Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West Senatorial District in the National Assembly (NASS) stirred the hornet’s nest recently as he took a swipe at the Nigeria’s power sector, describing it as reeking of corruption.
Acting on the mandate and directives of the upper legislative chamber, the Kogi-born Senator during plenary, presented a substantial motion on what he referred to as “series of financial abuses in the power sector”.
Apparently securing the nod of his colleagues on the presentation of the motion through a voice vote, Melaye went ahead to expose the alleged financial impropriety within the power sector.
Citing Order 42 of the Senate Standing Rule, Melaye, who is renowned for his knack for controversy drew the attention of his colleagues to the $1.35 billion allegedly squandered within the power sector.
He explained that about $1 billion Eurobond raised in 2003 to fund key power sector projects was allegedly spent by officials of the Ministry of Power without appropriation and feasibility study.
According to him. “In July 2003, the Federal Government raised $1 billion from Eurobond issue, from which $350 million was given to Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET), in 2014, this money was stolen in installments”.
He added: “Sometime last year, the ministry of power came up with an idea of a project they called Afam Fast Power to build new generating power plants to add power to our grid, so far $35 million has been spent by the ministry of power on the Afam Fast Power project without appropriation or detailed feasibility study”.
The motion also sought to know how $29 million was purportedly paid to General Electric for turbines, while other firms received $6 million for same project.
Senator Melaye in his vintage hyper critical posture, urged fellow senators to carry out thorough investigation on the matter in line with the anti-corruption fight of the Federal Government.
Senator Melaye’s revelation of the festering rot in the power sector has put the ill-fated sector in the eye of the storm, with its activities now placed under strict public scrutiny.
Lending their analytical views on evolving activities in critical sectors of the Nigerian economy, such as the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) contract scan, pundits are of the view that the content of Senator Melaye’s motion should not be swept under the carpet.
A Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Barr Barivule Kpobe, who commented on the alleged power sector fraud as revealed by Melaye, said Nigeria power policies over the years have been a mirage.
According to him, “the more you look, the less you see paxiom best portrays the trend of activities in the power sector”.
“The Nigeria power sector has gulped billions of tax payers’ money but various attempts to fix the sector have slipped into institutional fraud and apparent misappropriation of funds”.
A public affairs analyst and Environmental sociologist, Dr Steve Wodu also expressed disappointment over the management of the Nigeria power sector and its attendant embarrassment on the psyche of Nigerians.
Speaking with The Tide in an interview the senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Port Harcourt, said the rot in the power sector was a reflection of the “tactical institutional failure in the country”.
Wodu noted that Melaye’s revelation was not the first time that such fraud was unearthed in the power sector, noting that the Nigeria power sector has been prone to mismanagement of funds over the years.
According to the university don, the lack of sustainable power supply in the country was the fallout of such institutional mess.
Wodu also picked holes in the anti-corruption campaign of the Federal Government.
He observed that the anti-corruption drag-net is yet to catch up with some people with obvious corruption stains who still move around with impunity.
“The Federal Government should be proactive in its anti-corruption campaign and ensure that the law takes its full toll on any one found to be corrupt, this will make the people to build confidence in the anti-corruption campaign,” he said.
In his view, an expert in renewable energy as alternative source of power supply, Elder Elkanah Hanson faulted Nigeria power policies, describing it as one of the most enduring “colonial legacies” in the country.
Speaking at a public function in Port Harcourt, recently, Hanson said the fraud in the power sector was as a result of unrealistic power policies which Nigeria inherited from the colonial masters without due consideration for the peculiar power demand of the country.
Elder Hanson called for total scrapping of Nigeria’s electricity laws and a paradigm shift to renewable energy as the source of power in the country.
According to him “a renewable energy is more convenient and cheaper to generate. Nigeria has the capacity to generate enough power supply for the entire country through renewable energy, we have to follow the global trend as we cannot orbit independently of the world”.
The expert also called for a total overhaul of the power sector with experts and technocrats taking the centre stage, and decried the present practice in the sector where participation in the sector is driven by political considerations and not expertise and service delivery.
On Melaye’s revelation, he called for the prosecution of all those linked with the scandal no matter how highly placed. In his postulation, a mechanical engineer, Festus Tor, said Nigeria’s economic woe was as a result of the failure of the power sector.
While commending the Federal Government over its efforts in reforming the power sector, he called on the Senate to carry out a thorough investigation on the alleged mismanagement of fund meant for the actualisation of the Nigeria Integrated Power Project (NIPP).
Tor also urged the government to encourage local technocrats and entrepreneurs through the provision of incentives to foster a more home driven and efficient power policy.
“Nigeria is a very big economy, and the only way we can compete with the rest of the world is through sustainable power supply. Nigeria technocrats should be encouraged to play key roles in policy formulation and implementation in the power sector”.
Tor also called for the review of the Nigeria power sector with proper involvement of states in the generation, transmission, and distribution of power.
An analyst, Mr Fidelis Nwiyor, who also spoke on the issue, commended Senator Melaye and the Senate in general over their move to investigate the management of the $1 billion Eurobond by the ministry of power.
He said the recent probe of the power sector by the Senate will test the strength and commitment of the National Assembly towards checkmating the appropriation and disbursement of public fund.
However, some analysts are also skeptical over the fact that Melaye’s motion might as well be another antic of the Senate to continue their intermittent feud with the executive.
DPR Shuts 11 Gas Plants, Petrol Stations In Abuja
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has sealed 11 illegal gas plants as well as seven filling stations over various sharp practices in Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of government.
The raided plants selling mainly Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) also known as cooking gas and the filling stations visited were located in Karimo, Gwagwa, Games Village, Kuje and Gwagwalada in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The petroleum industry regulator stated that the LPG plant owners were operating illegally while the affected petrol stations were carrying out their businesses without valid licences.
