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Women in Business: Hadiza Bala Usman

Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)

Hadiza Bala Usman (born January 2, 1976) is a Nigerian politician who since 2016 is serving as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority. She was previously the chief of staff to the Governor of Kaduna State from 2015 to 2016.

She is one of the co-founders of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, and is also a founding member of the ruling All Progressives Congress.

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Usman was born in Zaria to a Fulani ruling class family of the Sullubawa clan. Her father, Yusufu Bala Usman, was a prominent academic and historian. He later founded the Centre for Democratic Development, Research and Training in Zaria. Her maternal great grandfather, Abdullahi Bayero, was the 10th Emir of Kano from 1926 to 1953.

She grew up on the campus of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, where her father worked. She started her education at the university staff primary school and went ahead to complete her secondary education. In 1996, she enrolled at the university and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2000. She later received a Masters degree in Development Studies from the University of Leeds in 2009.

In 1999, she spent a year at the Centre for Democratic Development and Research Training in Zaria as a research assistant.

Hadiza then worked at the Bureau of Public Enterprises from July 2000 to August 2004 as an enterprise officer. From October 2004 to January 2008, she was then hired by the UNDP for the Federal Capital Territory Administration as a special assistant to the Minister on project implementation.

In 2011, she campaigned and lost for the federal constituency of Musawa/Matazu as a candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change. She then joined the Good Governance Group in Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation, as the country director of strategy from 2011 to July 2015.

In 2014, following the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping by Boko Haram, Hadiza Bala Usman co-founded the Bring Back Our Girls campaign group to advocate the rescue of the abducted schoolgirls. Hadiza Bala Usman has helped coordinate meetings with the parents of the kidnapped girls and members of the Nigerian government.

In 2015, following his election, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai appointed her as Chief of Staff to the Governor of Kaduna State. She was appointed as the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in July 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari. Her appointment generated a lot of controversies as many saw her nomination as ethnically based and questioned her qualification for the specific role.

Hadiza is from the Northern part of Nigeria where there are not enough women involved in politics and there are some not even allowed at all in most cases. Nevertheless, she chose to be different. According to her, “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.”

“We refuse to allow ourselves to fit into a box. There’s a particular narrative that’s around who you are as an African woman. For me as a northern woman, the case is that you’re required to stay in that nice ‘happy box’ that they’ve put you in, and I refused to do that. I wouldn’t stay in that place they put me in and what happened is that I turned out to be the MD of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).”

Hadiza Bala Usman was married to an economic analyst, Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi who served under the former (Late) President Umaru Musa Yar’adua as economic adviser and together they have two boys.

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