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Adejoh Idoko Momoh: It Should Matter Who Heads Our Ports

In no other period of Nigeria’s history has it mattered more who heads its Ports Authority than this period when the country battles an ailing economy, declining oil prices, militant activities and a dangerous level of decay in all its critical sectors.

The role of the Nigerian Ports Authority as the biggest maritime revenue earner in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasized; afterall Nigeria looks to reduce its dependence on oil revenues. That and the fact that according to the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, the authority earned some N162bn in 2015 alone but remitted only N2bn to the Federation Account.

The thought of having someone as forward thinking as Hadiza Bala Usman as its Managing Director is indicative of the will to reposition the authority for effective revenue generation, this will is at the centre of restoring Nigeria’s continuously receding economy to the path of recovery and ultimately greatness.

I have worked closely with her for over four years and my respect for her intellect and strong will to get things done remains unwavering. It is the ease with which she performs multiple seemingly difficult tasks that appeals the most to me.

One particular memory I am fond of is how she set up the Kaduna State Bureau of Public Service Reforms. You see, two to three weeks’ worth of work had gone into setting up the agency, but there was very little progress. Not until she stepped in, demonstrated leadership and gave very precise instructions.

Seeing her instructions implemented and the bureau coming into shape, I had never been more proud.

As with most things Nigerian, her appointment has been faced with resistance largely surrounding yardsticks such as age, gender or ethnicity as opposed to hard work, competence and responsibility, all things that can actually judge competence.

What these people who see age and gender as pointers to her inability to effectively carry out her responsibilities do not acknowledge is the fact that her appointment is a victory for both Nigeria’s women and its youth; both populations that have being largely underrepresented.

You do Nigeria a disservice if you adjudge appointments so, the country painstakingly strives to move beyond these yardsticks that are at best prejudicial and constitute no real basis for measuring ability. We must judge her appointment based on capability, performance and work ethic that has been witnessed first-hand. As one who has spent all these years benefitting of her tutelage, I know that her appointment will do Nigeria good.

In my experience working under her, she has mostly referred to me as colleague: an equal of sorts even when we both know her towering career experiences and achievements by far dwarf mine. I probably would have corrected her if I did not immensely enjoy the feeling of self-worth that single compliment gave me.

She spearheaded reforms as Kaduna’s Chief of Staff and contributed to the cost cutting measures that have drastically reduced the cost of governance in the State. I saw as she took very significant pay cuts and rejected certain allowances due to her office just so some resources are available and can be re-allocated to more pressing concerns.

Her passion for girl child education and issues affecting people living with disabilities is phenomenal. She backs this by reminding everyone who will care to listen ‘I have seen family members deal with disability; I know they require a lot of support and the least we can do is provide this support’.

Beyond these, her public service record in Kaduna is one of dedication founded on providing equal access dependent on skills, capabilities and competence as opposed to ethnicity, religion or flawed ideology. I cannot imagine anyone more suited to manage our nation’s ports or its resources than Hadiza Bala Usman.

One realization we must make is that it will take nothing less than hard work to reform our ports for efficient operations, increased revenue generation and rid it of all those who seek to take advantage of the country’s inability to monitor maritime operations effectively and Hadiza Bala Usman is a woman who comes ready with the work ethic and skills required to do this work.

Adejoh Idoko Momoh writes from Kaduna, Nigeria. He can be reached on momoh.adejoh@gmail.com and tweets from @Adejoh

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