Govt raises team on IPP cost

No Comments » May 14th, 2008 posted by // Categories: Energy Development Project



 

GUARDIAN

 

Wednesday, May 14, 2008              

Govt raises team on IPP cost

  • ACF wants indicted persons punished
    From Mathias Okwe (Maputo), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna) and Ozioruva Aliu (Benin)

    PRESIDENT Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has finally begun action on the deplorable power situation in the country and Nigerians are soon to see the benefits, Finance Minister, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, told a world press conference in Maputo, Mozambique, yesterday.

    Usman, who is leading the Nigerian delegation to the 43rd annual meetings of the African Development Bank (ADB), also revealed that already, a team has been set up and has begun work on the costing of the Independent Power Projects (IPPs) scattered all over the country.

    He was reacting to a question on when Nigerians would begin to enjoy the fruits of the efforts of the present administration on infrastructure upgrade with particular reference to power.

    Conflicting figures, ranging between $10 billion and $16 billion, are believed to have been invested by the immediate past administration on the IPPs that are yet to go into operation.

    Yar’Adua had told Nigerians while seeking their votes in 2007 that if elected into power, he would declare a state of emergency on the power sector immediately. Many Nigerians have been anxious since his assumption of office nearly one year ago on when action in the sector would begin.

    But Usman yesterday explained that President Yar’Adua was very cautious on continuous investment on the projects until a proper costing of the actual requirement was undertaken by a completely neutral team because he has lost confidence in the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Power and Steel and the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

    Usman also indicated that most of the IPPs were done without due regard to basic principles of procurement. Usman told a stunned press conference that contracts for some of the projects were signed without designs for them. He wondered how they arrived at the cost in the first instance.

    His words: “The panel on the on-going power probe is going round the country. I don’t know if anybody took them to the Mambilla Power Project. I am sure they didn’t go to Mambilla, because if they go, nobody can show them where the dam is supposed to be sited. Even the physical location of the dam has not been agreed on, which means there was no design, nothing. Yet, before the last President left, a contract was signed.”

    “Right now, what we are doing is that there is a team of experts that is going round all the power plants in the country and doing a proper costing and evaluation. Because what President Yar’Adua is saying is that I don’t believe this guys anymore. It is the same guys that have been manning that sector in the past.”

    Usman cited a National Economic Council (NEC) meeting which deliberated on the power situation where there were “three former ministers of power who are now governors in the states, and when they listened to these PHCN men do their presentations on the problems in the sector, one of them raised his hands and said: “This is the same presentation you made to me five years ago. So the President said ‘I don’t believe these guys anymore because they are so used to it. They would tell you give us money, we will fix it. And they have been given money several times and they have not done anything with it.”

    “So, we are using a completely different approach this time around to try and get complete details and not to be pouring money into ventures that have refused to work, such that Nigerians can see the output,” he concluded.

    However, Northern elders under the aegis of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) have asked the National Assembly to ensure that all those indicted in the on-going probes are brought to book. According to them, the probes are a litmus test of the integrity of the legislators in the National Assembly.

    The ACF leadership however said the probes into the activities of ministries and parastatals of government and individuals in government businesses during the immediate past regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo should not been seen as a witch-hunt, but a patriotic national duty.

    Speaking with journalists in Kaduna yesterday, the Chairman of the ACF, retired General Ibrahim Bata Margwai Haruna, said that the reports of the probes by the various committees of the National Assembly should be fully implemented.

    According to him, all the appropriate bodies must be given the necessary legal and political backing by the Federal Government to enable them execute the recommendations of the various committees and impose sanctions wherever required.

    The ACF boss pointed out that since all Nigerian citizens were deemed equal before the law, those indicted in the reports of the probe panels, no matter how highly-placed, must not be treated as sacred cows.

    He advised all those summoned by the National Assembly committees probing the spending in the various aspects of government businesses under the former president to appear before the lawmakers to defend themselves.

    The ACF chairman reminded them that having been invested with the powers of sovereignty by the people, the National Assembly committees could compel such people to appear before the lawmakers.

