By Ezenwa Nwagwu
From the outset, it is appreciable to disclose a bias, I have a thing or two for persons called SAM. But this is about Dr. Sam Amadi, chairman/CEO NERC a long standing friend and comrade.
Overtime, we have become close. I have been inspired and hugely challenged by his courageous public intellectualism, antiseptic forthrightness, untrammelled hard work and determination to make a change, sense of duty and above all infectious fear of God; a quality deficit in many a Nigerian public officer.
So reading the Punch Editorial of July 26, 2013 tendentiously couched as “Amadi and fraudulent electricity tariff increases” was for me an unkind cut and in terrible bad taste.
Why defend a government official? Yes! We must hold out some people as examples of what we want out public officials to be.
The last time I checked, the Oxford Dictionary defines fraudulent as ‘wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain’ this is why the Punch Editorial “Amadi and his fraudulent electricity tariff increases” is deplorable.
NERC under Dr. Sam Amadi’s leadership has been reinvented to become a responsive and credible regulator. Upon assuming office as Chairman and CEO of NERC in December 2010 one of his first acts was the presentation of a Code of Conduct for every staff and Commissioner in NERC. This is unprecedented in Nigerian public service.
NERC became the first regulatory agency to benchmark its performance in clearly enforceable terms. More surprising is that the Chairman required the entire commission to make a public declaration of the Code of Conduct. At the public declaration, members of the press and civil society, representatives of the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice witnessed the declaration
I will also remember that NERC under Dr. Sam Amadi was the first public agency to fully sign up to the Freedom of Information Act. NERC created an FOI link on its website and made the 16 mandatory disclosures long before the Ministry of Justice issued guidelines to MDAs to comply with the requirements of the FOI. Ask Hon. Omegwara, Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Reform of Government and he will tell you that it was the work that Dr. Amadi did in NERC in institutionalizing transparency and accountability in public administration.
Today NERC is under attack with regards to the new tariff. I don’t want to go into the merits or otherwise of the new tariff. I have my issues with it but I can access the process by which NERC under the present leadership the current MYTO.
I recall attending many public hearings and consultations NERC organized with various stakeholder platforms, including the civil society, to establish the new tariff. Of course, tariff setting is always a controversial art. But we can credit the regulator if the process for determining the tariff is truthful and somewhat consultative.
No one can accuse the present leadership of NERC of duplicity and subterfuge in managing the process of determining the tariff. Dr. Amadi has always been forthright, clear and consistent. He has never pretended that he believes that a cost-reflective tariff is a critical component of a successful revival of the power sector. We may not agree with him. But we cannot accuse him of duplicity or fraud. We cannot overlook his transparency and accountability evidenced by his willingness to tell the truth all the time.
I want to recall last year when because of the rains there was a significant increase in electricity generation. Many people thought that it was a flute and would not be sustainable. The minister prevaricated. But Dr. Amadi came out clear to admit that the heavy rainfall contributed to the increase and that we will witness reduction in generation capacity after the rains. He received attacks for speaking the truth. But needless to say, he was proved right.
I find it nauseating for someone to call such a character fraudulent in the matter of a tariff that was set in such a manifestly transparent manner. There is nothing fraudulent about the conduct of NERC under the present leadership. I know that this is one agency where all needed information, including financial information, is amply published in the website. The controversial tariff is published in NERC website with all the financial and technical assumptions for anyone who cares to examine and contradict NERC. I consider that to be the hallmark of transparency.
I have often heard Dr. Amadi declare that he believe in the right to information and the right of consumers to disagree with the regulator. He has been the driving force for the creation of a strong consumer and civil society advisory group in electricity issues. He tried to pressure me and others especially Space4Change to organize a strong advocacy group to protect the interest of workers in electricity regulation. Victoria Ohaeri, the coordinator of Space4Change will testify to this.
Editorials are viewed as hallowed and weighty and should be deployed when the crafters are dead certain on the fact, this is even more so when it emanates from the stable of a responsible, reputable news establishment like the Punch, especially given that the issue in question is emphatically verifiable.
The definition of fraud and fraudulent does not fit the Amadi I know, not before, not in the present assignment, the perhaps unintended impart is that Amadi deploys electricity tariff for personal gains. I think a libellous action on a ground scale should be taken out against the writer. This may help explain why the editor of the Punch newspaper will chose fraudulent from a basket of words available to him or her.
Nwagwu can be reached at 08033155229; Samezzy12@yahoo.com
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