The chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), James Momoh, has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to allow him to complete his five-year term.
Mr Momoh, a professor of Electrical Engineering from Howard University, was appointed chairman of the commission on April 29, 2018.
He was 67 years old when the president appointed him for a five-year tenure.
His tenure should run out in April 2022. But that would be in conflict with Section 37 (e) of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005 which expects NERC commissioners to vacate office once they turn 70.
Mr Momoh turns 70 on November 26, and on that basis, President Buhari has initiated the process of replacing him even though that will cut short his tenure by two and a half years. It is unclear if the president did not do his background check on Mr Momoh when he nominated a 67-year old man for a five-year tenure.
On October 20, the president of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, read a letter from Mr Buhari nominating Sanusi Garba, from Katsina State, as Mr Momoh’s replacement. Mr Garba is the current vice-chairman at the electricity regulatory agency.
PREMIUM TIMES has now obtained a September 2 letter Mr Momoh sent to Mr Buhari appealing to be allowed to complete his five-year tenure even after reaching 70 years.
In the six-page letter titled “Framework of actions in response to the presidential directive for sustainable power sector development in Nigeria,” Mr Momoh enumerated his major accomplishments since he came to office and promised to do even more to reposition the nation’s electricity sector in the years ahead.
He said despite his age, he remained “strong, healthy and available to serve as chairman of the Commission, moreover given the fact that I still have two and half years remaining by my appointment letter”.
He further wrote, “I humbly solicit that your Excellency graciously in his usual magnanimity grant me an extension in spite my age 70 in line with section 35 subsection 3 of the EPSR Act 2005 which gives the president powers to decide the terms and condition in which a commissioner can hold office. Given the foregoing sir, I would like to complete my tenure of five years as contained in my appointment letter.
“Sir, if granted the opportunity to complete my tenure as the Chairman/CEO of NERC, I will ensure that the Commission continues to drive innovative policy and regulation that will end the transitional market and set a stage for medium-term electricity market which includes Service Reflective Tariff (SRT), payment discipline, minimum remittance payment order, protecting the poor and the underserved customers and a provision of Power Consumer Assistance Fund (PCAF) which is aimed at subsidizing electricity supply for the poorest Nigerians.”
“In the light of the foregoing, I like to assure of continued loyalty and commitment to ensuring that His Excellency next level mantra is actualized as instructed at our last meeting in January. The focus and steadfastness you propelled in me to liberate the power sector of Nigeria will be carried out with your continuous support, I assure, sir in the next two and half years.”
The NERC boss anchored his appeal to the president on Section 35 (3) of the EPSR Act 2004 which provides that “a Commissioner shall hold office on such terms and conditions as the President may fix in relation to Commissioners generally.” Mr Momoh believes Mr Buhari can rely on that provision to allow him to remain in office beyond 70.
It remains unclear whether Mr Momoh’s letter made an impact on Mr Buhari. But in October, a month after the September 2 correspondence, the president wrote to the Senate asking it to confirm Mr Garba as the new NERC boss. That process is still underway.
Mr Momoh was a professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Howard University. He was granted leave-without-pay, renewable every year, to take on the NERC assignment. The university is not expecting him back until April 2022, PREMIUM TIMES learned.
Mr Momoh is a well-regarded electrical engineer and professor in Nigeria and the United States. In February this year, he was elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in recognition of his distinguished contributions to engineering, “For the development of electric grid optimization techniques and implementation of advanced technology and policy for emerging electric grids in Africa”.
The professor could not be reached to comment on this story Friday. His known telephone number failed to connect.
Meanwhile, the legislative aide to the president, Babajide Omoworare, when contacted on the current status of Mr Momoh, stated the obvious.
In his response through an email, he cited Section 37 (e) of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005, which expects NERC commissioners to vacate office once they turn 70.