    Haruna warned that such past public office holders should not compare their current situation with the decision by some military heads of state, including Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, to drag the defunct Oputa panel to court following a summon it issued to them.

    Said he: “Probes are not enough unless the consequential results are followed to an effect that will change our ethics and morality in this public businesses. There is the rule of law. So, they should put that into effect.

    There is a rule of budget, there is a rule for using public finance. So, there is a law about public privatisation. There is a body created for it. And if the law and procedures are not followed, there is an infringement. And there should be an enforcement of the law. So, what we expect as citizens is to be equal before the law and be treated accordingly because otherwise, we are enthroning anarchy and disloyalty to the Nigerian constitution.”

    Meanwhile, workers in the power sector have described the on-going probe into the power sector as “media posturing” and called for greater commitment on the part of the authorities to reforming the sector.

    The general secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Mr. Joe Ajaero, yesterday in Benin said that in as much as the House probe of the power sector was commendable, the federal legislators must go beyond media posturing to restore sanity to the power sector.

    Ajaero spoke when members of the National Executive Council of NUEE were hosted by the Benin zone of the union.

    He said: “Is it probe that we just want? Or are we thinking of the way forward? Are they thinking of getting the culprits to pay back what they have taken? Are they going to compel the contractors to complete the contracts awarded to them? These are the issues.

    “Or are we thinking of having judicial commission of inquiry to get all the people involved to cough up all that they have stolen?

    “It appears we are only trying to reduce it to a TV show, as the Ndudi Elumelu committee is trying to reduce it to. I think that is going to be an irony because that is not the first time that we are going into a probe.”

    The NUEE general secretary said that the power problem could not be solved in isolation of other national problems.

    “We have suffered from the problem of governance from Independence. The rail system is not working. The education system in the country is not working. If we must fix the power sector, there must be commitment on the part of the leadership; commitment in the sense that we should not pay lip service,” he said.

    He said former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent eight years fighting with electricity workers who were insisting that the power plants should not be sold to enemies of the state.

    He advised that any effort aimed at solving the problem of the power sector should be linked with power generation, which he said, must progressively grow from its present low level of 3,000 megawatts.

    Ajaero called for more funding for the power sector. He advised that the sources of power generation should be diversified to include the use of coal, and water sources in addition to the current gas-based power plants.

    “I want to tell you that Mambilla and Zungeru hydro-stations would have given you more megawatts than the five stations built by Obasanjo in the last eight years,” he said.

    The Benin Zonal Chairman of the NUEE, Mr. G.O. Idahosa, appealled to the management of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to implement the numerous salary increases negotiated with the union.

    He also said the management must also regularise the appointments of all personnel that have been retained on casual basis, and convert to their rightful grade levels of staff who have acquired the relevant educational qualifications.

    Also speaking in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria urged the National Assembly to avoid sensational media reports.

    Speaking with reporters in Ibadan at the formal inauguration and investiture of its executives, the association’s president, Mr. Olubunmi Ajayi, noted that the incessant media reports on the on-going power probe would not enable the committee to achieve the desired goals.

    Citing the recent altercation between the lawmakers and former President Olusegun Obasanjo where the committee members and the erstwhile leader disagreed over the actual amount spent by the past administration, the association said what the lawmakers should have done is to take time to find out details from the man in a manner devoid of provocation and abuse.

    “Obasanjo has said the $6.5 billion was committed to the entire project in form of opening letters of credit for transmission lines that would facilitate energy generation. I am not sure Obasanjo had told anybody that he had spent this money.

    It was discovered that he approved it, so the House should not blow the issue beyond proportion so that the fund could still be traced. People could use information the way they like but we should be cautious in the way we are managing the situation now so that we could achieve results. The media hype being employed by the committee must stop.”

    “One of the firms accused of receiving mobilisation fee but failed to do anything at the site had attributed its inability to start work to the hostile nature of the beneficiary community. We need to find out the true position of things from the community and monitor the firms and their owners instead of the current sensationalism that could make them go under for life,” Ajayi added.

    The APBN boss disclosed that the body is currently working with one of the nation’s anti-graft agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to discover fraudulent practices in the award of contracts by the three tiers of government.

     

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