After cutting his name in gold as the executive chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, and contesting as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Dr. Sam Amadi was recently appointed as Chairman of the Imo State Power and Rural Electrification Agency (I-POREA), to pilot a key agenda of the Emeka Ihedioha administration.
From a humble beginning, Amadi, by dint of hard work, passionate quest for knowledge that took him from the University of Calabar, where he read Law to Harvard University, United States, and resolute determination to attain heights of accomplishments, recorded success in executive positions he has hel, through personal discipline and the Grace of God. In this interview, he sheds light on how his NERC legacy may impact on IPOREA.
With your appointment as the Chairman of Imo State Power and Rural Electrification Agency (I-POREA), what should Imo people expect in terms of rural electrification?
First, I am chairman of the Board. The board is made up of some technical experts and politically experienced persons as expected. They include Engr. Solomon Opara, Engr. Uzoma Achinanya, Barr. Mrs. Ozioma Izuora, Barr. Anicetus Ekeh, Engr, Celestine Opurum, and Francis Chisa Alaegbu. Our mission is to help the government to achieve its strategic vision on power supply in Imo, especially rural electrification. Imo has potential to be the first real knowledge economy in Nigeria with its 98.5 per cent literacy, its innovative youths and a large community of Diaspora technologists and scientists. So we can commercialize knowledge. But one needs the basic electricity for coding and knowledge to work. The future of Imo lies in rural industrialization like MI Okpara did in Eastern Nigeria to make it the fastest growing economy in the world in the 1960’s. We need electricity to do that. So, stable and adequate electricity is an urgent and pressing need in Imo. That is what we will help the governor to achieve. The governor is an experienced and rigorous person who has put up a good team, he will understand that this board is the most important for his success and wellbeing of the people. I am yet to get a full briefing but looking at the law setting up the agency and based on my conversation with the Director General, my view is that the three most important priorities will be to provide access to electricity to all communities in Imo State, stabilize grid supply to homes and businesses that are already connected to the grid, and to optimize the immense renewable resources in the state to create sustainable and commercially viable mini-grid, micro-grid, and off-grid power supply to Imo state.
Kindly recall your days at the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) where you served as the chairman. What is the key reform you would be remembered for?
In NERC, I was the chairman and chief executive. Here I am chairman of the Board of IPOREA. There is a significant difference. When I became the Ccman of NERC, I set myself three strategic objectives. The first was to deploy leadership to achieve a world-class organization defined in terms of integrity and effectiveness. The second objective was to deploy leadership to achieve the legislative mandate of NERC. This means that administrative rule making in fair and legitimate procedure while the third was to stimulate increase in quantity and quality of power through regulation. We achieved the first objective 100 per cent. We were adjudged by the House of Representatives Committee on Reforms as the most credible and transparent agency complaint with the Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria. Later we were voted as the most transparent in public procurement in Nigeria by the Public Private Development Company in Nigeria. We won several awards for being a credible and efficient agency. It was a difficult time in Nigeria but we provided unusual leadership. The seven commissioners and the entire staff of NERC worked hard and we achieved the feat. Do not forget that when we came to NERC, it had suffered a huge loss of credibility and the all investors withdrew because of the allegations of corruption in the previous era. So we achieved much by repositioning NERC as a credible regulator. Till today, NERC remains one of the most credible agencies in Nigeria. Just recently, NERC was rated as the most transparent in Procurement in Nigeria in 2019. So the legacy remains. When we came to NERC, it did not have a decent headquarters office, but we have left for the future a 9-storey building that houses NERC and NBET with no debt at all. We also opened zonal offices to make NERC an effective regulator.
On the second mandate, we gained a lot of visibility and respect to NERC amongst stakeholders because of the quality of our regulatory interventions. We have established regulations that ensured that Nigeria becomes an efficient electricity market. I am very proud of such regulations like the embedded generation regulation and embedded distribution and transmission regulation, the local content law, the metering code, feed-in tariff, etc too many regulations. Today, the problem of the electricity industry in Nigeria is not absence of good regulation. It is a crisis of policy and project management. No one can intelligently fault those regulations. The rest of the work is redesigning policy and strengthening implementation.
Will you create industrial clusters under the I-POREA for artisans and future development of the state?
