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Discos Accuse FG Of Reneging On N100bn Electricity Subsidy 

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Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos) have reacted officially to the takeover/restructuring of five Discos by the Federal Government through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE),  describing the move as a backdoor renationalisation of the power firms.
They claimed that investors in the 11 Discos were shortchanged by BPE when the facilities were privatised in November 2013, while the government had failed to pay the N100bn subsidy on electricity since the privatisation of the sector.
Speaking under the aegis of the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), an umbrella body for the power firms, the Discos expressed concern about the restructuring of the five companies as announced by BPE on July 5, 2022, in collaboration with the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
The Federal Government, through BPE, had announced the planned takeover of Kano, Benin and Kaduna electricity distribution companies by Fidelity Bank Plc after the bank initiated action to take over the boards of the three Discos.
It also announced that with the takeover of Ibadan Disco by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, the Bureau had obtained approval from NERC to appoint an interim Managing Director for the distressed power firm.
The government had further stated in its restructuring notice that it was restructuring the management and board of Port Harcourt Disco to forestall the imminent insolvency of the utility.
The notice was signed by the Director-General, BPE, Alex Okoh, and Executive Chairman, NERC, SanusiGarba.
Although some of the affected power firms had commenced legal actions against the move, the Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, ANED, Sunday Oduntan, said the association viewed the restructuring to be inconsistent with all the guidelines necessary to comply with the framework of privatisation agreements and the rule of law.
“We believe that it is reasonable to conclude that the outcome has been an expropriation or backdoor renationalisation of the Discos by the Federal Government,” ANED stated in a statement issued in Abuja.
It added, “Such renationalisation or expropriation must be viewed through a historical context as necessary for a proper understanding of the performance challenges that the Discos have been faced with since privatisation.
“Fundamentally, the basis of privatisation was flawed from the beginning due to conditions that were not met by the Federal Government, while expecting the Discos to meet their performance obligations.

“Not only were the investors shortchanged because of insufficient and unreliable data that was provided by BPE to them during the privatisation process, but the government also committed to and failed to deliver on debt-free financial books, payment of ministries, department and agencies electricity debts, and N100bn subsidy”.

It outlined other areas of failure by the government to include its inability to implement a cost reflective electricity tariff, stressing that this singular unfulfilled condition had led to accrued significant debt and liabilities on the Discos’ financial books, as Discos continued to sell electricity below the cost price.

It said the privatisation of TCN was a major requirement for attracting the private investment, critical in addressing the transmission bottleneck currently belittling the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry value chain.

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Truckers Threaten Service Withdrawal Over Customs’ Haulage Truck Seizures 

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Truckers under the aegis of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) have threatened to withdraw their services over incessant seizures of vehicles by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
The truckers lamented that the seizure and possible auctioning of their trucks by the NCS has led to untold hardships for haulage operators in the maritime industry, describing the seizures as unjust.
A statement signed by  the President  and secretary of the body, Chief Yemi Ogungbemi and Alhaji Sanni Muhammed, respectively queried management of the Customs over failure to arrest  ships that import illicit goods to Nigeria for complicity.
”Does Customs seal the terminals that receive contraband and dangerous consignments in their yards for complicity in storing illicit consignments?”,
The truck owners said the Nigerian Customs at different fora made haulage operators to understand that the law stipulates they arrest the means of conveyance.
“If that is the reason, why not arrest ships that import containers with contraband goods to Nigeria. Are vessels no longer means of conveyance?”
AMATO described such laws  obsolete, saying that it has become injurious to truckers’ means of livelihood.
The AMATO executives further stated that truckers can no longer withstand what they call the unfortunate circumstances of being used as scapegoat for offenses perpetuated by unscrupulous importers.
“The seizure and possible auction of our trucks by the Nigerian Customs Service is causing us untold hardships as truckers, and for a very long time, we have been passing through this injustice in the hands of Nigerian Customs Service.
“Truckers are mere commercial transporters of goods. We are only invited by agents to come and carry goods to and from the ports after Customs might have examined and approved the release of goods in containers to Importers and agents.
“But unfortunately, after loading the containers that are duly examined and released by Customs on our trucks, they would waylay the trucks on the road, seize and detain our trucks in their yards together with containers with question marks”, they said.
Further questioning the rationale for the seizures, AMATO queried why they are the victims when they are not involved in physical examination of goods in the ports together with Customs, Police, Directorate of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Drug Law Enforecement Agency (NDLEA), etc. to see what they carry.

