OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI ON THE CONTROVERSIAL REAPPOINTMENT OF PROF. ELI JIDERE BALA AS THE DIRECTOR GENERAL OF ENERGY COMMISSION OF NIGERIA
The Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) was established by the Decree No. 62 of 1979 as amended (now Cap E10, LFN, 2004) and charged with the responsibility for strategic planning and co-ordination of national policies in the field of energy in all its ramifications. In addition the enabling Lawlisted eleven (11) other functions.
Mr. President, Sir, on 11th September, 2017 and 28th February, 2018, we the Staff of the Energy Commission of Nigeria, through our umbrella Union – Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) wrote to your exalted Office inviting your attention to the brimming corruption, mismanagement, maladministration as well as flagrant indifference to public service regulations and due process orchestrated by the then Director General, Prof. E. J. Balaalong with some senior Staff of the Commission with active connivance of the Supervisory Minister, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu.
Your Excellency, Sir, please permit us for the sake of posterity to state here that, we are truly compelled to write this letter for two reasons: love of ECN and love of our country. We strongly feel it is incumbent upon us all, to do all in our collective power to ensure that we dismantle all the negative and counterproductive forces hindering service delivery which is in line with your administration’s policy thrust of working together as a team to revive Nigeria’s ailing public sector.This letter is by no means trying to undermine the powers and prerogative of your Office to make appointments into executive positions.
The last five years of Prof. E. J. Bala’s tenure as the Director General of ECN can best be summarized as that of rust and rot, cluelessness, unproductive and unethical industrial relations; lack of focus and abandonment of primary mandate, mismanagement and misappropriation; non-resourceful, indulgent and professionally bankrupt top management; staff redundancy and organizational bankruptcy.
Sir, the news of tenure renewal of Prof. Bala on 12th June, 2018 was received by over 95% of ECN Staff and friends of the Commission with great shock and depression, disappointment and disbelieve, just to mention but few. Since then, ECN Staff had been thrown to anxiety, palpable tensionand hopelessness. We stalwartly believe Mr. President may be misguided by some top officials of government with vested interest on the matter and that due diligence was not done in the reappointment process.
Mr. President may also wish to recall report/briefing of the protracted industrial crisis on Eli Jidere Bala from the Department of State Service, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, and Office of Chief of Staff to the President; all will point to the same thing – that Prof. Bala is incompetent, unproductive, irresolute, dull and dry to provide needed leadership for Energy Commission of Nigeria.
Financial Mismanagement and Misappropriation
Under Prof. E. J. Bala’s first tenure of five years gross abuse of office, mismanagement, misappropriation, financial recklessness and misapplication of limited resources were the order of the day. Operational funds were looted spuriously to satisfy interests of some officials of the Ministry of Science and Technology. Furthermore, despite huge annual budgetary allocation for office maintenance and equipment, Prof. E. J. Bala left ECN with no single functional printer, photocopying machine and other vital office equipment and the office environment littered with thrashes of broken office equipment.
It is imperative to specifically draw the attention of Mr. President on the need to direct anti-corruption agencies to unravel the grand corruption and mismanagement of international donor funded projects shrouded in secrecy such as UNDP, GEF; and particularly the mystery surrounding how the African Development Bank’s Fund of about one millionUnited States Dollars ($975,331.17) Lake Chad Basin Project was expended. Similarly, millions of Naira had been budgeted and squandered annually under the National Energy Data Bank Project and still nothing to show for it.
Industrial Disharmony and Labour Crises
Mr. President, Sir, throughout his first tenure, Prof. E. J. Balacontinuously perpetrated deliberate unfair Labour practices which has not only demoralized the Staff but destroyed the once vibrant and result-oriented Commission. These were as aresult of his vehement refusal to implement agreements reached with the Staff Union, thereby creating unnecessary tension and avoidable conflict in the Commission leading to man-hours lost – a disservice to the nation! Most unfortunate was the flagrant disregard to the clarifications issued by the offices of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and the Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment on all the contentious issues thereby, creating needless controversies and confrontations; a contrast to cordial Government-Labour relations being enjoyed under your administration.
Gross Incompetence and Maladministration
Your Excellency, Sir, since Prof. E. J. Bala took leadership of the Commission in 2013, ECN witnessed unprecedented retrogression not only in the execution of the Commission’s mandate but its overall performance owing to his negligence and incompetence to relate well with wider energy sector stakeholders and also numerous internal shortcomings he created which have and are still costly for the Nigeria’s energy sector. He ran autocracy and had reduced the Commission to his personal estate surrounded by group of “Yes Men” in what is best known as “Management within Management in the Commission” comprising of his core loyalists and sycophants.
Since he assumed office on 1st January 2013, the meeting of the Membership (Board) of the Commission was never held; on the contrary, the ECN Act stipulates that the Membership (Board) SHALL meet at least twice in a year to set operational and administrative direction for the Commission. Instead, Prof. E.J. Bala resorted to a self-serving alternative alien to the enabling Law and public service rules. Similarly, his arrogation of powers of the Board of the six National Energy Research Centers put under ECN supervision contrary to provisions of the Statues establishing these Centres.
Another sad and pathetic reality the Staff of ECN suffered under Prof. E.J. Bala for five long years was his inability to create functional Divisions, Branches and Sections within the Technical Departments of the Commission and define job schedules for the Staff as well as any form of mandatory career progression training required to bridge the large skillsgap and manpower requirement to execute ECN mandate.
Supervision under Federal Ministry of Science and Technology
Your Excellency, another issue that needs your quick intervention is the controversial reassignment of supervisionof ECN from the Presidency to the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST). This is not only unjustifiable but also at variance with ECN’s core mandates ofwhich the FMST has very little to relevance and also not in line with global best practice.
Your Excellency, Sir, the symbiotic relationship between Prof. E. J. Bala leadership of ECN and Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the Minister, FMST, founded on the basis of misapplication of funds to satisfy selfish interest and in return obtain easy Ministerial protection.
Right institutional placement of the Energy Commission of Nigeria will definitely guarantee the role of strategic planning and policies coordination which is an indispensible pathway for national development. It will also avail the ECN to assist the Presidency see at a glance the bigger, holistic and integrated picture of the energy sector, easily feed the Presidency with independent expert performance assessments of the sector and give adequate advice.
Mr. President, Sir, please use the keys and make real the promise of change. Kindly ensure we the Staff of ECN are not short-changed by the change we so desired and which many of us voted for.
Our prayers are as follows:
i. We kindly crave for indulgence of your Excellency to as matter of urgency rescind the recent controversial reappointment of Prof. E. J. Bala as the Director General of ECN for second term. This is because he has demonstrated gross incompetence and failed woefully in his first term in office.
ii. Mr. President, Sir, to please immediately direct the anti-graft and security agencies (EFCC, ICPC, DSS) to as matter of urgency, commence full investigation on Prof. E. J. Bala’s first tenure of office at ECN from 1stJanuary 2013 to 5th May 2018.
iii. We call on Your Excellency to effectively return the Energy Commission of Nigeria to the Presidency (Office of the Vice President).
iiii. Your Excellency to kindly set up independent administrative inquiry to examine the capabilities of the members of the ECN Management with the aim of flushing out dead wood and decline productivity.
The doubts swirling around the integrity and competence of Prof. E.J. Bala has provoked loud and strident calls for outright reversal of his reappointment, full investigation of his tenure and probe of the role of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, theMinster of Science and Technology in conundrum in ECN and relieve the Ministry of Science and Technology the Supervisory role over ECN and return to Presidency.
Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria- Energy Commission of Nigeria Unit
For: ECN Staff