Sharp disagreement ensued yesterday between the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Power and Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, Mr. Benjamin Dikki over privatisation of the nation’s power sector.
The committee, which is currently investigating the privatisation of the sector, accused some staff of the BPE, the government agency which supervised the process, of compromising their office during the process.
According to the committee, some members of staff of the BPE who were board members in some of the registered power generation and distribution companies, received exotic jeeps as privileges.
It lamented that the development might not be unconnected with the inability of the government agency to carry out its responsibility of carrying out diligent process devoid of flaws.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Abubakar Kyari (APC Borno North), 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.
Kyari said, “I have the protection of the Senate to say what we have gathered that they 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 said the implications 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 remains 40 percent equity in the firms.
The senate spokesperson, who is also a member of the senate 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.
He said 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 alleged.
But the Director – General of BPE, Mr. Benjamin Dikki, said his agency had not and will 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.
He said, “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 short changed 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”.
Meanwhile, the former minister of Power, Alhaji Bello Suleiman, has urged the Federal Government of investigating the privatisation of the power sector carried out by the BPE.
Suleiman, who was also the former Managing Director of the defunct National Electric Power Authority, was one of the resource persons at the two-day public hearing.
He said, “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”, he added.
He also cautioned the country against privatising the Transmission Company of Nigeria 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”, the former minister stressed.
Suleiman also advocated the use of the concentrated solar technology, which he described as a viable means of increasing power generation.
“We should look at our power needs rather than adopting a fire brigade approach. We have tried gas and it has failed us. The world is going to a new technology called Solar Technology”, he added.