President Muhammadu Buhari has the prerogative to appoint anyone he believes can deliver on his official mandate, the Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman, said on Wednesday.
The minister was reacting to an exclusive report by PREMIUM TIMES on the controversial appointment by the president of a former mid-level civil servant, Salihijo Ahmad, as the managing director and Chief Executive Officer of a crucial electrification agency, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).
The REA was created by the Electric Power Sector Reform Act in 2006 to facilitate the provision of affordable power supply for residential, commercial, industrial and social activities in the rural and semi-urban areas of the country using renewable energy sources.
Checks by the newspaper revealed that the new REA boss is a former Level 12 public official at the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) which he is said to have exited in 2018. He is also the son of late Salihijo Mohammed Ahmed, a former managing director of Afri-Project Consortium.
Prior to his death on July 7, 1999, the elder Mr Ahmed was a project consultant to the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) then headed by Mr Buhari, who was appointed to the position by the then military ruler, Sani Abacha.
Sources in the power sector queried the appointment, saying the claim by the power minister that the new appointee has ‘vast experience’ in the sector is false. They also queried how a mid-level public official just over a year ago could be appointed head of such a crucial agency if not for his family links.
Additional findings by this newspaper showed that while Mr Ahmad does have experience from his brief stint in the power sector both as a public servant and since he ventured into private practice in 2018, his description as having “vast knowledge and experience in power sector development” may have been exaggerated.
Before our story was published, PREMIUM TIMES reached out to Mr Ahmad and the power minister, none of them replied.
However, the minister through his spokesperson reached out after the story was published.
In his response, the power minister, Saleh Mamman, justified the controversial appointment, saying he has confidence in the president’s decision on the appointment.
Earlier, President Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, told our reporter in a telephone chat that his principal likely relied on the recommendation of the minister to make the appointment.
“My advice is that you get in touch with the Minister of Power who oversees the affairs of the agency and may have made the recommendation to the president for the appointment,” Mr Shehu said.
The minister’s response, however, indicated the appointment was directly by the president.
In a response sent to PREMIUM TIMES by his spokesperson, Emmanuel Bello, the power minister said:
“The president has the prerogative for appointments and he has severally said he would only work with individuals he can vouch for and the minister wholly agrees with this.
“The president is serious about power reforms and has said it several times. Besides, Nigerians are right now more concerned about what anyone can deliver in this bid.
“Political appointments are not based on civil service levels. What many care about right now is what the new REA boss has to offer and we have confidence in the president’s decision.
“The former leadership of the REA wasn’t helping to solve the darkness crisis of the country as many reports have shown. We must, therefore, support the president in his effort to sanitise the sector,” the minister said.