NERC denies approving special pay for commissioners
• Alleges plot to hijack commission
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) yesterday alleged plans by those it described as fifth columnists to rubbish the integrity of the agency with the intention of hijacking its management and planting their people.
The commission made the allegations in response to another newspaper report (not The Guardian), which it claimed was aimed at instigating a repeat of a 2008 scenario when its commissioners were sacked and a sole administrator installed.
At a media briefing in Abuja yesterday, NERC Chairman, Dr. Sam Amadi, alleged that facts were deliberately distorted in the report for selfish aims. He explained that throughout the almost five years of the current management of NERC, no approval was made for any increase in remuneration of the commissioners that is not as provided for in the law or based “on precedent we met in the commission.”
On the reported severance package for staff and commissioners, Amadi said the commission was only implementing payment structure that was inherited or is now mandated by law. “As at the time we resumed as commissioners, the existing handbook provided for severance benefit at a minimum of 100% of gross emolument, which is also in line with the Pension Reform Act,” he noted.
According to Amadi, “it is the same payment structure that was used by Federal Government to pay the commissioners before us. The payment structure we inherited and is now being implemented is 100% legal and lawful. It is in compliance with the Pension Act. Furthermore, it is in agreement with practices of similar regulatory agencies internationally and locally like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
NERC commissioners do not receive any payment that staff do not receive. Our severance is the same as the staff. It is as provided for in the Pension Act. The commissioners receive the same payments as staff and in the same percentage. I repeat: we have not provided any special perk for ourselves. We earn like all other employees of NERC.”
He further said: “In the last couple of weeks, NERC has come under serious attack by an alliance of internal and external forces that aim at damaging the reputation and credibility of the present management. This attack is worrisome because it follows the pattern of similar attack in 2008, close to the end of the tenure of the pioneer commissioners when a few insiders, jostling to take over the leadership of the commission, contrived corruption charges against the pioneer commissioners and engineered their illegal removal and wrongful prosecution.
On Monday, a faceless group claiming to be a Vanguard of Unemployed Youths printed Tee-shirts, handbills and caps to protest against NERC commissioner for allegedly stealing N2.7billion of tax payers’ money and requesting removal of NERC commissioners. Note that these unemployed youths could print thousands of Tee-shirts and caps. The same Monday, NERC website was hacked into. This was a sophisticated operation to the extent that they generated an e-mail from the chairman’s official e-mail account to the Commissioner for Finance and Management Services to transfer funds immediately to the chairman who the hackers claimed was in the UK.
The plan here is simple: generate an e-mail trail to present to political authorities that the chairman and commissioners at NERC are plotting to embezzle public funds at the twilight of the tenure.”
Amadi said the contentious newspaper report “capped it with a lurid but false account of how the imaginary N2.billion (it was first N2.7billion, now it is N2billion) will be shared in NERC.”
These series of attack are components of a well-designed strategy to discredit the management of NERC on behalf of operatives who are pursuing a political agenda similar to the one of 2008. Because we are proud of our legacy of transparency, openness, due process and prudent management at NERC, we openly refute these falsehoods,” he stressed.