Steve Agbota, Maritime Correspondent
Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has an infectious personality. She disarms anybody that comes around her with uncanny wisdom and intellective action(s). She loves to drum to the ear of anybody who cares to listen that she refused to bow to cultural norms that draw a red line for women not to attain lofty heights in their chosen careers.
According to her, while speaking at an event organised by CNN Africa in partnership with the British Deputy High Commission in Nigeria, in conclusion of the “Women’s Month” celebration, “I wouldn’t stay in that place they put me … Where I come from in the North, women are conditioned to think that they’re not meant to be out there. But I’m a woman who will take what’s mine. I serve as an inspiration to young women out there.
“So I encourage all of us –young women, older women – to just think of who we are and what we want to achieve and push the boundaries and refuse to be defined by anyone else.”
Those who have closely followed the activities of the NPA MD since she took charge in 2016, would agree that that she is no pushover. Fearless and highly focused, she has introduced reforms that ruffled feathers. One of them was the launch of the provisional final billing and customer portal module of Revenue Invoice Management System aimed at improving service offering at the port, partner relationship, create efficient payment method, maximise revenue and eradicate loss associated with fraud and revenue leakage, acquisition and commissioning of four new tug boats, namely MT Daura, MT Ubima, MT Uromi and MT Majiya, in order to further improve operational efficiency.
She also engineered the transformation of the NPA manpower development practices to improve the skill, knowledge and capacity of employees and published the tariff regime of her parastatal on the website for the whole world to see, in line with the vision of transparency and accountability. To ensure transparency and accountability, she made the NPA the first among all MDAs to open its budget to the public with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Budgit Open Budget System Platform and Implementation of a Public Data Dissemination programme.
Bala-Usman established and entrenched a level playing field for all operators in the port industry by removing all bottlenecks that hinder healthy competition in the industry. She de-classified ports terminals and thereby removing the categorisation of some ports as strictly oil and gas, among other developments.
She started her career with Centre for Democratic Development and Research Training (CEDDERT), Zaria, a non-governmental organisation in 1999 as a Research Assistant. She thereafter worked at the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), the agency charged with the implementation of the privatisation programme from July 2000-August 2004 as an Enterprise Officer. She was then hired by the UNDP for the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) from October 2004-January 2008, as a Special Assistant to the Minister on Project Implementation.
As a result of all these and many other notable achievements, the Financial Times (FT) named her among the most influential women of 2014. She had also emerged as CNN’s most inspiring woman of 2014 and equally named by Ebony Magazine among 100 most influential black women in the world in 2014.