“Does it sound just for Customs officers and other government agencies that jointly examined and approved the exit of contraband and other dangerous goods in the ports to be holding the trucker responsible for their fault and negligence?

“Is it the commercial trucker that is short-paying government’s import duty on goods or the Importers and their Agents?

“If the answer to the above questions are ‘No’, we are calling on Nigerian Customs Service to release all our trucks detained in their yards or we withdraw our services nationwide in protest against the unjust seizure of our trucks.

“Our members are facing agonizing economic hardships. Their means of livelihood are being seized by the Nigerian Customs for the offense committed by Importers and their dubious collaborating Agents.

“Nigerian Customs should please release our trucks and stop using the truckers as scapegoat.

“Recently, some containers were found to contain tramadol, arms and ammunition. If the trucker knows that he is to carry container loaded with explosives that can destroy him and the truck, or the contraband drug that would equally put him in trouble, he will not carry it.

“Thus, where is the justification for seizing our truck?

“We appreciate the previous Management of Customs authority, in that they reasoned with complaints and issued out circular that enables us to retrieve our seized trucks through application.

“But the present Management of Customs wrote against the Circular. All our efforts and entreaties to the present management of the Customs to revalidate the circular to enable us secure the release of our trucks have proved abortive.

“Hence our plan to settle out grievance with the customs authority through the eloquence of withdrawal of services if our trucks are not released by the Customs”, AMATO concluded.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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Electronic Auction Platform, Most Authentic For Goods -NCS

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The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has restated that electronic auction (e-auction) platform of the Service at https://app.trade.gov.ng/eauction/ is functional and remains the only authentic means of auctioning goods to members of the public.
The Service in a statement issued in Abuja by its Public Relations Officer, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi, noted that this clarification became necessary following rumours that a special auction of over 7000 cars would soon be held by the Service.
It reiterated that auctions are periodic and advertised in advance on the Service’s website to avail members of the public the opportunity of selecting and bidding for items of their choice.
NCS recalled that the Service deployed the e-auction platform in July 2017 specifically to improve efficiency in revenue generation to the Federal Government and also provide equal opportunities to all Nigerians in the seamless disposal of seized/condemned and overtime/abandoned cargoes.
“Since its implementation, the e-auction has lived up to expectations by guaranteeing transparency and integrity in the auctioning process.
“Requirements to take part in the e-auction bidding process by interested public/bidders include:
“Applicant must have a valid tax identification number (TIN) issued by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) with an active e-mail account for the issued TIN.
“Conditions and Terms of this auction are to be carefully considered by an interested person before acceptance.
“Applicant must ensure he/she has an authentic and nationally accepted means of identification, i.e. international passport, driver’s license, national identity card or voters card.
“Other guidelines can be found on the e-auction portal at https://app.trade.gov.ng/eauction/.”
The statement, however, advised owners of uncleared vehicles at the ports to avail themselves of the VIN-Valuation protocols which it said had simplified, automated and made user-friendly the clearance procedure.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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Subsidy: Reps Summon Finance Minister, Query NNPC

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The House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee that is Investigating the Petroleum Products Subsidy regime from 2013 to 2022 has summoned the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to appear before it on Tuesday next week for questioning.
Ahmed is to appear before the committee with all the documents demanded by the lawmakers relating to subsidy claims and payments in the period under review.
Chairman of the committee, Ibrahim Aliyu, issued the summons at the continued investigative hearing of the panel in Abuja on Tuesday.
Members of the committee had faulted the appearance of the ministry’s Director of Home Finance, Stephen Okon, without a letter from Ahmed authorising him to represent her.
The Chairman decried the non-appearance of several invited agencies, such as the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, and Shell Petroleum Development Company.
After Okon was eventually allowed to speak, the Director said he only appeared before the lawmakers to seek more time for the Ministry to collate and present the required documents.
The committee consequently gave the Minister one week to do so.
“This committee requested from you to know the total amount released from the Consolidated Revenue Account as subsidy payments from January 2013 to date; the total amount released from other accounts other than the Consolidated Revenue Account to subsidy payments from January 2013 to date; breakdown of beneficiaries; companies that enjoyed releases from the Consolidated Revenue Account and other revenue accounts as subsidy payments.
“Identify each beneficiary with the amount sent to them, month by month, covering the period from January 2013 to date; all correspondences between the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria regarding subsidy payments from January 2013 to date; evidence of lodgement of forex into Consolidated Revenue Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation now (Nigerian National Petroleum Company) Limited as revenue from January 2013 to date”, the Chairman stated.

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