Controversy trails fire incident at NPA Marina headquarters …As stakeholders finger staffers’ discontent
Although many assets both public and private buildings were set ablaze by suspected hoodlums at the wake of the alleged shooting of ENDSARS protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, controversy has continued to trail the burning of the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA headquarters located on Marina Street, Lagos.
Recall that many assets comprising both government and privately owned buildings, shops and supermarkets as well as vehicles across most of the cities in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja were burnt by hoodlums and criminal elements, who hijacked the ENDSARS peaceful protest following the shooting at the toll gate with the intent to steal and loot.
Many stakeholders have however continued to wonder why the newly upgraded NPA office edifice, which was also recently furnished lavishly albeit under a controversial multi-billion naira furniture contract, was singled out among other bigger structures belonging to both the government and private individuals and organisations.
Competent industry sources observed that the authority has a full-fledged Police Command, headed by a Commissioner, including a retinue of security officers but wondered why the hoodlums operated freely at the authority headquarters for several hours without even a feeble resistance from any quarters.
The sources are also at loss as to why the NPA Fire Service station made no attempt to put out the fire, which was suspected to have been launched from the back of the building towards the Broad Street end until it burnt down the back wing of the building.
It was also gathered that the hoodlums attempted to make an incursion into the Marina office of Eko Electricity Distribution Company EKEDC, which shares boundary on the left with the NPA building but had to flee due to little resistance from unarmed security guards on duty, a development that fuelled a feeling of possible insider connivance.
Another poser raised by the stakeholders was why the office of the Managing Director of the NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman was completely ransacked with sensitive documents carted away while items such as water dispensers were turned upside down by the hoodlums, arguing that street urchins or criminals, who are strange to the operational systems of the authority could not have identified the office of the MD.
The sources hinted that the fire incident was one of the manifestations of bottled anger and emotions, especially among the top echelon of executive management, who are discontent with the system that has either censored or gaged their voices from being heard.
It was further gathered that this discontent among top echelon of the management also accounted for the leakage of a controversial internal memo in which the MD approved N320, 000 for a business class local air fare return ticket from Lagos to Yola and N290, 000 for economy class on same route, among several others through which the agency was estimated to have lost in excess of N785million annually.
There were also speculations that the attack on the MD in at the National Assembly, Abuja last year by hoodlums while she went for budget defence may also not be unconnected with the discontent even among larger stakeholders, especially her very hard line position on some national issues.
Some stakeholders noted that the manner in which she handled the Secure Anchorage contract, especially after the Senate, the country’s upper legislative chamber had given its nod suggested that she runs the NPA as a personal estate.
A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said: “She has personalised most things around the NPA, which is a national asset as if it is her personal belonging or it is for a certain region of the country. She unfortunately exhibits these tendencies even while dealing with her fellow appointees on the executive management, who are also Nigerians.”
Stakeholders have expressed worries that the fire incident would take its toll on operations of the nation’s seaports, given that sensitive documents were taken away while many computer systems were either carted away or destroyed in the inferno.
According to a stakeholder: “It is even more worrisome given that the incident is coming at a time when the government expects huge revenue from the port systems given the distortions in the global crude oil market, which had for several years been the main stay of the nation’s economy.
“These destructions have put a lot of strains on the insurance sector and this suggests that it will take a longer time to replace some of the burnet assets and so it will ultimately hamper efficient port systems and revenue no matter whatever anyone says to the contrary”, the stakeholder also said.
Meanwhile, when contacted, General Manager Corporate and Strategic Communications of the authority, Jatto Adams, simply said he is not a member of top management and therefore not aware of any infighting.
“I am not a member of the top executive management of the NPA, so I am not aware of that. But I think there is no iota of truth in those your assertions”, he said.