Nigeria’s Eko Electric Company, EKEDP accused of cover-up as top level officer is linked to ghost employee fraud

There is a dark web of corruption threatening the light of one of Nigeria’s most important electricity distribution companies, the Eko Electricity Distribution Plc (EKEDP).

Eko DISCO as it is also called, has been facing issues of inadequacies and the absence of optimal service provision for some time, with customers often complaining about the company’s inefficiencies and struggles.

An investigation has shown that the company’s struggles have been partly caused by a significant level of corruption going on in the organisation, which involves top management staff members. The staff members linked to the infractions have been accused of aiding ghost workers in the company and earning millions of Naira from the dubious dealings.

Sources who spoke  on condition of anonymity revealed that the exact amount of money the management staff members fleeced the company could not be ascertained. However, they said it would be between N150 million and N300 million with a hefty chunk of it linked to one Wola Joseph, the EKEDP’s Chief Legal Officer (CLO).

Ghost Worker Scandal

Wola Joseph is not new to controversies. Sources said  some time ago, Wola was linked to the employment of a family friend who presented a fake certificate. Sorurces said she was the company’s Chief HR at the time and despite the knowledge of the board of the company, the matter was swept under the carpet. The board members of the company include Dere Otubu, who is the Chairman.

According to sources, some members of the board have been shielding Wola and preventing any form of corruption investigation from getting to her, despite complaints from company workers and evidence linking her to some atrocities.

“The leadership of the EKEDC (EKEDP) has been unfair to the staff and whistleblowers who have reported Wola’s many atrocities. The MD, Dr Tinuade Sanda has kept quiet all along as Wola tramples on people as she wants in the company because she knows she’s covered,” one of the sources revealed.

Other members of the board of the company who have reportedly seemingly forgotten their oversight role include Charles Momoh, Tunji Olowolafe, Simon Ani and Babor Egeregor.

“All these people who have been appointed to help steer the company against strong winds, especially from corruption have allegedly turned a blind eye to Wola,” a source said.

Wola, who had been part of previous investigations into the activities of other staff members which led to their dismissal, is now linked to illegalities. In a case brought to the fore in 2023, she requested an increment of salaries for some members of staff, including the request of up to N1.6 million salary for a seconded staff member identified as Similoluwa Dada, a manager at the company, one of the sources said.

Meanwhile, the requested salary was beyond what the Principal Managers in EKEDP earned. One of the sources said, “This breach of company practice and policy led to an investigation into her activities after an anonymous whistleblower raised an alarm and a cankerworm of corrupt practices was revealed afterwards.

“It was discovered from the investigations that Wola, right from the commencement of the secondment process in 2017 had unilaterally, and without consultation of the board determined the promotion, recruitment, and salaries of seconded staff.

“Her failure to follow due process caught the investigators unaware and led to further checks on her previous activities as she had gone against the company’s policies.”

The investigators also discovered that two of the staff members pencilled down for salary increment by Wola were ghost workers. It was learnt that they never worked for the company nor the law firm of George Etomi and Partners. The investigation revealed that she had never met any of the ghost workers in their three years of supposed employment yet approved their promotions, salaries and bonuses amounting to nearly N62 million, a report indicated.

The report revealed that some staff members of the company who had resigned or been sacked by the company were still on the payroll with their salaries and bonuses approved by Wola.

Part of the report reads: “Sometime in October 2023, Wola presented a request for the increment in salaries of certain seconded staff including a Simileoluwa Dada which was contrary to the Company’s pay grade as she was recommending a N1.6mn monthly salary for a Manager an amount beyond even a Principal Manager pay grade in Eko.

“Noting the inconsistency and the breach in company policy, which was also fueled by an anonymous protest from a whistle-blower within the Company, a further review was conducted on the request and the following discoveries were made:

“The CLO had all through the commencement of the secondment arrangement in 2017 unilaterally determined promotions, salaries, recruitments, and levels of all the seconded staff without following due process, contrary to the Company’s policy and the Secondment Agreement.

“We detected that two of the seconded staff including the staff proposed for salary increment in October 2023 are ghost workers, never worked for the company nor the law firm of George Etomi & Partners (GEP), nor even existed at all within the workspace of both entities.