Some of the illegal gas plants affected were: Macco Synergy, Mr T&M cooking gas, Trinity cooking gas, Meter Smile Gas ltd, Sunny Sun cooking gas, among others.
In her remarks, during the operation, the DPR Abuja Zonal Operations Controller, Mrs Roselyn Wilkie, said that previous efforts to get the illegal operators to regularise their businesses failed to yield the needed results.
She said: “During today’s exercise, 11 illegal LPG plants were raided in collaboration with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). Some personnel of these illegal facilities were arrested and they have been handed over to security operatives for prosecution.
She said, “All our efforts to get the attention of the illegal facility operators with the view to regularising their businesses failed to yield the desired result.”
DPR cannot sit back and watch the danger the existence of these illegal facilities portends to the lives and properties of citizens.
“This necessitated our going out as the situation arose to enforce provisions of the relevant laws and regulations for construction and operation of petroleum products facilities in the downstream sector.”
She added that the DPR as an opportunity house and business enabler had been engaging illegal petroleum product facility owners to get the best advice on how to regularise their businesses and operate legally in a safe environment.
Wilkie further called on all illegal facilities’ operators to come forward and regularise their operation by obtaining the necessary licence to operate from the organisation.
According to her, this would ensure the protection of investors’ assets and the safety of lives and properties within the sector.
During the raid, seven filling stations were visited while 18 petrol pumps were sealed for sharp practices, including for suspected cases of diversion of six trucks containing products.
IPMAN Suspends Strike, Directs Members To Resume Operation
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has directed its members in Enugu State depot to resume supplies of petroleum products.
The National President of IPMAN, Alhaji Sanusi Fari disclosed this in a statement made available to journalists last Saturday.
According to the statement, the national leadership of IPMAN had last Thursday directed the withdrawal of their services at the Enugu loading depot of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with effect from Friday.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) of IPMAN attributed the directive to an alleged attack on their secretariat in NNPC, Enugu depot on Thursday by men of the Nigeria Police Force.
The foregoing halted the supply of petroleum products to Enugu, Ebonyi and Anambra, a situation which caused a significant hike in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) in the affected states.
Meanwhile, Fari said that the NEC of IPMAN had reviewed the situation and directed their members to resume their services and operations.
“As a result of the intervention of higher authorities in the unwarranted and unprovoked invasion of our secretariat at Enugu depot, the NEC of IPMAN has called off our strike actions.
“Normal services and operations will immediately resume in the affected states of Enugu, Ebonyi and Anambra to allow for fruitful discussions,” he said
Why PIA Should Be Reviewed Every Five Years – ICSAN
The Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN) has recommended that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) should be subject to review at least every five years.
Its Registrar, Taiwo Olusesi, made the recommendation in the Institute’s position paper on the PIA on Saturday in Lagos.
The Institute said that such periodic review would help to consolidate on the gains of the epoch-making legislation. “This is to accommodate the genuine yearnings of the stakeholders as well as other requisite exigencies that might come to light during usage of the law,” she said.
The Tide source reports that the PIA provides for the establishment of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) within six months after the enactment of the Act. She enjoined government to build a proper governance structure around the NNPCL.
Olusesi urged that the appointment of the directors to its board must be based purely on merit with emphasis on issues of relevance, board requirements, and diversity in the board composition.
She added that there must be strict adherence to the notions of disclosure and transparency while ethical observances must be ingrained in the template of the company’s operations. “There must be an adequate framework of risk management and control system which should incorporate well-articulated whistleblowing policy.
“Furthermore, proper checks and balances must be built into the system to ensure that no individual, unit, or department can undermine or dis-apply the control system at his or her whims and caprices.
“We request that NNPCL should always have board to oversee and guide the management to achieve the expected objectives.
“There should be an annual board appraisal with the corporate governance evaluation of NNPCL, which should be published,” she said.
She said that without putting in place all these governance mechanisms, the envisaged metamorphosis of the moribund NNPC into a more efficient and dynamic NNPCL would not be realised.
According to her, the exercise will simply be a mere change of name without a change of anything else, with all its concomitant business-as-usual tendencies.
The corporate governance professional added that as a public interest entity, the NNPCL must have a qualified and experienced company secretary to oversee its secretariat.
She said this would enable the secretariat also play its role as the compliance officer responsible for the entrenchment of good corporate governance in the company.
“The qualification and experience must not be less than that of a company secretary of a public interest entity and the recruitment process must be competitive.
“The status of this management staff, duties, functional and administrative roles, responsibilities, reporting lines and mode of determination must be clearly stated in writing by the Board,” she said.
Olusesi also called for the proper and adequate monitoring of activities in the downstream sector to discourage all manner of sharp practices including hoarding of products to create artificial scarcity for price increment.
“The Federal Government should be proactive in devising ways and measures to counter the unscrupulous elements who may attempt to sabotage the interplay of demand and supply in a deregulated market,” she said.
She urged government, through the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, parastatals and regulators to embark on massive stakeholders’ enlightenment campaign to dispel the confusion by illuminating the provisions of the Act and revealing their implications.
“Much of the controversies trailing the PIA 2021 emanate from many of its grey areas and provisions which are capable of many interpretations.
“This lack of preciseness and clarity of many provisions in the Act is breeding mistrust and apprehensions among many stakeholders.
“For example, the provisions on the Thirty per cent Frontiers Exploration Fund require elucidation.
“The Institute, in consonance with its tradition of guiding on issues of Corporate Governance and Public Administration, hereby undertakes to convene a stakeholders’ webinar for the sake of mass enlightenment on this new PIA 2021,” she said.
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