By Udeme Akpan
AGAIN, the Senior Staff Employees of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC), Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) Branch, has disagreed with the Engr. Christopher Okonkwo-led SSAEAC National body, over the sack of Dr. Usman Gur Mohammed as the Managing Director/CEO of TCN.
The National body of SSAEAC had called for his removal over what it referred to as ‘anti-labour practices’ at the TCN.
But in a statement obtained by Vanguard, TCN Branch President of SSAEAC, Engr. Dairo Abidemi, stated: “SSAEAC TCN Branch wishes to applaud the excellent performance of Dr Usman G Mohammed. His sudden removal from TCN puts the entire workforce in shock. Dr U G Mohammed’s works speak volumes of his capacity. He came to TCN at the time the company was referred to as the weakest link. TCN is now the strongest link in the electricity power chain.”
According to him; “he has promoted the local content in-house engineers to a level of envy by the hawks of contractors that had always rip the TCN dry at the expense of the hard-working TCN staff. The in-house engineers are now the ones installing and repairing TCN transformers nationwide as against the practice in the past where millions were spent to install or repair transformers.”
Abidemi stated: “He was able to promote industrial relations between the two in-house unions (SSAEAC/NUEE) to enhance industrial harmony and improve productivity. Staff welfare has improved, as workers are happy doing their jobs. Training of staff has increased and impacted positively on the staff and the union are in a sober mood, even though the MD has a 4-year tenure in TCN we are still in shock, especially as we see him, as a ‘messiah’ sent to save the power sector.”
He stated: “Dr. Mohammed cleared about 800 stranded containers of power equipment from various Nigerian ports and deployed for completion of several transmission projects across the country. Some of these containers were stranded for over 15 years; some were even auctioned and TCN had to buy them back.”
Frequency Control, Stability
He maintained: “Dr. Mohammed carried out enforcement of Frequency Control and achieved Frequency stability of 49.75Hz – 50.25Hz as defined in the Grid Code for 85% of the time and achieved WAPP standard of 49.8Hz – 50.2Hz for about 66% of the time in 2019. This earned TCN a commendation letter from West African Power Pool. For the first time, TCN Management focused on quality of power supply in addition to the quantity.”
He stated: “Dr. Mohammed completed the Least Cost Transmission Expansion Master Plan study with support of World Bank, which sets out the transmission expansion plan for attainment of 20,000MW transmission wheeling capacity. This was presented to the Minister of Power in January 2019.
“Dr. Mohammed initiated the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme (TREP), with development objectives to rehabilitate; stabilise; provide necessary flexibility and redundancies and as well as expand the Wheeling Capacity of TCN to 20,000MW by 2022. This is to be achieved through four key strategies, viz: (i) enforcement of System Frequency Control; (ii) procurement of adequate Spinning Reserve; (iii) provision of functional Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and (iv) Critical Investment in Lines and Substations. The programme has attracted concessionary finances to the tune of $1,661bn from multi-lateral donors including World Bank (WB), African Development Bank (AFDB), Agency for French Development (AFD) and Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA). All these four strategies are currently on course.
“He restructured the projects management functions of the company for effective delivery of projects. This results in taking over and completion of several transmission projects that have lingered for many years (most of them more than 10 years) as well as supporting weak contractors to complete several other projects that have similarly lingered for years.”
Similarly, he stated: “Dr. Mohammed initiated TCN Engineers Empowerment scheme through which TCN engineers installed several power transformers across the country. Most of these projects were completed at about 10% of the time and 10% of the cost of delivering such kind of projects through contracts.”
According to him: “He reinvigorated qualification criteria for selection of contractors in order to attract competent and experienced contractors to handle complex project. This is with a view to avoiding failure of projects that characterised the implementation of the past project and achieve cost savings. These objectives are being achieved.
“Dr. Mohammed attracted the largest grant in the history of TCN to the tune of $59m from JICA and European Union in two years for specific projects in the system.”
Right of Way, SCADA
Furthermore, he stated: “He eases the process of acquisition of transmission Right of Way (RoW) through the initiative of collaboration with state governments who are statutory owners of land. Securing RoW is gradually being resolved for the old projects while all new projects are approached through the collaboration from beginning.
“Since handover of the privatised companies on the 31st of October 2013, the Market has been characterised by low compliance with various provisions of Industry Ruling Documents leading to unsatisfactory Market performance. Given that the Market Operations sector of TCN is empowered by the Market Rules to enforce compliance with the rules by all market participants, the current management took the decision to strongly support and encourage the MO to enforce relevant provisions of the market rules with a view to instilling discipline in the market. Interestingly, the enforcement, since its commencement in May 2019, has resulted in 100% remittance of the MO invoice by the distribution companies – as against the usual poor performance of less than 45% monthly.
“He initiated processes for deployment of SCADA and Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) to increase System Operations and Market Operations efficiency and visibility.”
He maintained that, “TCN under the U. G. Mohammed leadership has made the welfare of staff topmost priority. Many of the staff allowances that were stagnant since the time of privatisation were at various times increased. Staff salary was also increased by 60%.
“Under the U. G. Mohammed leadership, TCN re-introduced the pupillage training program under which young engineers work under the tutelage of senior engineers for a period of one year before they can start work on their own. The pupillage programme existed in PHCN where young engineers were trained for a period of two years. He also structured collaboration with other agencies such as AGIP/NNPC JV, GIZ-NESP, Power Africa/USAID, EU, DFID/NiAF, JICA, Association of Power Utilities in Africa (APUA), etc.”
He added: “TCN wheeling capacity has increased to over 8,000MW. WAPP also witnessed tremendous improvement in its activities. TCN led the strategy that resulted in successful commencement of the implementation of the North Core Project. The second Coastal backbone (new 330kV DC from Nigeria to Benin Republic) studies has also been intensified and about to be concluded. WAPP, in collaboration with ERERA, was able to launch the commencement of the 1st phase of the West African Power Market in June 2018.”
The Minister of Power, Mr. Mamman Sale, had sacked Mohammed, according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Mr. Aaron Atimas, while Mr. Sule Abdulaziz was announced as his successor.
Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, in a letter, titled: “Re: Aligning the Transmission Company of Nigeria with the Presidential Power Initiative” addressed to the Minister of Power, had granted approval for the sack.
However, in a circular, the Secretary to Federal Government, Boss Gidahyelda Mustapha, disagreed with the sack of Mohammed, arguing that no minister had the powers to unilaterally remove CEOs of agencies without going through the disciplinary procedure approved by the President for erring heads of agencies.