As expected, confusion is trailing the discordant tunes between the board Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Chief George Ricketts and the Managing Director, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman over the attack by protesters of the Authority’s Headquarters office at Marina, Lagos State few weeks ago.
After barely two weeks of impunity of silence, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman on Sunday disagreed with the position of her Chairman Board of the NPA , Chief- George Ricketts that the destruction of the Authority’s headquarters building and that of Tin Can port will affect its operations. Both Ricketts and Hadiza Usman are stalwart of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
Ricketts has said that the destruction, burning and looting of the Authority’s headquarters in Lagos will affect the economic activities of the seaports.
Ricketts, in a statement, said for the fact that the NPA as a Federal Government’s parastatal plays a critical role in the maritime sector, the vandalisation of its facilities will affect economic activities.
According to him, Nigeria being an import dependent country, the ports are critical to the development of the Country. He said the NPA strongly condemns the burning of the NPA headquarters, frowning at the destruction of public properties. His words,’’ While the youths have the rights to protest, it has become obvious that the peaceful protest was hijacked by criminal elements. The destruction of a critical facility such as the NPA building will affect the economic activities of the ports. The ports are critical aspect of the nation’s economy.
“We strongly condemn this act of burning of the Marina headquarters of the NPA. The NPA plays a critical role as a Federal Government’s parastatal in the maritime industry. The NPA belongs to all Nigerians and as an import dependent nation, it is the ports that feeds the whole nation. If they start pulling down critical structures of this nature, where do they expect the government to get the funds to meet their demands”?
But in a sharp contrast to the Chairman’s statement, Hadiza Bala Usman has disagreed on the damage done by the torching of the facility by the hoodlums, saying it will not in anyway affect ports operations. Both indifference statements is already causing confusion to stakeholders of who is saying the truth.
Roamrepporters gathered, though the MD’s belated assurances has doused the fears of possible disruptions of ports activities, it has also to a reasonable extent challenged the audacity of the Board chairman to speak on the matter before the Managing Director, even though she may have gone missing for over two weeks since the dastardly attack took place.
Analysts say the Hadiza’s clarifications have also raised other fundamental issues, such as who carried out the attack, as she had reportedly linked the attack to both unknown persons and hoodlums.
A statement that has lent credence to allegations that the arson may have been an insider’s job, presumably undertaken to conveniently pass the blame on the hoodlums that went on a destruction and looting spree during the EndSARS protests by Nigerian youths.
The NPA had also in a statement by its General Manager Corporate and Strategic Communications, Engr. Adams Jato, blamed the attacks on the NPA’s Tin Can Island facilities and the NPA House on unknown persons and hoodlums.
However, the MD’s position has confused observers as the Lagos State Police Command had last week announced that a large number of the hoodlums who perpetrated the acts of arson and looting during the protests, have been arrested and charged to court.
Observers further fear that the opposing views and assessment of the damage done to the authority’s facilities by the managing director and Board chairman could be a pointer to a cover up, a concern that is accentuated by the NPA helmsman’s display of lack of urgency in making a public statement on the incident.
The statement reads in part: “The management of the Nigerian Ports Authority regrets the attack on its 26/28 Marina Road, Lagos, corporate headquarters and the Tin Can Island Port by unknown persons on Wednesday October 21st and Tuesday October 20th, 2020 respectively.
“The attack on the Tin Can Island Port commenced at 9:45am on Tuesday October 20th 2020. The hoodlums made an attempt to forcefully gain access into the port, attacked the administrative building and set ablaze a truck which was evacuating cargo.
“The attackers at the headquarters numbering over 300 persons, gained access into the premises at 8:42am on Wednesday October 21st 2020 from the outer Broad Street wing brandishing daggers, sticks and cutlasses.”
The authority said the attackers disarmed and chased away security personnel on duty out of the headquarters premises, and thereafter, “proceeded to burn and vandalise several vehicles belonging to the authority and some members of staff”, after which a wing of the office building was reportedly set on fire.
“After an assessment of the extent of damage, it was discovered that apart from the annex wing that was burnt, many offices were vandalised, while computers, printers, water dispensers and other electronic devices were looted.
“A total of 27 vehicles, including cars, utility vehicles, pick up vans and staff buses were set on fire, while 33 other vehicles, 22 of which belong to members of staff were vandalised. A Toyota Prado SUV, a Bajaj Motorcycle and one Hilux patrol van were also stolen from the premises.” the statement said.