PR Racketeers In NPA Versus MMSPlus: Lessons For CEOs, Others

PR Racketeers In NPA Versus MMSPlus: Lessons For CEOs, Others
Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Usman

Talk is cheap, fact is sacred but truth endures

The attention of management of MMS Plus Newspapers has been drawn to  what could best be described as “Jungle Public Relations” tainted with blackmail and intimidation. This is obviously mined by the Corporate and Strategic Communications Division(C&SC) of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and this malicious 8-page article is making its rounds in the social media through a spurious created tabloid by the name “Maritime Trade News”, ostensibly founded for this campaign of calumny against MMS Plus.

Regrettably, the sponsors of this instrument of blackmail are clearly unmindful of its backlash on the corporate image of NPA.

Let it be made clear that as the catalyst towards the Nigeria of our dream, whichposition we have consistently represented, this new attack by known and established fifth columnists in the Maritime industry, is not coming as a surprise to us yet, we cannot not be cowed.  

We had anticipated a day like this, because truth, they say is bitter. So we are not taken unaware, the more reason this diarrhoea of the pen is dismissed with the above opening statement. Truth must prevail! We received it with equanimity and thank Almighty for the opportunity to celebrate the unconscious elevation to higher glory by the unskilled public relations racketeers in NPA and make the truth known to the public.

This jungle PR stunt titled, “Scandal: Promoter of MMSPlus Tabloid Fingered in Blackmail of Maritime Agencies,” is full of lies garnished with self-destructive propaganda. It failed woefully to address the issues of massive corruption that has been on going at the NPA and calculated sabotage of the current leadership of the agency by some of its officials, among others;these were raised in the corroborative piece we wrote with the headline:NPA: How The Contract-Bribe Syndicate Operates.

The thick layers of ignorance displayed by the writer(s) almost made us to lapse into silence but to further unmask some masquerades parading themselves as staff and to alert the Managing Director and management of the looming image crisis being orchestrated by their so-called image makersat NPA, we resolved to respond.

Also pushy is the generic condemnation by these ‘Court Jesters’ of the Maritime media that has laboured over the years in pains and neglect to keep the industry running. The truth deserves to be told at this point. However, most importantly are the lessons to be learnt by chief executive officers of agencies and firms, image makers and the general public in this unfolding macabre dance of the spirit and public opprobrium being performed by NPA PR officials.

To explain the jungle nature of the PR, unprofessionalism, fabrication of lies and a way to escape justice, the publication lacks merit on the scale of Journalism, whether fake or real because all the stories had no By-line, no serial numbers, no publisher, no name (Reporter or Correspondent), no functional phone number(08098800708), no web address, no functional  office address(1, Okeowo Close, Alimosho, IyanaIpaja, Lagos) yet ignorantly, it has official stories linking NPA, where we got a copy from.

We were told later that it was published by the PR unit of the NPA. What a Shame! We wonder why the people crying “Blackmail” and “Threat” should be playing hide and seek in the dark, if it is not an act of intimidation to make us succumb to their series of subterranean moves, brain washing talks and meetings to instigate MMS Plus to take up media campaign against the Hadi Usman-Bala led management of NPA. We refuse to be intimidated and blackmailed into bad press against those who represent the ideals we have been building and promoting. Such an act is against our Journalistic principle, especially when we had pledged our support to her on the basis of her demonstrated commitment to drive transformation in the port sector and NPA specifically.

On Serial Blackmail, Threat and Lacking Credibility

It has become the norm in recent time among the ‘guilty’ to allude blackmail when a report is tilted against them. When it is in their favour however, it is objective; forgetting that these words are relative. We have seen this play out numerous times with Sahara Reporters and This Day Newspapers, among others. So, we do not expect anything less with MMS Plus which practices a genre of journalism etched on investigation, reforms, justice and development. And painstakingly over the last seven years, we have lived up to these words.

Concerning the NPA, we broke the removal of their two former managing directors – Mohammed Abdulsalam and Omar Suleiman; and forewarned the current Managing Director, Bala-Usman of a conspiracy against her and it came to pass in less than two weeks afterwards. Among many other milestones, in May 2017,we did a lead story foretelling an imminent Nigeria failure at IMO Council election based on certain fundamentals. Painfully, it happened as we said it would. How else can MMS Plus prove itself as a credible medium?

When MMS Plus turned down an offer of a monthly payment in hundreds of thousands of Naira from a logistics giant in the country as inducement to fight Hadiza and NPA, we were not blackmailing NPA and stakeholders!

When NPA, unsolicited, appointed MMSPlus as a “Gate–Keeper” via a letter dated April 24th,2017 with reference No: HQ/GM/PROC/CON/C.11/MD/16/677 for intelligence gathering and pro-active action of the management, among others; it was not a blackmailer!

Ever wonder why NPA would make “a serial blackmailer” its gate-keeper?

