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Crisis hits Eko Disco, chairman, directors disagree on MD’s sacking

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Members of the board of the Eko Electricity Distribution Company are at loggerheads over the sack of the company’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Dr Tinuade Sanda.

Theheute reports that the firm replaced Sanda with Mrs Rekhiat Momoh, who was said to have taken over on Tuesday.

It was gathered that Sanda’s sack was communicated through a letter signed by the EKEDC Chairman, Dere Otubu, on March 25.

According to Otubu, the decision to relieve Sanda of her duties followed a directive from the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission.

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“We have received a directive from NERC stating that all staff working for the utility must be employed directly by the utility, bound by applicable service conditions that are applicable to the employees of the utility, and paid through the utility’s payroll.

“The Disco is obligated to comply with these directives due to the powers of NERC as stipulated in the Electricity Act 2023. In compliance with the aforementioned directive, all seconded staff from WPG Ltd are being released by Eko Electricity Distribution Plc and returned to WPG Ltd.

“Accordingly, you are hereby relieved of your role, office, and position at Eko Electricity Distribution Plc effectively immediately, and returned to your employer, WPG Ltd,” Otubu had said.

Theheute reported earlier that some senior staff members of the Eko DisCo were recently accused of ghost worker recruitment, fraud and negligence; a claim the firm said was unfounded.

Reacting to the allegation, NERC ordered thorough investigations, while directing that all existing WPG secondees be returned to their original employer.

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While announcing the change of leadership, the DisCo said, “We wish to inform the general public that Mrs Rekhiat Momoh has on 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.

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

However, in a rebuttal on Wednesday, a Director and Chairman of the Legal & Regulatory Committee, Mr Babor Egeregor, disagreed with the chairman over the sack of Sanda.

He said the NERC did not order the removal of any staff either seconded to or hired by EKEDC, except those connected to the alleged fraud and negligence.

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“It has come to my notice that by a letter dated 26th of March 2024, the Chairman of EKEDC, Mr Dere Otubu, purportedly terminated the Contract of Employment of Dr Tinuade Sanda, the MD/CEO of EKEDC, allegedly in compliance with orders/directives issued by the NERC.

“The said order of the NERC, herein displayed, are unambiguous, incapable of, and unyielding to plural interpretations. There was nowhere in the order where NERC requested the removal of any staff either seconded to or hired by EKEDC, except those connected to the alleged fraud and negligence i.e., Wola Joseph Condotti, Sheri Adegbenro, and Aik Alenkhe,” he said.

According to Egregor, NERC’s directives were issued to compel the board of EKEDC, following picketing by the union and unrelenting staff protests, “to act appropriately in the face of the determined position of a majority of the board members to cover up the alleged use of ghost workers together with the alleged fraud and protect Wola Joseph Condotti, especially”.

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“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 sworn to protect by all means.

“Rather than comply with the orders of NERC, a recourse to subterfuge was hatched with the purported termination. There are no doubts about a deliberate agenda and unconcealed mischief to misread the orders of the NERC to malign Dr Sanda’s reputation for daring to escalate and issue queries to Wola Joseph Condotti for alleged fraud through the use of ghost workers for three years, and continuous payment of salaries to exited staff despite personally receiving their resignation letters,” Egregor stated.

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He added that similar queries were issued to the Chief Audit and Compliance Officer, Sheri Adegbenro, and the Chief Human Resources Officers, Aik Alenkhe, “for their failure and gross negligence to audit and detect fraudulent payments on payroll for over three years”.

On the appointment of Momoh as the Acting MD/CEO, Egregor said, “The board of EKEDC, on which I sit, has neither met nor decided on the purported appointment of Mrs Rekiah Momoh as Acting MD/CEO, except Mr Otubu and his close circle of colleagues have transformed themselves into ‘the board’.

“I and all well-meaning members of the EKEDC board, I believe, should vehemently distance themselves from this contrivance.

“The board is not a one-man show, and matters are to be collectively deliberated on and approved by Board members. Mrs Momoh is the Chief Commercial Officer of EKEDC and remains so.”

Amid the allegations of fraud, the director took pride in saying that the EKEDC was known for due process and legality, adding that anything that would erode the commitment to due process and corporate governance would be resisted.

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“Therefore, let it be known that Dr Tinuade Sanda remains the MD/CEO of Eko Electricity Distribution Company and has since her assumption of office as the MD/CEO, turned EKEDC around for good, with very great milestones and achievements which every sector player recognises.

“She made EKEDC the number one distribution company in Nigeria. The investors, board, and management of EKEDC believe firmly in her leadership and look forward to many more record-setting and breaking moments,” he submitted.

Contacted, the EKEDC spokesperson, Babatunde Lasaki, told our correspondent that Sanda was not sacked but only asked to step aside “until the realignment of the structural management process is completed”.

According to Lasaki, Momoh was appointed to avoid a vacuum.

He did not react to the allegations raised by Egregor and refused to respond to the inquiry about whether or not Sanda would return to her office after the purported realignment of the structural management process.

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Similarly, the NERC promised to officially react to the crisis rocking the Eko Disco.

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Chinese chamber denies barring Nigerian shoppers from Abuja supermarket

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The China General Chamber of Commerce in Nigeria has given insight into the operation of a Chinese supermarket within the premises of the Royal Choice Estate, Airport Road, Abuja.

