Born on January 2, 1976, in Zaria, to the ruling class family of the Sullubawa clan, Hadiza Bala Usman ancestry is heavily decorated with royalty. Her father, Yusufu Bala Usman, was the grandson of Sarkin Katsina, Muhammadu Katsina Dikko. Yusufu Bala Usman was a prominent academic and historian, He was the founder of the Centre for Democratic Development, Research and Training at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Hadiza’s great grandfather, Abdullahi Bayero, was the 10th Emir of Kano from 1926 to 1953. Her paternal grandfather was the Durbin Katsina, and her grand uncle was Usman Nagogo, the Emir of Katsina.
Hadiza Bala Usman started her education at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria Staff Primary School, and went ahead to complete both her secondary and undergraduate studies at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from 1996 – 2000. She later obtained an MA (Masters of Art) in Development Studies from the University of Leeds, the United Kingdom, in 2009.
She worked at the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) from July 2000 to August 2004 as Enterprise Officer, and was hired by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) from October 2004 to January 2008, as Special Assistant to the Minister on Project Implementation. In 2011, she worked as Director of Strategy for the Good Governance Group (3G). Her wide-ranging impact on previously held positions culminated in new appointments and rising fame.
When Boko Haram kidnapped schoolgirls in April 2014 in the Chibok town of Maiduguri, Hadiza Bala Usman was in the frontline of protests, leading groups around Nigeria and in the kidnapped girls’ hometown of Chibok. She later joined the BringBackOurGirls (BBOG) movement, an advocacy campaign that later gained massive global attention started by former Education Minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili.
Hadiza has been internationally recognised for her contributions. Financial Times [FT] named her amongst the most influential women of 2014, while CNN chose her as the most inspiring woman of 2014. Ebony Magazine also named her amongst the 100 most influential black women in the world in 2014. In August 2014, she gave a touching speech on Chibok Girls at the United Nations Headquarters in New York during the UNDP conference as a Guest Speaker.
On the political front, Hadiza is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and has served the party on various Committees, key amongst them are membership of the APC Strategy Committee from Jan 2014 – December 2014. The Committee defined the policy thrust of the Party and consequently developed the Party Manifesto. She also served as a member and Secretary of the APC National Elections Planning Committee (June 2014 to April 2015). The Committee developed and coordinated the Party’s Election Strategies. She was also a member of the Presidential Inauguration Planning Committee representing the incoming administration from April to May 2015.
In June 2015, she was appointed by Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State as the Chief of Staff to the Executive Governor, being the first female to be so appointed to the position in the state.
She held that position until she was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2016 as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); again, making her the first female to hold the exalted position. The groundbreaking Hadiza also held the position of Vice President (African Region) for the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH).
In January 2021, she was reappointed as Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), for an additional five-year tenure, giving a public impression that she is one of the executive appointees who enjoyed the President’s trust and confidence
It was therefore astounding when reports emerged in May 2021 that Hadiza has been suspended by the President as the MD of NPA; with the NPA’s Executive Director of Finance and Administration, Mohammed Bello-Koko, named to lead the organisation in an acting capacity. The suspension was even more baffling considering that Hadiza has received widespread praises for the reforms she introduced at the NPA and for standing up to some powerful interests in the maritime sector. She was accused of alleged various financial maladministration, including failure to remit revenue surpluses to the Consolidated Revenue Fund
Further reports proved that the suspension was to allow a probe of allegations of financial improprieties against Hadiza to take place unhindered. The probe is at the instance of the supervising Ministry of Transportation, headed by the Minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
Details of a letter sent to President Muhammadu Buhari by Rotimi Amaechi contained an allegation that the yearly remittance of operating surpluses by the NPA from 2016 to 2020 was “far short of the amount due for actual remittance.” Amaechi categorically said that within the stipulated years, the NPA recorded an outstanding unremitted balance of N165 billion (N165, 320, 962, 697). He thereafter suggested that the financial account of the NPA be investigated and audited.
