Often, one of the major problems with the Nigerian system is leadership. Finding the appropriate square peg to fit into the square hole is always a challenge and the consequence is always bad leadership, with spiraling effects on the citizenry. Hence, the need to ensure due diligence when appointing people into public office is sacrosanct.
A very strategic foreign exchange earner for the country, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was plunged into a ditch of leadership crisis after the immediate past Managing Director, Hadiza Bala-Usman, was made to handover to the Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Bello-Koko, who is ranked next to her. Bala-Usman’s ouster followed unconfirmed allegations and reports of insubordination.
President Muhammadu Buhari approved the suspension as recommended by the Minister of Transpiration, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, who set up of a panel of inquiry headed by the Director of Maritime Service and the Director of Legal (secretary), to investigate the NPA management under Bala-Usman and most importantly, President Buhari approved the appointment of Bello-Koko in acting capacity pending the investigation.
Since the change of baton at the NPA, a lot of port workers, stakeholders and other Nigerians have shifted attention to the new MD with a view to examining his suitability for the job, no matter how long he might serve in that capacity. The reason for this is not farfetched: maritime services are very essential to commerce and industry, so the appropriateness of the NPA MD would be of interest,because decisions, actions and inactions are capable of affecting chain of events and businesses.
Glancing through Bello-Koko’s resume and profile, the born 51-year-old, who was appointed as an Executive Director in 2016, is from Kebbi State. He is not just one of the longest serving ED and member of the management team, but also, one, who has exemplified himself with his penchant for good corporate governance and best practices.
He is equipped with about two decades of work experience in the banking sector. He started his working career with FSB international Bank Plc, Port Harcourt, as executive trainee-banking operations and was there between 1996 and 2004. He rose to various positions such as Banking Officer-Credit and later Senior Banking Officer, Senior Treasury Officer, and later manager.
He later joined the Zenith Bank, where he became the Deputy General Manager, Zonal Head, and member, Zenith Bank management team. Bello-Koko embarked on a leave of absence from the bank to take up his appointment as NPA Executive Director in 2016.
Without prejudice to the suspended NPA boss, Bala Usman, fact is that a good number of NPA employees are of the opinions that that Bello-Koko possesses better requisite qualifications and experiences needed to take the NPA to another level.
He completed his secondary school education at the Federal Government Collage, Sokoto in 1986, and headed for the University of Sokoto, where he bagged a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Studies (B.Sc) in 1992 and Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto in 1995. He crowned it with Executive Certificate in Public Leadership from Harvard Kennedy School, USA in 2019.
With his appointment of July 2016 as the NPA ED Finance and Administration, his job, for which he is recognised to have done meritoriously well, was among others, to provide oversight for all divisions within the finance and administration directorate and ensure they operate at optimal levels and deliver quality services within defined service level agreements and to provide improved revenue collection measures.
It is also his responsibility to provide measures that ensure blockage of revenue leakages with a view to improving revenue generation and collection, consolidate the preparation of the authority’s annual budget for presentation to the relevant authorities by the CEO, coordinate the budget implementation in the organisation and report same to the CEO and ensure that appropriate strategies are developed to achieve the organisation’s goals and objectives.
Bello-Koko oversaw the automation of key port operations, thereby improving operational efficiency and plugging identified revenue leakages, embarked on periodic introduction of cost-cutting measures and prudent financial management strategies, and he worked in close collaboration with the external auditors to deliver audited accounts that are International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) compliant.
His job description also encompassed the design and implementation of internal process improvement strategies and performance measurement techniques, ensuring the NPA human resource management practices are designed to promote manpower development, competence and high performance that will positively impact productivity and performance and overseeing the human capacity and manpower development processes in the organisation while ensuring the implementation of a strategic and well-designed annual staff training plan.
The tasks of promoting staff welfare, interfacing with labour unions and ensuring prompt resolution of industrial conflicts as they may arise, overseeing the activities of the medical services division responsible for the provision of medical care services to both serving and retired employees, ensuring functionality and efficiency of the NPA medical facilities across the port locations, were also parts of his duties.
Koko-Bello oversaw the management of NPA’s superannuation funds and pension assets, ensured prompt payment of retirement benefits to all retiring employees, ensured prompt payment of pension allowance to the retired employees on pension payroll, facilitated regular verification of the NPA pensioners and provision of medical welfare services.
He also oversaw the activities of the Enterprise Risk Management Department responsible for insuring all the Authority’s assets, ensured prompt payment of premium and claims processing, ensured circularisation and strict implementation of government polices across the organisation, presided over directorate meetings, and served as a member of the Executive Management Committee and Board of Directors.
In his resume, Bello-Koko boasts that he possesses special skills such as strong communication skills (both oral and written), broad orientation in credit analysis, management, documentation, and training, broad-based exposure, competence in managing oil and gas relationships and profound knowledge of public sector business in Nigeria, including at local, state, and federal levels, with additional experience in the South-south region, strong negotiation skills and prudent financial management.
Armed with all these qualifications, experiences and skills, expectations are high. Many industry stakeholders are of the views that he has all it takes to easily accomplish his new responsibility of overseeing the affairs of NPA and performing the functions of the CEO as provided in the act establishing the agency.
*Adogwu wrote from Benue State