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EKEDC Leadership Shake-up: Politics, Allegations, And Power Play Unfold

Controversy brews as former EKEDC CEO contests removal, exposing deeper rifts within EKEDC’s leadership structure.


Tuesday’s leadership change at Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC), Marina, Lagos, might have taken many by surprise, but beneath the official reason given by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of EKEDC, Dere Otubu, were said to be the high wire politics and power play that might linger in the weeks and months ahead.

Already, there has been some pushback by supporters of the former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Tinuade Sanda, who has openly challenged her removal and dismissed it as unacceptable.

As such, the last may not have been heard of the corporate crisis, even as the company’s board has remained resolute in its decision to oust her.

While the company had given its reasons for the action, a few weeks after it already cleared some senior staff of allegations of fraud and maladministration, THISDAY checks also revealed a cocktail of other issues that might have culminated in her departure along with 11 other senior staff from EKEDC.

The crisis in EKEDC started a while back, when some senior members of staff wrote to the board and accused some of their colleagues of fraud and making payments to ghost workers.

A former acting Principal Manager of Community Relations/CSR of the company, Peter Ayiwe, brought the crisis to the open when he petitioned the board, alleging an “avalanche of maladministration and miscarriage of justice in EKEDC”.

The development soon escalated, when the workers’ union at the company staged a protest and demanded that the accused members of staff, the trio of Wola Joseph-Condotti, Chief Legal Officer (CLO) of EKEDC, Sheri Adegbenro, Chief Auditor of EKEDC, and Aik Alenkhe, Chief Human Relations Officer of EKEDC, be investigated and sanctioned.

The trio were alleged to have been complicit in siphoning funds and paying ghost workers through a legal brief given to an external law firm to secure and recover the physical assets (lands and property) of EKEDC over a three-year period.

 The brief was awarded to the law firm under a retainership when the former MD and CEO of EKEDC and Sanda’s predecessor in office, Mr. Adeoye Fadeyibi, was still at the company.

THISDAY gathered that in the three years of the retainership, the law firm was paid about N60 million to ensure that EKEDC did not lose its assets, which were widespread over its franchise area in Lagos and in Agbara, Ogun State, but that some senior personnel in the company had used this as an avenue to siphon funds and pay non-existent workers of the company.

Sources also informed THISDAY that there were also concerns raised over the padding of operating costs, which if left unchecked could be transferred to EKEDC’s consumers, who would have to pay higher electricity tariffs.

According to a source, “When a Disco is inefficient and has high or padded personnel and operating expenditure, this will be reflected in its tariffs which will be borne by consumers.”  

The union was also said to be unhappy that 12 senior personnel of EKEDC, holding C-suite and general manager positions in the company, were not staff of the utility.

They had been seconded to the Disco from its parent company, West Power and Gas (WPG) Limited, paid much higher salaries, and had different conditions of service from the staff employed directly by EKEDC.

Interestingly, Sanda, the company’s CEO, was among the 12 senior staff of WPG, who had been seconded to EKEDC.

In any case, when the union’s protest persisted, the board set up a panel to investigate the charges against the three senior staff.

 Although the board was said to be divided over the matter, it eventually handed a two-week suspension to the CLO, and wrote warning letters to the Heads of Audit and HR, thus preventing the union from further acting.

This, however, did not prevent Sanda and other interests from still pushing further on the matter and writing petitions to the Bureau of Public Enterprises and industry regulator, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

The matter, THISDAY further learnt, got to a head when Sanda appointed a new Chief Compliance Officer, in what was alleged to have been an attempt to downgrade the relevance of the CLO.

The new Chief Compliance Officer was also said to have been a subordinate of the CLO before the promotion. 

With the crisis refusing to abate, NERC eventually stepped in to mediate in the matter, following which it issued a directive last week instructing that all staff working for the utility must be employed directly by the utility, must be bound by applicable service conditions that are applicable to the employees of the utility, and paid through the utility’s payroll.

NERC also gave EKEDC till Wednesday, March 27th 2024, to implement its directive.

It was on this basis that the Disco’s Board of Directors met and relieved Sanda and 11 others seconded from WPG of their positions and asked them to return to the parent company as instructed by NERC.

In the letter addressed to Sanda and signed by Otubu, dated March 25, 2024, titled: “Implementation of NERC Directive on Seconded Staff,” the board directed Sanda to leave her position, as she was also seconded from WPG.

Alongside Sanda, others affected by the directive, were the Chief Legal Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer, Chief Auditor and Chief Compliance Officer and others on secondment to the Disco. They were asked to hand over their handover notes to their subordinates.

Although the company’s board created an opening for the recalled WPG staff to return by reapplying, insiders said it was a ruse to douse tension at the company as the leadership change was a fait accompli and there was no going back on the decision.

Tracing the genesis of the crisis further, THISDAY has unearthed some of the issues that might have contributed to the sudden leadership change at EKEDC.

Ghost Worker Controversy

For a while, the management of Eko Disco had been battling allegations of ghost workers, fraud and maladministration. The situation got to the point that the workers’ union stepped in and started making demands.

Interestingly, there are truths and untruths in the allegations. But the whole issue of ghost workers, sources claimed, was blown out of proportion.

The story goes thus: there were some two people on the payroll of the company, who had never been seen physically at the office. However, when staff were being considered for promotion, they were asked to show up physically for vetting.