In her response to the allegation, Hadiza argued that the basis for arriving at the operating surplus of the NPA, upon which the budget office calculated the amount due as remittances to the federation account, was flawed and not in tune with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. She said the figures provided by the Budget Office as the operating surplus for 2017 and 2018 were higher than the actual figures derived from the NPA’s audited financial statements.
She further stated that the Audited Financial Statements of the Authority for the period 2017 and 2018 provide operating surpluses of N76.782 billion and N71.480 billion for 2017 and 2018 respectively, as contrary to the sums of N133.084 billion and N88.79 billion arrived at from the budgetary submission.
She stated in line with the template of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, the accessible operating surplus stood at N51.09 billion and N42.51 billion for the respective years. Remittances (80 percent of the amounts) due to the government account stood at N40.873 billion and N34.065 billion respectively. She also stated explicitly that the NPA paid in N42.415 billion and N33.969 billion for the two years.
For 2019 and 2020, Hadiza said that the NPA was awaiting the approval of its board of the agency’s audited accounts to determine the amount to remit for the two years. In the meantime, she reported NPA paid N31.683 billion and N51.049 billion for both years respectively.
An 11-member administrative panel of inquiry was then set up to probe the activities of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) between 2016 to 2021 under her leadership. The panel was headed by the Director, Maritime Services of the Ministry while the Deputy Director, Legal, of the same ministry served as Secretary. Other members of the panel were appointed by the Minister.
Recently, investigations established that the suspension handed to Hadiza has since translated into a permanent termination of appointment, although no official pronouncement has been made by the President or the Transportation Ministry to that effect. The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation disclosed the information in a July 12, 2021 counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the President. The affidavit was filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, as a preliminary objection to a suit challenging Buhari’s powers to constitute the NPA Board and appoint its Executive Directors without recourse to the NPA Act. In the suit marked FHC/L/CS/485/2021, the plaintiffs (Chief Executive Officer of Maritime Media Limited, Asu Beks, and two others) had challenged the powers of Buhari to constitute the NPA Board and appoint the Executive Directors without recourse to the NPA Act.
They also claimed that President Buhari prematurely reappointed Hadiza Bala-Usman six months to the expiration of her tenure. The affidavit, which was filed as Buhari’s preliminary objection to the suit, was signed by Agan Tabitha of the Civil Litigation Department of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, on behalf of Buhari’s counsel. President Buhari argued that the alleged reappointment of the third defendant (Hadiza Bala-Usman) upon which this court is being called upon to adjudicate, has since been terminated by the first defendant (Buhari) and the instant suit overtaken by the event of that termination. He also argued that the plaintiffs lack the locus-standi to bring the case and the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction to hear the matter. Consequently, Buhari urged the court to dismiss the suit as it has become purely academic.
Upon confirmation of the termination of her appointment, the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute Hadiza Bala-Usman over the alleged looting of N165 billion in the agency.
The party insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari should not just “ease-out” Hadiza Bala-Usman, but must go ahead to prosecute her over the alleged looting including revelations from the office of the Auditor General, which also unearthed the alleged stealing of unremitted deductions to Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), amounting to N3,667,750,470. $148,845,745.04, €4,891,449.50 and £252,682.14 during her watch at NPA.
The PDP further charged the EFCC to immediately take in Hadiza Bala Usman for questioning and prosecution over the alleged fraud, including the additional alleged diversion of N15.18 billion through alleged shady Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects by the NPA. Going ahead, the PDP also urged the EFCC to investigate the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, under whose ministerial watch the alleged looting in NPA was perpetrated.
The administrative panel constituted by the Ministry to investigate the alleged financial malfeasance is yet to finalise or submit its report to the Minister. So it remains to be seen if the termination of appointment will be the end of the saga for the embattled Hadiza Bala Usman or if further prosecution will follow, subject to an indicting report from the Panel.
Either way, it is a forlorn and lonely walk for Hadiza and an unsavoury anti-climax for the widely decorated trailblazing amazon, who has inspired lots of women, and has demonstrated that education indeed holds the key to liberty and excellence and that no height is too high to attain with hard work, determination, focus, and pertinacity.