Ahead of the 2023 general election, politicians across all political parties are now involved in alignment and realignment more so that President Muhammadu Buhari, would not be standing for election.
Recent development especially in the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) that saw the erstwhile Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman, being suspended is believed to have political undertone.
Political pundits believe that the suspension of Hadiza Usman was to prepare grounds for restoration of all business relationships between the NPA and Integrated Logistics Nigeria Limited (INTELS), a company owned by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a stalwart of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While inaugurating the administrative panel set up to probe the management of the NPA recently, Ameachi had urged the panel to “examine and investigate Issues leading to the termination of pilotage and other contracts of Nigerian Ports Authority and confirm compliance with the terms of the respective contracts, court rulings and Presidential directives.”
Thus, it is curious that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), is working underneath to restore the INTELS business relationship with the NPA now that Hadiza Usman is out of the way.
Recall that Minister Amaechi, who defected to the APC ahead of the 2015 presidential election, served twice – 2015 and 2019 as the Director General of the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation.
Sources said that by working for the restoration of INTELS contracts, the minister may have been killing two birds with one stone by building a financial war chest and warming himself back into the heart of former President Atiku Abubakar, who still aspires to contest for the presidency in 2023 and may be disposed to consider Ameachi as running mate, all things being equal.
When reminded that Atiku recently announced his divestment from INTELS, a source familiar with the matter responded thus; “I can bet that he is still involved in the company. This was only a gimmick coming from the belief that the government wanted to ruin his business interests, but all NPA wanted was just compliance with the laws.
“Why aren’t there problems in their other businesses for instance? The boat pilotage brings in a lot of money, but the contract has expired after a 15-year period, they were allowed to participate in the tenders, got disqualified for flouting the rules but the minister does not seem to want to hear that.”
Multiple Sources in the know of the undercurrents between the minister and the NPA maintained that the main concern of the minister is the multi-million-dollar pilotage contract, which INTELS executed for the NPA since 2005.
The relationship was punctuated by numerous altercations since the Hadiza Bala Usman management took over affairs at the NPA in 2016 until it came to a terminal end in August 2020.
Disagreements between the two parties centred mainly on claims by the NPA that the company failed to comply with Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of the government.
There was also the NPA’s decision to break the monopoly of INTELS as the only oil and gas terminal in the country, a decision, which is believed to have been applauded by operators in the sector.
It was gathered that the Minister had, following a Presidential approval sometime earlier this year, requested the restoration of all contracts between the NPA and INTELS, which were hitherto suspended or terminated by the NPA.
The NPA was also directed to withdraw all court cases involving both parties. Bala Usman was said to have escalated the issue to President Muhammadu Buhari, providing more facts and insisting that the pilotage contract was not terminated but had expired by effluxion of time. which inspired a letter to seek the advice of the Attorney General of the Federation.
Although sources close to the minister suggested that his main anger resulted from Ms Bala Usman’s presentation of superior facts to the presidency without his knowledge or approval.
Furthermore, it was gathered that the key thing is that Bala Usman was in the way of the plan to prepare the grounds for the 2023 ambition, which may include the possibility of leaving the All Progressives Congress (APC) if the party becomes too difficult to handle given the fact that Buhari would no longer be standing for elections, which will make the contest a free- for- all.
”This will not be too good for Ameachi who is not well liked by most party stalwarts including state governors and the leadership of the national assembly.
“The calculation is that even the PDP will implode given the controversy surrounding Atiku’s candidacy and the opposition of people like Governor Nyesom Wike to it.
“Then, that popular saying that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ philosophy will come in and Atiku and Ameachi may emerge in a calculation that is bound to shock many Nigerians,” a source in the south-west said. – PSN