Affairs Ministry to support the candidature of Mbanefo to be the next scribe of IMO. The memo, we learnt was sent earlier through the office of Suleiman and it is the usula practice that all cost relating to IMO campaign is borne by NIMASA. Immediately after Mr. President's approval, both Ministers swung into action and note-verbal was communicated to all 169 member countries of the IMO, the UN, OIC, AU, D8 and other bodies.

Further investigation showed that Williams Azuh, Nigeria Alternative Permamnent Pepresentative to IMO could not carry out his responsibility to give material and financial support to Mbanefo due insufficient funds in the NIMASA imprest account in Barclays Bank London. This eventually led to a formal request for additional funds and approval for the transfer of £300,000 from NIMASA main account in Barclays Bank to their imprest account in the same bank. The funds was to be used as operational expense and would cover such things as office accommodation for the campaign, operating expense for the campaign and esta code / travelling cost for Mrs. Mbanefo for the campaign. Of the £300,000 so transferred only the sum of £26,666 was taken out for the payment of office space and this was done directly to the agents and the office is presently being used as campaign secretariat, while the balance of £270,000 was still intact in the Agency's account in Barclays bank.

It would seem clearly that Yusuf Suleiman came into the Ministry of Transport with a clear agenda but found the DG and other CEOs like NPA, as stumbling block. As for NIMASA the HMOT joined forces with the Chairman and others from the Villa and Secretary to the Government's office to ensure the removal of the DG by hook or crook. Hence the need to fabricate all forms of false hood against the DG and force the hand of the President to suspend the DG knowing fully well that their actions were illegal.

There is need for Government to carry out a full investigation into the activities of Yusuf Suleiman since he became Minister of Transport as it is not a hidden secret in the Ministry of Transport that the Minister is in the habit of putting undue pressure on the CEOs of Parastatals under his Ministry.

By Paul Udenta, veteran journalist and Exec. Director, Communications Harmony Media Limited, Abuja