Nigerians fume as power ministry attacks critics over controversial appointments

Saleh Mamman [PHOTO: Daily Nigerian]
Saleh Mamman [PHOTO: Daily Nigerian]

Nigerians on Monday attacked the Ministry of Power over its reactions to controversial appointments made in different agencies under the supervision of the ministry.

Twitter users launched attacks on the minister, Sale Mamman, and the power ministry, after a press statement reacting to reports of the controversial appointments made by the minister described many Nigerians as “wailers”.

The press statement, signed by Aaron Artimas, Special Adviser on Media and Communications to the minister of power, also accused officials affected by the minister’s decision as people who “are not susceptible to relinquishing public office even after exhausting their welcome or in the face of apparent failure to perform.”

Mr Artimas also argued that the decisions were taken by the minister because, despite the huge resources President Muhammadu Buhari “poured” into the power ministry for over four years, there has been no tangible result. He attributed the failure to the “poor performance” of the officials affected by the minister’s new decision, calling on Nigerians to ask question on why there has been no improvement in the sector.

Controversial Appointments

PREMIUM TIMES reported how two key agencies under the ministry have been dogged by controversies in the past weeks. PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported the appointment 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).

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.

Similarly, there has been palpable tension at the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading PLC after its embattled Managing Director, Marilyn Amobi, was suspended. PREMIUM TIMES reported how nine top officials of the bulk trader were arrested and detained by the State Security Services. The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria(HURIWA) in its reaction had said that Mr Mamman lacked power under the laws to suspend Ms Amobi.

Ministry attacks critics, affected officials

But the ministry in a statement posted on its Twitter page Monday evening described reports and criticism of the minister’s actions as “myopic and illogical arguments questioning its discretionary judgement.”

“A section of the media supported as usual by the so-called ‘wailers’ have gone to town with the sickening and boring allegations of ethnic, regional or religious discrimination without examining the substance of the changes,” the statement said.

“On group even went to the bizarre level of accusing the minister of power, Engineer Sale Mamman, of discrimination against women. The minister of power, Engineer Sale Mamman, has no particular interest in any particular appointment in the ministry other than to put square pegs in square holes for the maximum result. Those talking about changes in appointment are merely engaged in idle talks.”

The statement said that Mr Buhari has invested so much in the power ministry since he came to power with no tangible results.

“Nigerians should be asking why there was no much improvement in the sector after such concerted efforts by the government and not to encourage wailers to sulk over public officers who have been in the ministry for over four years without tangible results,” it added.

The statement said there had been ‘in-fighting’ in the different agencies for a long time, a development that has affected performances. The new appointments, the ministry said, were meant to effect changes and deliver results.

“Lagos Faceless Groups”

The ministry also accused what it called a “cabal” using some “faceless groups” in Lagos of attempts to undermine the efforts of the new minister.

“As early as November last year, this cabal began to sponsor insidious reports using some faceless groups in Lagos, claiming that the ministry of power was failing under the new minister,” the statement said.

“It is the same “untouchables” who want to perpetuate themselves in power that are now resisting any form of re-organisation meant to reposition the ministry for optimum performance. The ministry should not be tied down by individuals whose only concern is the retention of power at the expense of service delivery.”

The ministry said the same “cabal” which accused the minister of poor co-ordination of the ministry now condemns it for re-organising the different agencies, adding that it would not focus on removal or appointment of officials but the mandate to deliver power to Nigerians.

“The minister should not be distracted by the detestable and nauseating appeal to sentiment at the expense of the need for genuine change in the power sector in line with the next level agenda of president Muhammadu Buhari,” the statement added.

Nigerians Fume

But many Nigerians in their reaction to the press statement attacked the ministry for its “vulgar and abusive” language. Others noted that the reaction calls to question the suitability in office of those charged with the responsibility of serving the Nigerian people.

Aminu Ida, tweeting via the handle @aminu3214, described the statement as a ‘poorly written statement’ that ought to have been drafted without its acerbic contents. He wrote: “I think this is a poorly written statement, you can convey same message but nit(not) like this!!!”

Kayode Abaniwonnda in his response said the statement was an attack on the immediate past minister of power, Babatunde Fashola. “This is such an unfortunate press release,” he tweeted. “Totally unnecessary and badly written. It practically attacked the previous appointees of @MBuhari of incompetence and failure. I wonder how @EngrSMamman expect his colleague @tundefashola to feel about this.”

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Akinfosile Oluwaseyi, another user, said the statement was “Very unprofessional” because it “Actually adds more fuel to the controversy and seeks to condescend on genuine concerns while doing nothing to improve public confidence.” Gbenga Adesoji, another commenter, in his own reply simply described the statement as “Unbelievable”.

Samuel Out said the statement was not well written. “You couldn’t help tagging some critics as ‘wailers’,” he tweeted. “This is below par.”

Mr Abaniwonnda in a subsequent tweet called on the Nigerian government to withdraw the statement. “The @NGRPresident should as a matter of urgency get the minister to withdraw this terrible press release.”

Another user, tweeting via the handle @Idonges89861691, described the press release as a “very unfortunate press statement from the Minister.”

When contacted Monday night, the minister’s spokesperson, Emmanuel Bello, did not deny that the statement was from his colleague, Mr Artimas.

He promised to contact Mr Artimas for further clarification and authentication of the statement and said he would get back to this reporter. He was yet to do so at the time of this report.

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