As in NPA, ministerial power-play holds up new board for TCN
Nigeria’s electricity grid is collapsing with the result that the people are thrown into darkness more frequently today, but the minister of power is refusing to use the help that is available to steady the Transmission Company of Nigerian (TCN), the grid operator.
TCN’s grid failures and the resultant national blackouts have become regular with the last being at 11 am on May 12.
On January 20, this year, the presidency issued a press statement in which it announced the appointment of a board for TCN to be chaired by a highly respected technocrat, M. K Ahmad, who is also chairman of Polaris Bank and who as pioneer director-general of the pension commission grew Nigeria’s pension service to a more than $30 billion industry.
By that announcement, the new board was also endowed with other credible individuals who were given the mandate to appoint a new CEO for the TCN and to work towards enhancing the critical service delivery expected of the grid operator.
The board was charged with evolving a sound strategy for not reversing the collapse of the national electricity grid but also to put the operator in a solid position where it can raise funds like others in its place around the world.
However, five months after, Mamman Kwagyang Saleh, the minister of power, has refused to inaugurate the board, thereby denying TCN and indeed Nigeria the expertise that resides with the board that the president approved.
BusinessDay learns that the minister is unhappy he was not consulted before the board was appointed and has made his disappointed known to the president.
The minister is believed to be supported by counsel from another senior government official based on a perceived conflict of interest given that Ahmad, who heads the technical committee on privatization, is also the person proposed to chair the board of TCN. Ahmad, who is well admired in the private sector, is also an independent director of MTN Nigeria. It had been hoped that his association with the TCN will bring about the much awaited reform at the grid operator.
Secondly, Saleh, who has an MBA from Bayero University and who is said to be a likely contender for the governorship of Taraba State in 2023, says the Federal Government has accepted plans to unbundle the TCN into two separate entities and that in this case, there should be two boards for the two entities and not one.
According to our investigation, the power-play, which led to the suspension of Hadiza Bala-Usman as CEO of NPA, may be playing out at TCN with the two ministers insisting on gaining full control of parastatals under their watch.
In the case of the minister of power, he only got hint of the appointment of a new board for TCN after the list had gone to the president.
He hurriedly put together his own list of proposed directors for the company, and before he could see the president with his own list, the presidency had gone ahead to make the announcement of the appointments. Puzzled and angry, Saleh, who believes the board was contrived, began subterranean moves to thwart the appointment and the result is his refusal to swear in the board.
In the case of NPA and the minister in charge of transportation, BusinessDay also learns that Rotimi Amaechi did not want the CEO of the ports authority to get a second term. But unknown to him, some others in government had prepared the list for a new board for the authority. In the process, the renewal of the appointment of Usman for a second term was perfected.
Amaechi became frustrated as not only did Usman return, but that she may also have brought in a board of her own, thereby cutting any source of influence of the minister over the parastatal.