Tinuade Sanda: A study in executive leadership steeped in deep controversy

Tinuade Sanda: A study in executive leadership steeped in deep controversy

It is no longer news that embattled Tinuade Sanda has been given the boot as the Chief Executive Officer of Eko Electricity Distribution Company, EkoD

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It is no longer news that embattled Tinuade Sanda has been given the boot as the Chief Executive Officer of Eko Electricity Distribution Company, EkoDISCO by the parent company, West Power & Gas (WPG).

She was removed from her position following a Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC directive aimed at improving governance and operational efficiencies within the distribution sector.

Following her removal, Tinuade was replaced by Rekhiat Momoh as the Acting CEO.

Tinuade, who was said to have spent each day rueing her disregard for caution, feeling she understood early enough and now could turn back the hands of time to avoid her current travail. Losing her job with Eko Disco was a great tragedy as she hoped against reason that somehow, she would be reinstated.

She fought to be reinstated but contrary to her expectation, she wasn’t restored to her position, instead, she was seconded but later given the boot from West Power & Gas (WPG), the parent company of Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC), weeks after she was asked to return to the firm (WPG).

In the high-stakes world of Nigeria’s electricity sector, the drama at EKEDC has exposed an industry lesson of how misaligned executive leadership can betray the corporate mission of an organisation.

Sanda, whose turbulent tenure was tainted by allegations of misconduct, including illegal appointments, shady contracts, and financial misrepresentation to shareholders.

Behind the façade of her corporate poise lies a stinger that comes to the fore when threatened with exposure, Sanda and her backers will not stop at anything to supplant other professional women and men who take bold steps to challenge her unethical excesses, even if it means disrupting and stalling workflow and productivity of the company.

The former Chief Legal Officer, who is perceived to have been in opposition to Sanda’s alleged unethical and shady approvals, had a bitter taste of Sanda and her backers as they plotted to bring her down in a media campaign of retaliation and character assassination.

Tinuade Sanda has been on the radar in EKEDC for quite sometime for the wrong reasons, but these had been successfully downplayed.

On November 2nd 2022, a letter from BPE alleging corporate governance misconducts, non-observance of due process and abuse of office by her as CEO was received by the company.

She was indicted of attempts to alter the Company’s corporate structure without Board approval; Promotion of senior management staff without Board approval; Dismissal/withdrawal of the services of senior personnel without Board approval; Appointment of a Chief Power Procurement & Regulatory Officer without the Board’s approval.

Additionally, other grievous concerns were also raised against her, such as the lack of technical capacity, administrative competence as well as emotional maturity to run the affairs of the Company.

Sanda was also found to be awarding contracts to unregistered entities and vendors and the complete disregard for established due process in such decisions.

She was also indicted for misrepresenting the financial position of the Company by non-recognition of the debt (liability) owed to Paras’ debt (despite the fact that a demand letter was written by Paras) in the Company’s books. Failing/ refusing to bring the attention of the Board to the existence of this letter for its directive and further action, in spite of the magnitude and far-reaching implications of this debt on the Company’s financial position.

Other sins Sanda was indicted of included approving and directing the payment of the sum of NGN 220,000,000 (Two Hundred and Twenty Million Naira), a sum way in excess of the approval limit of the MD/CEO, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (“EFCC”) without the required Board approval.

Other grievous concerns raised pointed to her awarding contracts to unregistered entities and vendors and the complete disregard for established due process in such decisions. Where particular attention was called for in investigating the dates of incorporation of the companies and the dates of registration with the Company’s procurement department.

These and many other allegations of impropriety marked her tumultuous tenure as CEO of EkoDisco.

The real intrigue, however, was how her ally, Babor Egeregor, a non-executive director, who has since become a staunch defender of Sanda, led an investigative panel that conveniently cleared and extricated her from the web of allegations in which she had been entangled.

In the Egeregor report that displayed obvious bias, the findings thwarted the board’s disciplinary action, while stunningly heaping praise on Sanda and blaming her inappropriate actions on communication loopholes which she exploited to get her way – a shocking endorsement and flimsy excuse, given the serious claims against her leadership.

Fast-forward to 2024, Sanda was finally shown the way out of EKEDC by the Board and it is the same Egeregor that has championed spirited efforts to have her reinstated, in defiance of the board’s decision to finally remove her.

This has further proven the suspicions of industry watchers that his motivations in vindicating her during his investigation were rooted in protectionism over accountability.

The recent surreptitious attempts to silence those with the courage to question Sanda’s actions in the past perceived as running contrary to principles of integrity within the company, as well as sponsoring media campaigns targeting the recent appointment of the acting CEO, all seem to align with Sanda’s modus operandi.

These underhand maneuvers appear to betray an underlying motive to keep EKEDC under the grip of a Sanda’s manipulative and shadowy cabal, who are seemingly benefiting from the status quo at the expense of the company’s health and public image.

Amidst all this, EKEDC’s Board of directors, seems to be seeking to pivot from the shadows of past executive leadership toward a future marked by clarity, and efficiency, The board’s decisive action to remove Sanda and appoint new leadership has been lauded by the unions and industry stakeholders as a critical step toward ensuring EKEDC’s operations reflect the principles of accountability.

Her questionable educational background

Sanda’s dismissal also ignited a firestorm of scrutiny surrounding the authenticity of her academic qualifications, casting doubt on corporate integrity within the Nigerian business community.

Sanda’s rapid rise to the top echelons of the Disco was accompanied by claims of academic achievements, notably an MBA in Strategic Planning allegedly obtained from the esteemed University of Edinburgh in Scotland. However, a thorough investigation by the university revealed no such program, throwing Sanda’s educational background into question.

Further inconsistencies emerged regarding her purported undergraduate degree from Harvard Business School, renowned for offering exclusive graduate-level programs. Most disconcertingly, Sanda’s assertion of holding a Doctor of Philosophy in Financial Management and Entrepreneurship from ICON University in the Republic of Benin was debunked amidst scrutiny of the institution’s credibility. The questionable credentials from ICON University’s website, rife with grammatical errors and dubious accreditations, failed to provide substantive evidence of Sanda’s academic pursuits.

The exposure of Sanda’s dubious credentials has raised significant concerns regarding her suitability for leadership roles and has prompted a broader reflection on the effectiveness of due diligence processes in corporate appointments. Investigations have unearthed alarming trends in Benin, where institutions allegedly fabricate academic qualifications. Sanda’s association with such suspect credentials calls into question her judgment and reveals potential shortcomings in corporate vetting procedures.

Further complicating matters, a November 2022 letter from Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) expressed reservations about Sanda’s competence and emotional maturity to lead the Disco. If proven false, Sanda’s embellished academic record not only tarnishes her reputation but also undermines her credibility as a mentor, particularly to young women aspiring to leadership positions.

Sanda’s trajectory, marred by questionable qualifications, underscores the critical need for robust executive verification mechanisms to ensure appointments are grounded in merit and integrity. Her saga serves as a stark reminder of the imperative of ethical conduct and transparency in corporate governance. As stakeholders grapple with the fallout, it triggers a broader discourse on the standards of integrity expected from leaders entrusted with pivotal roles in Nigeria’s business landscape.

As the industry continues to watch keenly, EKEDC’s ability to extricate itself from the grip of self-centred former power brokers and redefine its trajectory will ultimately determine it’s future.