Sunday, 7 June 2020

Leaked Presidency Memo Raises Dust At TCN

An alleged leakage of official documents concerning the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) at the Presidency is generating controversy after some members of the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) said top government officials were plotting the reinstatement of the ousted managing director of the company. The association said in a statement on Thursday that the former managing director, Mr. Usman Gur Mohammed, had been meeting prominent citizens to solicit for return to his former post. “Two of such prominent people are the president of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, and the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed. We learnt with doubt that the AfDB president wrote the president tying loans to the appointment of an individual, Usman Mohammed. “On the side of the minister (Zainab Ahmed), she was said to have agreed that the loan was needed even with an appointment tied to it. What an irrational proposition, if true,” said a statement issued by the association’s General Secretary, Umar Dubagari.

It was gathered that a section of the national level of the association is led by Chris Okonkwo, a member of the management staff of TCN whom the ousted managing director had removed from office after allegedly ending his four-year posting from the Ministry of Power to TCN. The issue had raised tension at TCN shortly before Mohammed was summarily removed by the Minister of Power, Engineer Sale Mamman, after he got an approval from President Muhammadu Buhari through a series of correspondents from the president’s Chief of Staff. On how the union got the information on which their statement was based, it was learnt from multiple sources that the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, had forwarded the letter of the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to President Muhammadu Buhari with the attached letter of the president of AfDB to Engr. Mamman for his comment.

The documents, which were termed to be classified and awaited presidential action, may have been leaked in that process to the section of the union led by Okonkwo. A top official in the power sector said: “The minister finding any fault with the TCN head, should have in the first instance, issued him a query or asked him to step down for a panel of enquiry as guided by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) who is empowered to issue appointment and dismissal letters to government appointees. “The minister only acted through a press release without recourse to the SGF. As we speak, no letter has been given to the acting MD of TCN and his management team, or a dismissal letter to the ousted MD, nearly three weeks after,” the official explained. “The minister also knows that it was the federal government that had requested that Mohammed come to TCN on secondment from AfDB, and as such AfDB reserves the right to ask questions if that official on such critical assignment in Nigeria is summarily removed from office. This is also a spite on the presidency’s request for the official from the bank and the formal approval for his secondment to TCN by AfDB.”

Another official said the implication of leaking official correspondence to a labour union was enormous and government officials caught in such act could be severely punished. Daily Trust on Sunday also recalled recently that President Buhari’s speech on the coronavirus pandemic lockdown was released ahead of State of the Nation address. The presidency had condemned the act and promised to deal with the ‘enemy of the state’. Minister insists on due process Reacting to the allegation, Aaron Artimas, the Special Adviser, Media and Communications to the Minister of Power, dismissed the claims of leaking any correspondence to the union, saying the union had already supported the changes at TCN.

“They could not counter themselves. I strongly doubt that at this stage the minister could be asked to comment on any attempt by the former MD to return to TCN. I wish to state emphatically that there is nothing of this sort and therefore no authentic letter to be leaked.” Artimas also said, “Due diligence or process was followed in the appointment of the new MD of TCN to align the agency with the Presidential Power Initiative and President Muhammadu Buhari acted appropriately by approving the minister’s recommendations. There’s nothing on ground to warrant such a review and I doubt if the senior staff can put themselves in such an incongruous position.”

How it all began The former managing director, Usman Gur Mohammed, had barred Chris Okonkwo, the General Manager Special Duties, from work over the lapse of his appointment for over two years in a letter dated April 24, 2020. Mohammed had said Okonkwo’s posting from the Ministry of Power had lapsed by June 11, 2018 and he stopped from going to work from June 12, 2018. The TCN branches of SSAEAC and the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) had lauded the management of TCN for not extending the appointment of Okonkwo. But Okonkwo in a response letter signed on May 11, 2020 addressed to the then managing director said he was not ‘appointed’ in 2014 because he was a career and core power sector staffer with continuous service year of 20 at that time.

 However, Okonkwo said: “My appointment was in the line of my competence and contributions in the defunct PHCN.” Shortly after, Okonkwo’s section of the union, and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) wrote to the Ministers of power, and Labour and Employment, threatening nationwide protests over Mohammed’s action. Sources said the Minister of Power then drew the attention of the new CoS, Prof. Gambari, to a letter he had written to the late CoS to remove Mohammed in March 2020, accusing him of frustrating the Siemens power initiative and other insubordination to the minister. The new CoS the acted on the letter and conveyed it to the president who then approved Mohammed’s removal.

 The CoS then reverted to the minister with the approval and copied the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). The minister on May 19, 2020, same day Buhari approved his request, announced the removal of Mohammed through a statement. It was learnt that Mohammed was immediately barred from entering his office the next morning amidst heavy security presence. While the TCN unions – SSAEAC and the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) protested his removal, barricading TCN facilities and causing halts in power transmission, the SSAEAC faction led by Okonkwo lauded the minister for summarily removing the TCN head. The SGF had immediately issued a circular warning ministers to desist from arbitrarily removing heads of agencies.

Source :Daily Trust

Share This

0 comments: