NBET MD, Marilyn Amobi: One Week, One Trouble
By Chinemerem Nwachukwu
Positions of public trust anyone holds for the people has a tempting spirit. It takes a lot of self-discipline and focused mindset for a leader to navigate the ship of leadership ashore successfully.
Aside her incessant rifts with virtually majority of NBET staff, and the recent physical assault threat on Mrs Itohan Ehiede, the NBET MD, Dr Marilyn Amobi has never been new to trouble.
Recall that the embattled Managing Director of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading PLC, Marilyn Amobi, was suspended late last year by the Minister of Power, Engr. Mamman Saleh but she was rapidly reinstated by President Buhari, though many watchers of the saga allege that it was all-powerful Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari that did the reinstatement which came via directives in a memo issued by the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
Before she was recalled to her duty post, some news reports quoted the minister as saying that the order for the MD to step down was in continuation of the government’s effort to reorganize and sanitize the Federal Ministry of Power and its affiliate agencies.
The reorganization exercise is one of the steps by the minister to remove all factors militating against the smooth operation of the power sector to deliver the objective set by the government. It remains to be seen whether the reinstatement of persons removed by the minister has not vitiated him from achieving results in that sector, thereby leaving Nigerians high and dry. Nigerians all over the country can testify that the power situation has become a lot worse today.
An exclusive report by PREMIUM TIMES dated (Dec.16,2019) detailed how Dr Amobi instigated the arrest and detention for several hours of nine top officials of the bulk trader by the State Security Services (SSS, also called DSS).
Following the raid by the SSS, members of the NBET top management petitioned the Chairman of the NBET Board and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, about the fast deteriorating situation.
Copies of the petition sent to the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, and the Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), James Momoh, demanded the immediate removal of MsAmobi from office.
“We invite the Federal Government to intervene urgently to save the staff from physical internal threat to staff by Ms Amobi,” the management staff wrote.
They accused the MD of constituting herself into a “clear and present threat to staff” by inviting the SSS to invade their office, harass them and violate their privacy under her watch.
She was also enmeshed in several allegations of corruption, resulting in the House of Representatives instituting a probe into her activities.
Also, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) indicted her for alleged violation of the Public Procurement Act.
A Projects & Research Officer in the agency, Obinna Nnadozie, who rejected procurement documents he considered illegal was harassed into resigning on November 21.
According to a report by PREMIUM TIMES dated (December 24,2019), in his resignation letter addressed to his head of department, Mr Nnadozie hinged his decision to quit on the “extremely toxic work environment at NBET, which has started impacting his health and family negatively.”
“The increasingly virulent work conditions, coupled with the culture of victimization at NBET in which employees are discouraged from speaking the truth due to fear of retaliation, have forced me to resign. My health, moral compass, and peace of mind cannot allow me to continue to be employed by this company,” Mr Nnadozie lamented.
Last month, electricity generation companies (GENCos) threatened to shut down power generation across the country over the controversial order by the NBET MD for them.
Ms Amobi had written to the MDs of all the GENCOs to extract commitments from them to pay 0.75 per cent administrative charge on all collated and submitted gas and transportation cost invoices to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for payment.
The directive did not receive the approval of the electricity sector regulator, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the clearance of the Federal Ministry of Power.
But, she insisted that the directive was given based on the approval by the presidency. She refused to name the official in the presidency who gave her the approval
Following the protest by the GENCOs, the NBET MD sued the Executive Secretary of the Association of Power Generating Companies (APGC), Joy Ogaji, over alleged ‘malicious’ statements about NBET. She has also sued Premium Times and perhaps many more parties.
These actions bring to question the stability of the power sector, of NBET as an agency, and of the chief driver of that agency. The latest attack and defamation of one of the top staff of the agency, Mrs Ehiede, and subsequent maligning of her reputation and career in the media by faceless people leaves much to be desired.
Is NBET, and the Nigerian power sector hopeless? Or will reprieve come, one day in the future? Nigeria can surely do better than this.
*CHINEREM NWACHUKWU is an Abuja based public affairs analyst*