“The CLO confirmed she never met these staff yet she over the three-year period had authorized the payment of their salaries every month of the year, granted them promotions, and approved the payment of thirteenth-month salaries to them which have all amounted to fraud on the company in the sum of N61,478,750 since 2020 when the ghost workers came into existence.

“Further inquiries also showed that some staff were also left on the payroll of the company despite their exit and resignation and the CLO (Chief Legal Officer) signed off on their monthly salary payment, and thirteenth month, exposing the company to more financial loss.”

It added, “In line with relevant company policy. I issued a Demand for Explanation to: CLO for the above discoveries: The Chief Audit and Compliance Officer for her negligence of duty for not having audited the Legal Department in many years, therefore, not verifying staff salaries and not flagging the fraud: and,

“The Chief Human Resources Officer for not escalating the breach of policy, his non-involvement in the implementation of the secondment agreement within the company.”

Meanwhile, the situation has triggered doubts and worries for the company’s workers regarding their future with the organisation, especially in the face of its recent struggles.

“Nobody knows how many ghost workers are in EKEDC (EKEDP) receiving salaries like the staff working hard. The management has taken their eyes away and Wola has continued to siphon money while maintaining her brutish style of leadership.

“The CEO Sanda has kept quiet. The Chief Audit and Compliance Officer, Sheri Adegbenro has looked away since Wola is her friend. It’s up to the board to save EKEDC, if they have not been compromised too,” a company insider said.

“It is difficult to say everything we know because the ones we’ve said are not being acted upon, and we hope the Nigerian government, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) can look into EKEDP before things go terrible.”

The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has also joined the call for the investigation of Wola and others.

The NUEE said in a statement that the federal government owns a 40% public interest ownership of the organisation, which means its members are critical stakeholders in the affairs of the company.

“This clearly requires the attention of President Bola Tinubu and his minister in charge of power,” the NUEE said.

The workers union made their call in a letter to the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer Eko Electricity Distribution Company, dated January 10, 2024, with reference number NUEE/NS/2024/005.

The letter signed by Acting General Secretary, Dominic Igwebike, was titled: “Alleged Ghost Workers in Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDCP) Call for Investigation”.

Insisting on a thorough and unbiased investigation, the union reminded the management of the company that the federal government owns a 40% public interest ownership in the organisation, adding that it makes its members critical stakeholders in the affairs of the company.

It said, “NUEE has been monitoring with keen interest, the issue of the alleged involvement of some top Management Officers with Ghost Workers and frantic attempts to suppress it contrary to Eko Electricity Distribution Company’s (EKEDC) Conditions of Service and ethics in the Electricity Supply Industry.

“It is appalling, to say the least, that an ugly issue of this nature is being mentioned in the Company, and more appalling is that futile attempts are being made to hide the truth: with its perpetrators behind one finger, thereby leading to monthly financial losses to the Company and the detriment of the General workforce.

“It is instructive to remind you that the Federal Government still controls a public interest element of 40% of Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC), thus making us critical Stakeholders in the day-to-day running and well-being of the Company.”

It added, “In a view to sustain the Company and maintain our moral integrity, we demand without delay, a thorough Investigation into the scandal of Ghost Workers in EKEDC and Management’s attempt to cover it and the perpetrators of this dastardly act punished in line with the provisions of the Company’s Conditions of Service.”

“The Management/Board of EKEDC is advised not to play the ostrich on this issue, as any attempt to sweep it under the carpet will be vehemently resisted,” the union warned.

With the allegations of fraud and a cover-up by those involved, the company called for an immediate investigation by relevant anti-graft agencies into the activities of the EKEDC, especially as its services have been badly affected and its sustenance is also under threat.

As of the time of filing this report, Wola Joseph has returned to work. It is believed that the Chairman and other board members of Eko Disco are doing everything to sweep the matter under the carpet. Meanwhile, efforts made to get the reaction of the EKEDP General Manager, Corporate Communications, Babatunde Lasaki were unsuccessful.

After repeated calls, he answered but hung up the moment our reporter introduced himself. He did not answer subsequent calls or reply to text messages sent to him.


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