Information available to 247ureports.com through sources within the Energy Commission of Nigeria [ECN] reveals that all may not be well with the Commission. This is as confirmatory information points to the outgoing Director General [DG]of the Commission; Prof. Sani Abubakar Sambo as enmeshed in what appears a gradual liquidation of the Commission’s remaining funds in the current fiscal budget.
As a caveat;
The Energy Commission of Nigeria [ECN] serves as the apex government organ empowered to carry out overall energy sector planning and policy implementation and to promote the diversification of the energy resources through the development and optimal utilization of all energy resources. The Commission inspects, monitors and coordinates the performance of the energy sectors, to ensure consistency with the National Energy Policy [NEP].It serves as the centre for solving any inter-related technical problems that may arise in the implementation of any policy relating to the field of energy. The ECN advises all tiers of Government on the funding of energy research, development, production and distribution. The Commission serves as the national centre for gathering, analyzing and disseminating information relating to the field of energy from all sources. The development and maintenance of the National Energy Databank is a responsibility of the ECN.
According to the information gathered from sources within the ECN, trouble began immediately following the appointment of the DG, Prof Sani Abubakar Sambo to the office of Special Advisor [SA] to the President on Energy Matters by President Goodluck Jonathan following his swearing-in on May 29, 2011. As learnt, the DG is not comfortable with the position of SA since he had lobbied for the position of Minister of Power which was given to Prof Barth Nnaji.
As the Special Advisor to the President, he pleaded with the Preident to allow him stay on as the DG but the President refused. Instead, the President assigned him the task of seeking his replacement at the ENC. Specifically, President Jonathan instructed Prof Sambo to ask the NSE for a good Engineer to replace him. Prof Sambo, a Mechanical Engineer by academic training who is a corporate member of the NSE and COREN [Reg 2479] since November 1984, did not act on the assignment.
Sources reveal that Prof Sambo chose to ignore the assignment because “there was still N7billion remaining for capital projects” of the ECN in the remaining fiscal year. And that Prof Sambo was not comfortable abandoning the N7billion in exchange for the office of SA to the President where he would not have ultimate control of the budgeting – as he did while he sat at the DG’s seat.
In quick successive actions, Prof Sambo moved to commandeer access to the remaining funds/resources in the coffers of the Commission.
First, on Friday August 5, 2011, he dipped into the N176million reserved for the employment of new staff – sharing N700,000 each to Directors within the Commission and N600,000 each to the Deputy Directors. He pocketed the rest. As a source close to the DG explained, the N176million was sourced from monies remaining after payment of salaries and overhead each month. Each month starting January 2011, N22million was remaining after payment of salaries and overhead – equivalent to N176million after 8months. The source states that the money was reserved for new hires/new staff.
Then, Prof Sambo changed the signatories to the Commission’s Bank account at Zenith Bank – removing staff members who were not willing to “play ball” and adding those that were willing to “play ball”. He turned to the bank account where the Commission’s salaries and overhead account are domiciled at the Union Bank [Central Area in Abuja – UAC Building] and changed the signatories – adding his choice staff. With this arrangement, the signatories to both bank accounts became the DG and one other staff, a northerner [a south easterner’s signature was removed in both accounts].
Having changed the Bank account signatories, Prof Sambo sought to coerce the Director of Administration and Finance [Acting], Peter Chigbo into “playing Ball” to enable the smooth/frictionless ‘lifting’ of the over N6.6billion in capital projects. Already, Prof Sambo’s team within the Commission had completed the short listing of pre-qualified contractors – [a process that takes 8 weeks] – within the span of one week in readiness to award the contracts next week [the week of August 14].
But the activities at the ECN took an interesting turn as the outgoing DG began to plot for the firing of the acting director of administration and finance, Peter Chigbo.
Immediately following the initial failed attempt to coerce the acting director, the acting director began to receive threatening messages. In a July 7, 2011 letter to the Director General of the State Security Service [SSS] captioned ‘threat of assassination and kidnapping’, the acting director stated that he received a sms message on his cell phone on June 27, 2011 at 11:38am from 0706 819 3560 stating that someone had hired them to kidnap/assassinate him. He asked the SSS Director General for assistance while also informing him that strange men have been coming in search of him at his workplace claiming to be from the SSS.
On July 12, 2011, the acting director wrote to the Inspector General of Police [IGP] in a letter captioned ‘request for police security’. The content of the letter stated the same concerns. The letter was received by the IGP’s office on July 13, 2011.
On July 13, 2011, the acting director wrote the DG of ECN in a letter captioned ‘threat to my life’ chronicling the numerous visits of men claiming to be from the SSS to his office. He stated that he confirmed from the SSS that the men were not sent from the SSS. And for this reason he believes these men were the men hired to assassinate or kidnap him. He told the DG that he is being advised to stay away from the workplace until the investigation is over. The letter also requested for the printout of the closed circuit television [CCTV] using to monitor the office – so as to identify the men.
Responding, the DG wrote through N. A. Omale in a letter referenced ECN/SF/SS/90/017 dated July 13, 2011 to tell the acting director that he ‘should hand over his schedule of duty as the acting director of administration and finance so the activities of the Commission would not be grounded’. The letter was followed by another letter by the DG dated July 25, 2011 captioned ‘absence from duty without leave’ querying the acting director why disciplinary action should not be meted out on him for not showing up to work since July 11, 2011. He requested for a reply with 48hours.
The acting director responded to the query the next day [July 26, 2011] in a letter captioned ‘reply to query’. He reiterated that he had asked for security at the office and for the internal security at the office be reorganized so that assassins will be walk in and out of the office. He reminded the DG that the investigator had requested for a printout of the CCTV to identify the men. He reminded him the security concerns remain unaddressed.
Responding, the DG in a letter dated August 1, 2011 referenced ECN/AF/040 and captioned ‘Re: appointment as acting director of administration and finance’ told Peter Chigbo he has been relieved of his duties with immediate effect.
With the DG’s action, the acting director of administration and finance, Peter Chigbo, who would not ‘play ball’ to affect the lifting of the N7billion, was moved out of the way.
ECN is expected to announce its award of contracts in the coming days/week.