A Former Power Minister Seeks Probe Of The BPE Over The Power Sector Privatisation, While Staff Are Accused Of Collecting Prado And Land Cruiser Jeeps As Bribes To Compromise The Exercise
The Senate Ad hoc Committee on Power, yesterday at the Day Two of investigation of the privatisation of the nation’s power sector, alleged that some members of staff of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) compromised their office.
The Committee noted with regrets that some staff of the BPE, who were board members in some of the registered power generation and distribution companies (Gencos and Discos), received exotic jeeps as privileges.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Abubakar Kyari, lamented that the development might not be unconnected with the inability of the agency to carry out its responsibility of carrying out diligent process devoid of flaws.
Kyari, while addressing stakeholders at the second day of the public hearing organised by the panel to investigate investments in the power sector between 1999 and 2014, and the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) said: “I have the protection of the Senate to say what we have gathered. There are some staff of the Bureau of Public Enterprises that are board members of Generation Companies and Distribution Companies who were given Prado and Land Cruiser jeeps.”
He noted that the implication of such action was that the affected staff might not be able to discharge effectively their duties of protecting the interest of the Federal Government, which still retains 40 percent equity in the firms.
Similarly, a member of the Committee, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, said the alleged compromise of the BPE staff had affected the necessary coordination between the power firms and the power ministry. Abdullahi, who is also the Senate spokesperson, pointed out that the BPE, which should be negotiating for the country on the boards of the power firms, should be technically and morally responsible to the country.
“With the action of the staff, it seems that the BPE is short-changing the country,” he added. But the Director-General of the BPE, Mr. Benjamin Dikki, who denied the allegation, maintained that his Agency had not, and would never, be compromised in its responsibility of ensuring a perfect process of privatising the sector for efficient service delivery.
Dikki denied ever collecting gratification in any form in the course of discharging his responsibilities, but asked the senate to direct further investigation on the alleged car gifts to the affected firms. “We are there (on the board of Gencos and Discos) to protect Nigeria’s interest.
Whatever the companies are paying or have given to their board members as privileges should be referred to the respective companies. “Whether the privileges are right or not, I don’t know.
I take exception that we have shortchanged the government. We balanced the interest of government and investors because what we are looking for is investment. We need to create an enabling environment for the business to thrive,” Dikki said. Meanwhile, a former Minister of Power, Engr. Bello Suleiman, has urged the Federal Government to investigate the privatisation of the power sector carried out by the BPE.
“With all due respect, there is an urgent need for independent scrutiny of the privatisation exercise in the power sector. The perception is that it has not been transparent, a committee of experts should do it.
“The experts should examine whether the companies are capable to financially and technically take the country to the level of the 40,000 megawatts.
If we do nothing now to ensure that they are the right persons, at the end of the day we may fail,” Suleiman, who was also the former Managing Director of the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) and one of the resource persons on the day, said.
He also cautioned the country against privatising the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) because doing so would be technically wrong. “The whole idea of the privatisation is that investors would bring money to the sector but in the last 15 years government has been spending billions on the power sector,” he noted.
-Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja