Nigeria: TCN Boss Fired Over N781 Billion Siemens Power Deal

The former Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Usman Gur Mohammed, was sacked over the $2 billion (about N781bn) Siemens Presidential Power Initiative (PPI), Daily Trust gathered.

The document approving the sack, which was obtained by our reporter was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari and his Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari.

Mohammed was removed last week and replaced by Engineer Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz, as the acting MD of TCN. The Minister of Power, Engineer Sale

Mamman, who got approval for the shakeup, was also empowered by the presidency to immediately nominate members of the TCN board and management team.

The removal has generated a lot of controversy with a group staging protest.

TCN has been without a board since 2014. Former President Goodluck Jonathan approved a 17-member board under the chairmanship of late Engr. Haman Tukur in August 2013. Tukur and his team were inaugurated in September 2013, but he resigned as the board chairman in January 2014, in protest about the crisis that engulfed the power sector, particularly about the failure of the N3.85bn Manitoba Hydro International management contract for TCN.

No letters from SGF to affected persons

But nearly one week after the minister of power removed Usman Mohammed as MD of TCN and installed Sule Abdulaziz, in acting capacity, none of them has been given a letter to that effect.

Our reporters learnt that the SGF issued the respective letters, but sources close to the affected persons said no such letters had been issued to them to indicate the removal and subsequent appointment.

Speaking to Daily Trust, the ousted TCN boss said, "I have not received any letter to that effect and even the minister has not even called me to convey the removal."

An official at TCN who confirmed this, said the MD's office lock had been changed and that the former MD could not remove his belongings as he was forced out while the acting MD was escorted into the office by security agents to assume duty.

How TCN scuffle began

It all began when the Minister of Power, Engr. Sale Mamman, on March 25, 2020, wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari, in a letter with reference no: FMP/TCN/2020/P/1, requesting the alignment of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) with the Presidential Power Initiative - Siemens Plan.

The letter, which was received on May 14, 2020, by the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President, recalled that on July 23, 2019, the federal government reached an agreement with Siemens AG, with the support of the German Government, regarding the modernisation of the Nigerian electricity infrastructure under the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI). The minister said TCN plays a critical role in the electricity supply value chain as it is the sole transporter and link between the Generation Companies (GenCos) and the Distribution Companies (DisCos). He indicted TCN's infrastructure saying, "Today, TCN is marred by ineffective maintenance and poor system management, which contributes to partial and total system collapses, reflecting the inadequacy in infrastructure. Furthermore, the privatisation exercise has further decoupled transmission from distribution and generation leading to severe infrastructural misalignment that is costing the country about N1 billion a day in system constraints."

It also said TCN is the most critical stakeholder in the success of the PPI, making its alignment with the PPI absolutely essential. Mamman said he had been frustrated for long in his TCN realignment strategy by the leadership under Usman Gur Mohammed (the ousted MD).

The minister, in the letter, said the former MD had not shown support for the $2bn Siemens deal, and that he had failed to manage the situation with the DisCos on bulk energy dispatch constraints, while there were discordant tunes with the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC).

In conclusion, he recommended the removal of the MD, if Nigeria was to accelerate the Siemens deal to deliver on more power for Nigerians, especially as the COVID-19 ravages the country. "It is thus critical to replace Mr. Usman Mohammed, with an individual that is not only qualified, but fully aligned with the federal government's strategy for the sector."

One of the eight prayers of the minister was; "Consider replacing Mohammed with Engineer Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz, whose resume is attached, being a capable replacement who possess the requisite technical knowledge and experience as well as aligned with PPI and other government initiatives within the sector."

But speaking on the allegations, the sacked TCN boss, Mohammed said, "I never opposed the deal but we had issues that we wanted resolved. At the end, I was the one who prepared the project for them to submit for the president's approval".

Gambari's role in the saga

The new Chief of Staff (CoS), Prof. Ibrahim Gambari assumed duty on May 13, 2020 and by May 14, 2020, the minister's letter, which had been pending since March was acknowledged.

By May 15, a memo was written and signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Abdul Mutallab Mukhtar, based on the letter received by the CoS from the minister. The letter addressed to President Buhari, which was sighted by Daily Trust, conveyed the key points of the minister's prayers.

It reminded the president about realigning TCN, highlighting that the ineffective systems maintenance by TCN was costing Nigeria "over N1 billion a day to pay for electricity generated but not consumed."

The CoS letter also reminded the president that the board of the TCN, had yet to be constituted and that the absence of the essential governance framework had contributed to the poor coordination in the sector.

He urged Buhari to approve the minister's request for "the immediate removal of the current MD of the TCN" and "direct that the minister's proposed replacement, Engineer Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz, be installed as the acting MD, pending when the minister submits a substantive list for the board and executive management of TCN."

Four days after, precisely on May 19, 2020, Buhari remarked and signed on the letter for the CoS action, saying, "I have prayer paragraph six, approved, directed."

The Special Assistant to the President (President Secretariat), Sabi'u Yusuf, the same day, wrote a letter referenced PRES/65-I/COS/3/750, addressed to the CoS, Prof. Gambari, conveying Buhari's approval of his earlier memo.

Gambari, on the same day responded to the minister of power, in a letter referenced SH/COS/03/A/2779, which he personally signed, conveying the president's response.

"Kindly be advised that the president has approved the immediate removal of the current managing director of TCN, Usman Gur Mohammed. Directed that Engineer Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz be installed as the acting Managing Director, pending your submission of a substantive list for the board and executive management of the TCN."

A copy of this letter was also sent to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation for onward action.

Previous actions by the minister on appointees

Daily Trust reports that this is not the first time the minister has secured approval for the removal or suspension of an agencies' head. However, they were reversed through a letter by the SGF.

At present, a circular has been issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, on the procedure for the removal of heads of public agencies.

It coincidentally dated May 19, 2020, the day the minister announced the removal of Mohammed as TCN head.

In December 2019, the minister suspended the Managing Director of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company PLC (NBET), Dr. Marilyn Amobi, but the SGF in a letter conveyed her reinstatement and moved her to the finance ministry, away from the power minister's reach.

During the same period, Mamman removed the Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Damilola Ogunbiyi. That was also overruled by Buhari, who commuted her sack to resignation as she was already with the United Nations.

SGF kicks against arbitrary removal of CEOs

The SGF, Boss Mustapha, has issued a circular on the procedure for the removal of heads of public agencies.

The SGF, in the circular, emphasised that no minister could on his/her own remove CEOs of agencies, saying the president approved a disciplinary procedure for defaulting heads of agencies.

The circular signed by Mustapha and referenced SGF/OP/1.S.3/T.163, was addressed to the CoS, the heads of the National Assembly, ministries, the judiciary among others.

CSOs react

The Convener, Good Governance Team (GGT), Mr. Tunde Salman, told Daily Trust that the development portrays lack of coordination in the present administration.

According to him, most of the enabling laws setting up the agencies and parastatals make them quasi-autonomous, meaning that they are supposed to be somehow independent.

"As part of the way forward, the enabling laws of these parastatals and agencies need to be re-visited. Though we may have some overbearing ministers, we must also have effective control so that the heads of the agencies would be accountable and not act arbitrarily, hiding under operating laws," Salman said.

The Co-convener, Say No Campaign (SNC-Nigeria), Mr. Ezenwa Nwagwu, said some of the ministers want to act as if there is no rule and many of the heads of the agencies and parastatals want to act as if they are authorities unto themselves.

"There should now be a very clear-cut rule on who should do what and how, as well as the powers and limits of the ministers and the head of the agencies and parastatals," he said.

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