When MMS Plus on weekly basis in its pages and online edition publish with prominence, at no fee, activities of NPA, even ignoring the advice of some ‘Racketeers’ in the organisation’s C&SC unit, to always present bills and claims, which we turned down; it was not a blackmailer?

From the beginning to the climax of the crisis between NPA and Intels Nigeria Limited, MMS Plus decided to stick with what it considers as equity and justice, which favored NPA, it was not blackmailing NPA in this!

When MMS Plus stood by justice and fairness to support Comrade Dairy Abubakar, an NPA staff who had contested the Presidency of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria(MWUN) early this year to ensure that Hadiza and her team enjoy a labour-crisis -free tenure, even when they were allegedly blackmailed into abandon him, MMS plus gave him all the support needed, including logistics, unconditionally; it was not called a blackmailer! This particular effort resulted in a  litigation afterward,and MMS Plus was sued in the sum of N1.2billion. In its defence, MMS Plus signed on a Lawyer and bore the entire cost of the litigation, it was not a blackmailer!

This is just a peep into how uncharitable civil servants can be when protecting their illicit sources of extra income! Obviously, corruption is fighting back!

Now, MMS Plus has carried out its intelligence gathering role as assigned, from within NPA, it has suddenly become “a serial blackmailer,” leaving people to imagine what that expression really means. MMS Plus has an assigned duty to undertake intelligence gathering within and outside for the success of the management and institution. We consider this a national service which must be done properly.

On The Alleged Blackmail Of NIMASA

When the uninformed writer(s) started the enumeration of maritime agencies and operators blackmailed, we expected a long list but they stopped at only NIMASA and NPA, and no private sector operator was mentioned and this meant the claim of “Maritime Agencies” and “industry practitioners” does not exist. It further exposed their ignorance and the mediocre-studded C&SC Unit that “borrows” journalists to write mere press releases for an agency the size of NPA.

It is on record that MMS Plus never proposed anything to NIMASA for the 3rdedition of the annual Association of African Maritime Administration (AAMA) Summit held in Abuja. So, there certainly could not have been any case of rejection in a vacuum. This is absolute falsehood. Be well guided from NIMASA.

MMS Plus is a creative organisation, as a corporate policy, it does not thrive on mass market! But even if we did, why should we not be given the job if there is value to be added and NIMASA finds it exigent? If other media outfits outside the Maritime Industry and foreigners, who do not engage the services of Nigerians neither pay tax to Nigeria could be engaged, why not MMS Plus and other Maritime media that contribute to national income and assist in taking agile Nigerians off the labour market in addition to slaving for the industry, everyday? Their press releases are published each day both in print and online, free. A popular blog owned by a lady next door to MMS Plus, charges as much as 50,000 Naira per press release published. But the Maritime agencies get same published at no cost in Maritime media.   

Therefore, the blackmail alluded to in the story quoted,”NIMASA Spends N45 Billion On NSDP In 9 Years” does not add up because the headline was a product of interviews of cadets of NSDP and they were not even exclusive to MMS Plus. The writers were obviously on an adventurous scavenge for stories to link NIMASA to their frustration, and further deepen their journalistic and PR illiteracy.

Ruminating over this now, have they not vindicated MMS Plus over that story, following the recent outburst of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria(SOAN)on the ‘wasteful’ adventure of NIMASA in NSDP abroad? That is factual journalism! So, where is the blackmail in this? With all the expose MMS Plus has done in NIMASA, nobody in the agency, not even the Director General, Dr.  Dakuku Peterside has accused it of blackmail, rather the Director General accused staff of NIMASA of feeding MMS Plus with official information! This is a stamp of accuracy in reportage and cannot qualify as blackmail!

Why They Struck

The writers in their tirade have failed to address the internal extortion, contract-bills and bribe negotiations, blackmail and intimidation in the audit and finance department raised in the previous exposition. These are common knowledge among the members of staff, even the Managing Director of NPA also  acknowledged this much at a recent media chat thus: “The problem is that officials of government decide to sit on invoices or   demand bribes before making payments on invoices.” She further narrowed it down to NPA where she said that some officials had been arrested and handed over to the nation’s anti-graft agency.

While we maintain that the names thrown up in the previous piece be investigated based on our intelligence gathering, MMS plus merely deployed its investigative skills to unveil how bribery is perpetrated with in. At the appropriate time, more facts on this coded operation will be revealed.

MMS Plus does not work in NPA. It only deploys its investigative skills and so it relies on sources within. Have we wondered who these sources are? Can the officials crying blackmail, threat and mischief claim ignorance of these facts? We made contacts with some of them to confirm the veracity of the information. Are all these truly mischief and blackmail, as alleged?

Why are documents kept in an officer’s drawer for weeks, hidden and untreated, yet they claim other officers could work on them in that person’s absence? Why will an officer lock- up somebody’s document and proceed on leave with or without permission? And in this particular case, no official permission was granted!

This is somebody’s document, among other thousands. That case in particular which is a specimen of the order in the place, ought to serve as catalyst to drive the needed paradigm shift in NPA. And MMS Hall of Fame’s document has begun the process, if the management “will” see this through because we know they can. Openly, negotiation was demanded, bureaucratically, like many others, the approved amount was slashed, without reason, tactically, it was hidden for weeks and declared  missing  at first, and later declared un-payable because MMS Plus refused to ‘negotiate’. 

At what point does the use of blackmail apply here, when account numbers are involved? Who is the blackmailer in this case? When a civil servant is asked to do his or her work rightly, without succumbing to demand of bribe, it is termed blackmail. At what point does the suggestive body language of a civil servant, who keeps a document for weeks, locked-up in a drawer unattended is to be termed blackmail or an intimidation to make the customer or contractor succumb to bribery?

The latest finding

There is an underground plan by some corrupt elements within the NPA to sabotage the Managing Director’s plan of getting information seamlessly from the public and concerned members of staff. They want to be able to access and where necessary for their selfish ends, doctor such information before they get to her. And the aim of this directive will be defeated if this is not checked.

The Corporate and Strategic Enemies Within

To confirm their status as “Court Jesters” performing in a king’s court, the writers over rated their capacity to deliver a simple task of replying a text message, when they stated, ‘He failed to appreciate in his write-up that NPA no longer runs a Public Affairs Department but  a Corporate & Strategic Communications Division”.

The question then arises, since they became “Strategic” and “Corporate”, what meaningful “Communications” have they made? Since wearing this balloon of a name, the Department, now Division has degenerated into a school dormitory, in their confusion, waging war against the management for not making one of them head of the division. They delude themselves with the name, yet have done nothing outstanding since High Chief Michael Ajayi retired other than compromising the corporate image of NPA.

Is it not on record that they could not challenge Intels’ media fireworks when the chips were down with a strategic media combat. Knowing that they have nothing to offer, Hadiza and the new General Manager of the Division, whom they loathe for not being one of them, explored their personal goodwill in the media and presidential circle to deliver victory. They make a daily recount to anybody that cares to listen how their careers, over the years have been deliberately stagnated by successive managements by deploying  non-professionals to head the unit, with particular reference to the current management as the worst because “consultants have taken over their jobs.”

Illogically, they argued,“He equally attacked the Audit Department that had hitherto processed payment approvals granted media organisations, suggesting that the criticism raised by this serial blackmailer is grossly unfounded.” Many of the bills here are still unpaid. Beside, since after Chief Ajayi’s valedictory advert projects  in February, to the maritime media, how many of them have been supported with adverts, again?  Can the C&SC and  the Audit  Department explain the illegal deductions done on those media money? Who owns the account in which those cash payments were made before the statutory 10 percent VAT were deducted?  Is that a government policy? How come it is not obtainable in NIMASA and other parastatals? Do you know how many distressed calls come from members of the maritime media every week over those delayed and awaiting negotiation payment from the Finance and Audit?

Nowhere else have officials of C&SC expressed their strategic skills and corporate mischief than consistently inciting the media to create crisis for  NPA so that Hadiza can dole out money for crisis management. Details of this are very much available.

The Planned Blackmail of Hadiza

It is surprising and ironical to note that the assumed image-makers of an agency will constitute themselves into corporate information leakers, in a bid to make money and at the same time protest against marginalisation in the division. We have been incited severally to create bad press but we turned them down. We are ready to divulge issues discussed, with whom, meeting point and time; next in this sequel. Who is the blackmailer here? For fear of making mention of their games to the Managing Director, they shield the press away from her. Several Maritime media practitioners have officially made requests to see Hadiza, but they have been turned down for obvious reasons.

Other Maritime agencies heads are just there at a snap of a finger, and an appointment is kept.

Would you be surprised to hear that NPA corporate affairs officers, would demand that a journalist split 700,000 Naira advert payment into three and take one while the officials keep the remaining two? They usual refrain would be, one portion is for “Oga” and the other for “Us”. And the surprise here is that even with the e-payment system, they ensure that the money is paid into their personal accounts so as to have full control. MMS Plus had fallen a victim here, and some of the people involved are today seated as “Corporate and Strategic Communicators” of NPA in its Marina, Head Office.   

Yes, we were blackmailed and intimidated into submission here, and we were patted on the back as “good boys”, and we ignorantly believed at that time that it would encourage them to put us in their good books for the future.This was not to be. But we swallowed our wound and moved on. Yet, we did not blackmail anyone!

Here, we are at a loss as to the meaning of words like corruption, extortion, blackmail or corporate threat. These are the daily dilemma of Maritime media practitioners. When such actions are resisted, only one word is used to describe those who dare to be men in the face of tyranny – blackmail.


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