I think establishment of industrial clusters is part of the development strategies of the Emeka Ihedioha administration. When I was in NERC, I started the mini-grid for industrial clusters with MAN. The committee submitted a report a few days before the end of my tenure, so I could not implement it. But that was my vision of creative energy supply for industries using commercially viable special purpose vehicles (SPVs). That is one of the ways to solve the power problem in Nigeria. Industrial clusters help to economize on costs and leverage other benefits for businesses. Power should flow through it like the artery in the body.
Through the Board, how do you plan to eradicate corruption, which has eaten deep into the society?
Corruption is a big problem, but at the same time we should not allow fighting corruption to distract us from the work. Corruption is not the worst thing. The worst could be irresponsibility. By the way, Nigerians have very poor idea of what corruption is. We think it is about stealing money; that is plain stealing and former President Goodluck Jonathan is right. Corruption is actually the use of public resources, procedures and platform to serve personal interest. When I was chief executive of NERC, the official car took me to the office and back home and it was parked at the office. I had to observe the highest distinction between private and public. We followed the rules and NERC was the first agency in Nigeria to publicly swear to the Code of Conduct publicly, all commissioners and staff. When we came in, we banished the use of First Class tickets. No one flew First Class in NERC. It was the practice before, but we did not need it. We did not punish anyone, but we set new rules. And by the grace of God we tried to model the highest level of ethics of public office. I can tell you that I did not collect one kobo apart from the salary and entitlements. It inspired my colleagues and we built a very honest and credible organization that remains the best till today. What did we do differently? First, we communicated a new vision built on competence and merit. We based recruitment and promotion on merit. We modeled public ethics and the staff imbibed it. In the literature of corruption, we call it collective action. The best way to fight corruption is to model a different way of doing things so that everyone now believes that this way pays. Nigeria will remain corrupt as long as we think it is all about jailing people. No, it is primarily about changing incentives and instituting a new collective experience and corporate cultures. We did it in NERC; we can do it elsewhere. Anyway, I am not fully confirmed and have not resumed. But our primary focus will not be fighting corruption. This is a new organization and therefore there is no history of corruption. Our focus is building a world class organization and working hand in hand to fulfill the mandate. In the Law, rebuild Imo government means a government of due process, So there is no worry.
What was growing up like as a teenage boy? What pranks did you play and how did you escape the vices which youth exuberance leads teenagers and adolescents into, like the downside of partying with girls?
I grew up in a working class family. My father worked with the Ministry of Works all his life and died at 84 with little or no pension. I was not very deprived with the standard of village people. I went to school in my village and did not know any luxury and no too much deprivation. I have always been a stoic who does not feel much needed pleasure or leisure. I always love to read and a friendly conversation is the highest of this life’s pleasure. So I do not feel deprived at all even though I can also say I came from a very poor background. I had the riches of the spirit and soul.
What is your life philosophy? Favourite and foods and books?
I live simple. My favorite food is vegetable soup and Eba. Then I also enjoy unripe plantain, I like garden egg and groundnut. I do not like travelling, so I do not travel a lot. I like to read and vicariously experienced the world from a distance. I read all kinds of books. I get an average of 10 new books every month from Amazon. Presently, I am reading Mark Lilla’s ‘The stillborn God Religion, Politics and the modern West. Charles Fried ‘Contract as Promise: A Theory of contractual Obligation’, Yingyi Qian: ‘How Reform Worked in China: The Transition from Plan to Market” and Annand Giridhardas, “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of changing the world’. I am a Christian moralist. Therefore my philosophy is to achieve happiness through knowing the truth and doing the right thing.
What are your thoughts on the issue of Igbo presidency?
I believe that we need a president in 2023 that will reset Nigeria. This present Nigeria is not working; it is actually a dangerous proposition as it is. It has reduced many to utmost poverty and misery especially in the North; it keeps killing and killing even through maternal and infant mortality, road accidents, banditry and sundry criminality. So we need a new direction in 2023. We need a redefining leader, a transformative leader as argued by Archie Brown, Oxford professor of Politics in his book, ‘The Strong Leader.’ For equity and justice, Nigerians should choose an Igbo person who meets the criteria for 2023. It is not about the Igbo, it is about Nigeria and its continued existence as a society of justice and prosperity. I believe the rest of Nigeria will help itself if it invests trust in the Igbo in 2023. That will be a more national achievement.