Theheute reports that the Abuja-based Chinese supermarket had come under criticism for refusing to allow Nigerians to shop in its facility.

The supermarket situated at the China General Chamber of Commerce, along Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Road in Abuja, is acclaimed as a destination for Chinese cuisine and beverages.

Nigerians had expressed outrage over a discriminatory policy implemented by the Chinese Supermarket, which restricted entry exclusively to its citizens and barred Nigerians.

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But After Theheute reports, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission sealed the supermarket.

The FCCPC officials shut the supermarket when they stormed the premises on Monday. The commission’s officials sealed up the place after interrogating Nigerian workers at the supermarket.

But reacting to the alleged discrimination in a statement by its Secretary, Mr. Cui Guangzheng, the China Chamber of Commerce explained that the estate housing both the supermarket and the commerce building was not entirely a supermarket.

He clarified that the Royal Choice Estate comprises an office complex and residential apartments.

According to the statement, the residential area of the estate consists of private residents who adhere to security protocols in granting access to external visitors.

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“The China Chamber of Commerce is one of several enterprises using the facility, and the supermarket in question is located in the residential area of the estate, which is unrelated to the China Chamber of Commerce in Nigeria,” the statement read.

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It added, “No individual was subjected to discrimination or denied access to the estate or supermarket to purchase groceries as widely believed.

“The China General Chamber of Commerce emphasized its commitment to equality and inclusiveness and welcomed first-hand visits to witness the truth.

“Our principles are to enhance friendship between the people of both countries and promote economic development.”

The chamber expressed regret over the altercation at the estate’s entrance gate between the security personnel and a customer, emphasizing that it does not reflect the official position of the estate management or the chamber of commerce.

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FG to execute $3.8bn gas supply agreement in May

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The Gas Supply and Purchase Agreement to support the Final Investment Decision for the $3.8bn Brass methanol project is to be executed in May 2024, the Federal Government announced on Monday.

The Brass methanol project is a major industrial project being built in Bayelsa State to produce methanol, a key industrial chemical, using natural gas resources. Nigeria currently imports all its methanol.

Located in Brass Island, Bayelsa, the facility is to have a capacity of 10,000 tonnes of methanol per day when completed, as it is still under construction and expected to be operational this year.

The $3.8bn is to create up to 15,000 jobs during construction and aims to boost the Nigerian economy by reducing reliance on imports.

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This project is a joint venture between DSV Engineering Limited, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, and the Nigerian Content Development & Monitoring Board.

The Minister of State Petroleum Resources (Gas), Ekperikpe Ekpo, announced the execution date for the gas supply agreement in Abuja on Wednesday after a meeting with key stakeholders of the project in his office.

Ekpo, in a statement issued by his media aide, Louis Ibah, said the meeting was to confirm adequate gas supply to the Brass methanol project by the NNPC/Shell/TotalEnergies/NAOC Joint Venture.

He said the meeting was to also determine the next steps to conclude and execute the GSPA and mature the phase-2 of gas supply to the project.

Present at the meeting were the Head of Joint Venture, Investment Management, NNPC Upstream Investment Management Services, Mr Olanrewaju Igandan; and Deputy Managing Director, Nigerian Agip Oil Company, Mr Richard Orianzi.

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Others include the Managing Director, Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria, Mr Osagie Okunbor; Managing Director of Brass Fertiliser and Petrochemical Ltd, Mr Ben Okoye, among others.

Ekpo informed the gathering of President Bola Tinubu’s strong interest in resolving issues relating to gas supply to the Brass methanol project.

According to the Minister, the President was passionate about the speedy kick-off of the project so that it could bring in the much needed Foreign Direct Iinvestment with attendant economic benefits to the country.

“Mr President is very passionate about this project and wants something positive to happen in respect of the Brass methanol project before the end of May this year,” Ekpo said.

The Brass methanol project is sponsored by Brass Fertiliser & Petrochemical Company Limited and it is made up of a gas processing plant, a methanol production and refining plant, product export facilities, among others.

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At the end of the meeting, Ekpo announced he had successfully resolved the GSPA issue and that it would be executed by May this year.

“The NNPC/SPDC JV partners are now fully committed to uninterrupted gas supply for the development of the Brass methanol project,” the gas minister stated.

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Naira continues recovery, gains 7.2% against dollar

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The exchange rate of Nigeria’s currency, the Naira has continued to appreciate to the dollar in response to the fiscal and monetary policies of President Bola Tinubu’s administration.

According to data from the official trading platform of the FMDQ Exchange, a platform that oversees the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (NAFEM), on Friday revealed that the Naira gained N88.23.

This represents a 7.16 per cent gain when compared to the previous trading date on Monday, April 8, exchanging at N1,230.61 to a dollar before the Sallah holiday.

The huge appreciation resulted in the Naira trading at N1,142.38 to the dollar at the official market

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The total daily turnover increased to $281.34 million on Friday up from $125.55 million recorded on Monday.

Meanwhile, at the Investor’s and Exporter’s (I&E) window, the Naira traded between N1,265 and N1,100 against the dollar.

Experts attribute the steady Naira appreciation to the policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

The CBN, during its policy meetings held in February and March, implemented a total of 600 basis points in interest rate increases.

This helped tackle dollar scarcity, reduced volatility, and decreased reliance on parallel markets.

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