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NBET MD demands apology from members of LeaksNG for alleged defamation
THE Managing Director of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET), Marilyn Amobi, has asked PREMIUM TIMES, The Cable and Sahara Reporters to apologise over a report exposing graft at her agency.
She said the report is defamatory against her and the agency and demanded its retraction.
The Leaks NG comprising The ICIR, PREMIUM TIMES, The Cable, Orderpaper and Sahara Reporters last year published a series of investigative reports on alleged corruption and victimisation of whistleblowers at NBET under Mrs Amobi.
The first report revealed how the managing director controversially paid at least N2 billion to two power generating companies.
But in a letter by her counsel, Babalakin&co, dated April 24, Ms Amobi gave PREMIUM TIMES and Leaks NG seven days to retract the publication.
The letter said the reports had caused Mrs Amobi emotional distress and psychological trauma.
“Our clients are understandably very disturbed by the actual and potential damage that this publication has caused and could further cause to the security of Mrs Amobi and the management staff of NBET, as well as our clients’ commercial and public activities.
“Your portrayal of Mrs Amobi as a corrupt pubic official has subjected her to considerable emotional distress and psychological trauma. Indeed, the publication has severely exposed our client to public ridicule and outage as several other local and international media outlet have also picked on these allegations.
“Furthermore, it is noteworthy that our clients are strategically placed in the Nigeria economy and our clients’ commercial operations in the power sector are significantly threatened by the content of your publication.
As you may be aware, our clients, on behalf of the Federal Government, Interface with various local and international stakeholders including investors, diplomats, financial institutions and development agencies.
“And this offensive and baseless publication is capable of adversely affecting our clients’ interaction with key stakeholders.
Ultimately, your publication is capable of orchestrating a serious crisis of confidence in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).”
The report of infractions by Mrs Amobi and her management team at NBET was published on February 8 by Leaks NG, a coalition of Nigerian newsrooms and civil society groups.
First of the allegations was that Mrs Amobi authorised overpayment to two power generating companies – Omotosho Electric Genco and Olorunsogo Electric Company.
This act was a flagrant violation of the details of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) the companies signed with the government in February and August 2016, respectively.
The PPA is an agreement between NBET and power generating plants for the sale and purchase of energy generated by the plants.
According to the PPA, to qualify for full payment, generating plants must provide evidence that they have active GSA and GTA or else the power purchase agreement would be deemed inactive and would only receive payment for the power they supplied.
PREMIUM TIMES reported on April 9, how the House of Representatives mandated two of its committees to investigate NBET and its Managing Director, Mrs Amobi, over several corruption allegations.
The resolution followed a motion by Mohammed Sabo representing South West Constituency, State, Jigawa State.
Mr Sabo warned that if the allegations were not properly investigated, it would create “an institutional system of manipulation of the procurement”, leading to financial losses to the federal government.
In a unanimous decision, the House referred the issue to its Committees on Public Procurement and Power to jointly investigate and report back in two weeks.
Mrs Amobi’s lawyer, in the letter, however, demanded the publication be retracted following published reports by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), on February 28, debunking the claim that it fraudulently paid at least N2 billion to two power generating companies.
”Consequently, it is quite clear that your publication is completely defamatory against NBET in its corporate character and Amobi in her official and individual capacity.
”We hereby notify you of our clients’ intention to institute appropriate legal action against Leaks NG for this defamatory publication within seven days after the receipt of this letter, you tender an unreserved apology and retraction which must be given publicity that is as wide as that of the offending publication.”