When their names were allegedly sent to Sanda, she queried it, insisting that she didn’t know who the duo were and demanded to see them in person. In the meantime, she sent their names to the audit department for proper vetting but yielded nothing. It was at this point that she decided to get to the root of a matter that was later dubbed “the ghost worker debacle” at Eko Disco.

In the course of her findings, it was discovered that it was her predecessor, who knew about the employment of the controversial duo and had engaged them during the Covid-19 pandemic. They had supposedly worked from home and was the reason they were hardly seen at work.

The company chairman, sources said, felt since the matter had been cleared up and someone had taken responsibility, the company should move on from it. But some other interests wanted someone punished for it and so, the matter didn’t end there.

This allegedly resulted in bickering amongst senior staff of the company, especially between the Sanda and Joseph-Condotti. And when it was almost obvious that the matter was not going away, the former CLO formally wrote to the company to recuse herself by working from home to enable the company carry out an investigation into the allegations.

However, Sanda insisted on the CLO’s suspension and got the board to back her on this, while the Heads of Audit and HR were issued warning letters.

Union Protests

Two weeks later, Joseph-Condotti returned to her desk. But hardly had she settled in when the workers’ union began a protest and picketed the company. The union accused the CLO of fraud and insisted she must go.

This development elicited concerns among some board members, who suspected that someone high up in the company was instigating the union against the CLO and undermining the company as a corporate entity.

In order to get to the bottom of the crisis, the board asked the CLO to go back home to enable it to investigate what was going on. After the investigation, she returned to her desk, satisfied that she had done no wrong.

But immediately she stepped foot at work, the union resumed its protest, resulting in the closure of Eko Disco’s head office at Marina, Lagos. At this point, a majority of the board members were almost unanimous and had an inkling as to where the problem might have come from.

The board then engaged the union members, showed them a copy of their latest findings, which cleared the CLO and the others accused of corruption, and subsequently issued a statement clearing them.

On this basis, the union seemed convinced and stopped further harassment of the CLO and the others.

In a statement by its chairman titled: “Eko Disco Management Cleared in ‘Ghost Worker Investigation,” the board said the investigation into the ‘ghost workers’ allegations had been concluded and findings indicated that the allegations of fraud, negligence, or conspiracy against some members of staff were unfounded.

Boardroom Shenanigans

Sanda’s disposition to the board, especially her approach to the allegations against her colleagues in the company, including her predecessor, was believed to have incensed the board members, who were said to have resolved to clip her wings before she became untamable.

They resolved that bringing her to heel was the only way to end the crisis at EKEDC. For instance, not only was Sanda believed to be the person that instigated the union to protest each time they did, the leaking of the internal memos on leadership changes had also raised serious concerns.

THISDAY gathered that whereas Sanda was the principal target of the changes, her 11 colleagues were collateral damage. That was what was allegedly responsible for the clause in the letter, asking them to reapply, if they so wanted to.

Given all that’s played out since the latest developments, it became obvious there was an ongoing power play as board members tried to assert themselves in the equation, with the board already divided.

This explained why a Non-Executive Director of Eko Disco, who serves as the Chairman of the Legal and Regulatory Committee of the Board, Babor Egeregor, issued a statement, dismissing the decision of the board.

He described the NERC order as unambiguous, incapable of, and unyielding to plural interpretations, and concluded that the order did not instruct the removal or sack of staff seconded to the company.

But two paragraphs in his statement were believed to have given Sanda away as the person who engineered the union crisis. According to him, “Mr. Dere Otubu’s letter, therefore, was done in bad faith and in vengeful revenge against the MD/CEO for escalating the alleged fraud and issuing queries against one of his protégés, whom he has desperately swore to protect by all means.

“As a matter of fact, the Ag DG of the BPE, representing the Government on the Board of EKEDC, vehemently rejected the attempt to cover up the alleged crime and insisted on compliance with the punishment prescribed in the Conditions of Service.”

Unsurprisingly, his statement prompted several media reports on Wednesday, suggesting there was confusion at Eko Disco and that Sanda might be coming back. But the board immediately issued an unambiguous press release, affirming its earlier position.

Titled: “Recent Management Changes at Eko Disco,” the statement read: “We wish to inform the general public that Mrs. Rekhiat Momoh has today 26th March, 2024 assumed the role of Acting CEO of Eko Disco. This follows the redeployment of our erstwhile MD/CEO Mrs Tinuade Sanda back to WPG Ltd, the core investor who seconded her to Eko Disco.

“Mrs Momoh has been in the power sector for more than 31 meritorious years. She has risen through the ranks in the power sector from the days of NEPA, PHCN and now Eko Disco, receiving several excellence awards, commendations and medals along the way.

“We have great confidence in her ability to perform this role effectively and take the company to greater heights.”

Meanwhile, NERC, on Wednesday night, recognised the powers of EKEDP and WPG’s board of directors, saying, “In closing, the Commission recognises the powers of West and Gas Ltd and the EKEDP Board of Directors on the deployment and redeployment of staff, including changes to the management of the utility at any point based on a credible corporate governance  framework and in furtherance of the fiduciary responsibility of directors.

“This letter only seeks to provide clarification on the commission’s earlier communication on this subject to avoid varied interpretations and further to the overriding public interest,” the statement by the NERC Chairman, Sanusi Garba, stated in parts.

Peter Uzoho 

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