By Innocent Anaba

Dr. Sam Amadi, a lawyer, was recently nominated for the position of the Executive Chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Following the reform in the energy sector, NERC was set up as an independent regulatory agency. It was inaugurated on October 31, 2005 as provided in the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005. Its mandates, among other things include, to monitor and regulate the electricity industry, issue licenses to market participants and ensure compliance with market rules and operating guidelines.

The nomination of Amadi has been described as a conscience effort by President Jonathan to ensure that round pegs are put in round holes. With the nomination of Dr Amadi as Chairman of NERC, it has been argued that President Jonathan picked his time. While the trial of the former management team of the Commission has been in the news for sometime, the presidency did not give any sign that they were not returning to office. But only recently, the President swept the rug off the feet of the embattled board, when he sent Amadi’s name to the Senate for confirmation. Amadi’s nomination is already receiving accolades just like that of Professor Attahiru Jega, who leads the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Stakeholders have meanwhile, hailed his appointment because they say he has excellent credentials and an even more intimidating work resume. Apart from holding an LL.B degree from University of Calabar (1992), Amadi also has a B.L. from the Nigerian Law School (1993); LL.M from Harvard Law School (2001); Master of Public Policy and Management, MPPM, from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard, and a Ph.D. in law from Harvard.

A fellow at the Carr Centre for Human Rights, Harvard, USA and a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, the NERC chairman-designate was a Senior Counsel at Gani Fawehinmi Chambers from 1993-1995 and an Associate with Olisa Agbakoba and Associates from 1995.

At various times, he served as Special Adviser to former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani and as the Director of Programmes, Ken Nnamani Centre.

Other stakeholders contended that as an activist, Amadi would use his wealth of experience in the human rights circle to protect the interest of consumers, especially from extortion and exploitation, adding that as renowned lawyer, he will use his vast and deep knowledge of the law to put NERC in its rightful place as a regulatory agency. Amadi’s supporters also describe him as “credible and knowledgeable and not a rabble-rouser politician who is out to exploit the public and make money for himself.”

Emmanuel Onwubiko, president of the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, in a recent article had said, “the appointment of Dr. Amadi is a reflection of the views of most technocrats, bureaucrats and experts spoken to by this columnist before writing this work. According to him, “Dr. Amadi, in his widely acclaimed 232-page book entitled: “Privatisation and Public Good: The Rule of Law Challenge”, canvassed the protection of public good in the ongoing privatisation policy. Privatisation as is being carried out in Nigeria in the reasoning of most people and especially the working class is an anti-people policy, which is meant to sell off hitherto publicly-owned institutions and firms to only a few friends and cronies of the people in the corridors of power.

“Osita Chidoka, the head of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, who wrote the foreword to the scholarly book by Dr. Amadi agreed that “the grinding poverty amongst the majority of the people, their lack of understanding of the true essence of the exercise and the incoherence between government and people’s interests created the contradictions, whereby even the core investors that took over these hitherto national assets become richer, the mass of the people became poorer….” An interesting fact disclosed by Dr. Amadi in his book was when he rightly posited thus; “But, in the context of commitment to poverty reduction, economic growth and macroeconomic stability will need to mean more to become meaningful to the working poor and the unemployed,” he added.

Until his nomination by President Jonathan, Amadi was co-ordinating research and public policy briefs for Think-Tank Consult. He is also the Executive Director of the Centre for Public Policy and Research, Lagos.

It will be recalled that the former the commission had been functioning without a chairman alongside its six commissioners, since February 2009, when late President Umaru Yar’Adua, ordered the suspension of its then Chairman, Dr. Ransome Owan and its six commissioners, who were early in 2009 arrested, detained and arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over an alleged N5 billion fraud.
This is probably one of the reasons for the excitement in the industry over Amadi’s appointment. The commission has not been functioning optimally since the crisis, which claimed Owan and others started in 2009. The appointment of a new chairman is therefore expected to breathe life into the almost comatose agency Amadi could not have been appointed at a more opportune time, even though the criminal charge against the former executive of the commission had been discontinued.

Lagos lawyer and human rights lawyer, Mr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, speaking on the nomination of Dr Amadi, said “President Jonathan’s appointment of Dr. Amadi as the new electricity Czar is applauded. The appointment of Dr. Amadi, a development law specialist, is a clear demonstration of the fact that the President understands the workings of the 4th branch of government, that branch relating to executive agencies and regulatory institutions.

“The 4th branch is vital to efficiency and competitiveness and assures private sector participation in the economy within an overarching regulatory environment. The concept of the 4th branch was first introduced by Roosevelt as president of the United States during the depression to regulate economic institutions. Regulation is a big field and requires a deep understanding of the interrelated principles of economics, development, governance, law, service delivery process and human rights.

Dr. Amadi’s rich background in these areas makes him eminently qualified him to hold the position,” Agbakoba said.
For decades now, electricity consumers have been subjected to deprivation and economic sabotage, largely because of the epileptic electricity power supply situation. Also, persistent power failure has wrecked so much economic havoc on the nation that majority of self-employed persons, who need electricity to power their businesses have been wiped out, and this has led to the massive collapse of the manufacturing sector of the nation’s economy.

While the appointment of Dr Amadi has been applauded, his confirmation by the Senate for him to start the actual job of ensuring that Nigerians feel the impact of the commission has been stressed, so that just as INEC is on the path of redeeming the image of Nigeria before the comity of nations, Nigerians would begin to enjoy the abundant natural resources in the country, which before now had been properly managed, to the detriment of the ordinary citizen.

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