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Senate Orders Probe Of Power Projects Sale

* Adjourns Till February 16

Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja

Senate on Thursday mandated its committees on Power and Privatisation to carryout a holistic investigation of the entire circumstances surrounding the preparation, execution and implementation of the management services for the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and all other related matters.

This was sequel to a motion entitled: unwholesome practices by Manitoba Hydro International Limited under the direction and control of the BPE.

The UNION recalls that the Federal Government had invested over $8.2 billion in 10 National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs), before they were later sold by the Bureau For Public Enterprises (BPE) for $5.8 billion in November 2013.

In his remark, after the motion sponsored by Senator Mohammed Hassan and five other senators, the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, expressed displeasure at how a government agency would decide to wave aside $3 billion, and sell the projects for $5 billion, after an investment of more than $8 billion.

Saraki, therefore, stressed that the Senate must set example with any agency of government that encourages revenue leakages especially at this time of dwindling revenue.

“The privatisation of some of the companies must be properly investigated. You wonder: how does an agency, sitting somewhere, can on its own, write off over $3 billion without any referral to anybody?

“It is mind boggling. Even, if you are going to take a decision like that, there must be some level of consultation and collective responsibility.

“We cannot be carrying out some of these investigations and not bring them to conclusion, we must bring them to conclusion and see that actions are taken.

“On this matter, we must make an example. All these are our responsibilities, and we must see some of these through. When we resume from Plenary, the report of the Committee must be given priority,” he said.

He said that on the power project probe, the Senate seemed to just be waking up to its responsibility and therefore urged all to take the investigation seriously and show more commitment.

Saraki also stressed that the alleged non-payment of tax by some of the companies in the power sector amounted to revenue leakages.

“We have been talking about non-oil revenue, and we talk about how there is need to ensure that taxes are paid. At the same time, we are condoning agency of government that is not paying tax.

“Then, we wonder why our tax to GDP ratio is very low. These are issues that we must make an example of. I hope that the Committee will do its work properly to make sure that anybody, who is breaking the law, must be dealt with.

“Anytime the law is broken, it is a slight on this Institution because we make those laws. If we are in a society, where there is such level of impunity, we need to put things right and stop it.

“We must be able to not only bark but to also bite. So, I hope that the Committee on Power and that of Privatisation will look into that,” he said.

Earlier, Hassan had expressed disappointment that Manitoba does not pay taxes on the monies it is paid under the Management Services Contract.

“TCN is saddled with the vital responsibility of providing the critical power transmission services for the power industry and the entire nation. It (TCN) is owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria; and in the power sector reform, the BPE transferred the management of TCN to the Manitoba under a management services contract prepared by the BPE.

“Manitoba is a company incorporated under and subject to the laws of the Federal Government of Nigeria, carrying on business in Nigeria with FGN, and paid in millions of Dollars of scarce public funds. It is a criminal offence as stipulated in Section 20(5) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007 for any corporate person or body to refuse the acceptance of the Naira as the legal tender currency for payments for goods and services in Nigeria.

“TCN is imposed with this burden, under the management services contract, of paying all taxes for the management contractors, while Manitoba does not pay taxes on the monies it is paid under the management services contract,” Hassan said.

The UNION reports that Section 9(2) of the Companies Income Tax Act (CITA) Cap 21 LFN 2004 provides that: tax shall be assessed and payable upon the profits of any company accruing in, derived from, brought into, or received in, Nigeria for services rendered.

Hassan, thereafter, called for the investigation of the grievous matters in the interest of Nigerians.

“The management services contract prepared by BPE for the management of TCN is fraught with apparent illegalities and total violations of the laws of Nigeria. These apparent illegalities would inevitably result in corruption, inefficiencies, waste of public resources, lack of transparency and accountability in the management of TCN.

“BPE is a member Board of Directors of all DISCOS in Nigeria with the Director General as a signatory of the tripartite agreement between BPE, TCN and Manitoba, signing on behalf of BPE and TCN and, thereby abdicating the supervisory role it ought to play in the whole process.

“There is now an urgent need to investigate these grievous matters in the overriding public interest, and in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he added.

As a result, the Red Chamber, thereafter, mandated the committees on Power and Privatisation to investigate the roles of all the persons that are involved in these matters, and where appropriate, determine the culpability of any person, who, whether by commission of omission, has acted against the public interest.

The committees were also tasked to ascertain the relevance of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on the Board of Directors of Distribution Companies of Nigeria (DISCON).

The Upper Legislative Chamber further mandated the committees to make appropriate recommendations concerning their findings in their report to the House within four weeks.

Meanwhile, the Senate has adjourned Plenary activities till Tuesday, February 16.

The UNION reports that the adjournment is to allow for the defence of the 2016 Budget proposals by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Following the Budget defence by the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), the Senate has been dissolved into sub-committees.

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