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NERC Commissioner Resigns

Posted: Jun 9, 2015 at 2:31 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

• Alleges Rot In Agency  

• Seeks Dissolution Of Management

By Phillip Oladunjoye – Lagos


These indeed are trying times for Commissioners of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), following series of allegations and counter allegations bordering on the performances of its executives.

The animosity in the agency came to the fore last week, when its Commissioner in charge of Market Competition and Rates (MCR), Eyo O Ekpo, tendered his resignation, lamenting a situation where NERC is now in a “very embarrassing and regrettable position of no longer being taken seriously by any of its key stakeholders – government, operators, consumers and sadly, staff. Our collective credibility as the sole regulatory institution in the electricity industry has been destroyed by our acts and omissions.”

Eyo O Ekpo

Eyo O Ekpo

In the letter dated June 1, 2015, he added that there is already a deep perception of uncertainty and regulatory risk in the industry just when the sector was on the path to stability.

“Given my serious opposition to these acts and omissions, taken account of basic principles of honour and self respect, it is clear to me that I can no longer continue to join my fellow commissioners in bearing collective responsibility for what has befallen this industry. Therefore my position as commissioner in NERC is now untenable,” he stressed.

He also explained that though his tenure would expire by December 22, he could no longer bear the rot in the commission hence his decision to resign his appointment by September 1.

Consequently, he said the right thing to do is for all commissioners to resign their appointments so that the President would freely choose a new management for the agency.

For him also, “the urgent task now is to renew the efforts to build this industry into a national institution that enables, rather than disables, the real socio-economic development of Nigeria. I believe this commission remaining in office until December 2015 does not serve that task.”

He further argued that “security of tenure has become meaningless.”

However, in a swift reaction to Ekpo’s letter, the other commissioners in a June 4, 2015, letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, expressed regret at the attempt to disparage NERC.

The other commissioners are: Muhammed Lawal, Commissioner in charge of Renewable, Research and Development; Dr. Ibrahim Armiyau, Commissioner, Government and Consumers Affairs; and Engr. Mary Awolokun, Commissioner, Engineering, Standards and Safety;

There are also: Patrick Umeh, Commissioner, Finance and Management Services; and Dr. Steven Andzenge, Commissioner, Legal, Licensing and Enforcement.

The commissioners said their letter became necessary to clarify certain claims made by Ekpo in his earlier correspondence.

For example, they said the claim about deep perception of uncertainty and regulatory risk in the industry was Ekpo’s excuse to exonerate himself and castigate the commission, based on its decision to review the Multi Year Tariff Order (MYTO) 2.1, which was seriously opposed to by the public.

“It is instructive to note that Ekpo has been the commissioner responsible for the Markets, Competition and Rates and was directly responsible for advising and recommending appropriate tariff regime to the commission,” the letter stated.

They said that while it was the right of Ekpo to resign his appointment whenever he wishes, his decision to proceed on terminal leave was procedurally wrong, because “Section 34 of the EPSR Act requires the Chairman, Vice Chairman and Commissioners of NERC to be appointed by the President with the Senate confirming the appointments. This rigour is to ensure a viable selection with guaranteed independence alongside a stable tenure, which makes for a non-turbulent regulatory environment.

The letter also noted that “there is no requirement for terminal leave. Indeed, Section 37(a) requires that a commissioner only vacate his office after three months of his serving a notice to Mr. President of his intention to resign. This provision clearly does not contemplate the need for terminal leave. Thus whilst his decision to resign is within Commissioner Ekpo’s competence, proceeding on terminal leave as part of the resignation process is procedurally wrong.”

They also noted that the commission’s mandate of ensuring the viability of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry through cost effective mechanism as provided for in the EPSR Act was not in doubt nor contestable, but noted that it has become imperative that the twin role of customer protection and balancing affordability was not sacrificed at the altar of ludicrous request by operators for hike in their tariff without evidence of efforts being embarked upon to improve service quality and customer care.

The Commissioners also explained that the commission had received series of complaints and protests since the release of MYTO 2.1 (Tariff Order) in January 2015, saying that it was wrong for a commissioner who railroaded the commission into approving a tariff which caused such public outcry to turn around and blame his colleagues for reversing the tariff.

“It smirks of mischief for a commissioner having railroad the commission into approving a tariff which caused a lot of public outcry to turn around and blame his colleagues for reversing this tariff. This revision came after stakeholders meeting and consultations to ensure that any approved tariff takes cognizance of all interests,” the letter stated.