…Chairman remains silent on severance pay
02 December 2015, Abuja – The House of Representatives Committee on Power yesterday queried the ability of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to fix the salaries and other emoluments of its own staff and commissioners, without recourse to, but with recommendations from, the National Income, Salaries and Wages Commission.
This is as NERC refuted reports that it intended to pay N2.7 billion in severance benefits to its chairman and seven commissioners whose tenures end this year.
The chairman, Dr. Sam Amadi, at the public hearing by the committee into the activities of NERC and the planned payment of N2.7 billion severance/gratuity to its seven commissioners, however remained mum on the cumulative amount accruing to him and the commissioners.
Amadi pleaded privilege not to disclose the exact figures on the grounds that the figures are contained in the documents already submitted to the commission.
He also declined to reveal his personal monthly salary and benefits when requested by Hon. Edward Pwajok (Plateau PDP).
He added that as a regulatory agency, the Act which established NERC allows it to fix its own emoluments, with approval from the president and confirmation from the Attorney General of the Federation.
This, he said, was necessary to give the agency some level of independence from the executive.
The commissioners are entitled to two years full pay after their tenure ends, due to a de-barment clause, which disallows them to work, consult, own shares or work pro-bono in any sub-sector of the power sector for two years after leaving NERC, Amadi explained.
The N2.7 billion in contention is contained in a sinking fund domiciled with the pension fund as calculation of total entitlements of its over 160 staff and commissioners, which is accessible by each staff as they disengage from the services of NERC, h explained.
The Chairman of the Committee on Power, Hon. Daniel Asuquo, however insisted that the cumulative amount accrued to Amadi and the commissioners as severance must be submitted to the committee today when the public hearing continues.
He added that the essence of the hearing was not just about the N2.7 billion, but also to ensure a working relationship with NERC, so that investors can have confidence in the country.
“Through the course of the years and decades, government has made tremendous investment in the sector. But can we sincerely say that what we have on ground at present is enough to justify government investments?” Asuquo asked.
It was also revealed that the commissioners and staff of the commission received an undisclosed generator and diesel allowances monthly.
Hon. Chris Agibe, who made the observation, queried the morality of NERC as a regulatory body to be given such privileges.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the National Income, Salaries and Wages Commission, Mr. Richard Egbule, said NERC was not entitled to the 53 per cent salary increase which it carried out, as any increase was approved for the public servants who are on the harmonised salary scale.
He said 26.7 per cent was approved for public servants not on the harmonised scale and whose packages were already considered high.
Egbule conceded that the wages commission does not fix salaries for NERC, but makes recommendations which are approved by the president and confirmed by the AGF.
He disclosed that his agency, during a salary inspection in 2012, however discovered that NERC was paying above what was approved for it.
“We wrote NERC to stop the payment and copied Budget Office and SGF,” he said, adding that a committee was set up to look into the reason for the increase.
Egbule alleged that NERC however went ahead to write to the Budget Office that it had been cleared by the wages commission.
Egbule also noted that NERC commissioners and workers were not entitled to severance allowances as their packages are already high.
“Those agencies who make a lot of money are reluctant to be regulated; CBN, PENCOM, NDIC, NCC…,” he added.