Nigerian Senate orders fresh probe into electricity projects

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The Nigerian Senate has ordered fresh investigation into the sale of 10 National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) by the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE).

In a three prayer motion moved by Senator Mohammed Hassan, representing Yobe South senatorial district, the senate directed its committees on Power and Privatisation to critically examine the circumstances surrounding the transactions.

Senate President Bukola Saraki, while ruling on the resolution, expressed displeasure at how a government agency would decide to wave $3billion, and sell the projects for $5 billion after an investment worth more than $8 billion.

It could be recalled that the Nigerian Government had invested more than $8.2 billion in the 10 power projects which were later sold for $5.8 billion about two years ago. The President therefore stressed that the lawmakers must set example with any agency of government that encourages revenue leakages especially at this time of dwindling revenue.

“The privatization of some of the companies must be properly investigated, you wonder how does an agency, sitting somewhere, canon its own, write off over $3 billion without any referral to anybody. It is mind boggling; even if you are going to take a decision like that there must be some level of consultation and collective responsibility.

We cannot be carrying out some of these investigations and not bring them to conclusion, we must bring them to conclusion and see that actions are taken. On this matter we must make an example, all these are our responsibilities and we must see some of these through, when we resume plenary, the report of the ad-hoc committee on power must be given priority,” he said.

Revenue Leakages

The Senate President who directed the investigative committees to report back in four weeks, expressed worry that the alleged non-payment of tax by some of the companies in the power sector amounted to revenue leakages.

“We have been talking about non-oil revenue and we talk about how there is need to ensure that taxes are paid at the same time we are condoning agency of government that is not paying tax. Then we wonder why our tax to GDP ratio is very low, these are issues that we must make an example of. I hope that the committees will do their work properly to make sure that anybody who is breaking the law must be dealt with. Anytime the law is broken, it is a slight on this institution because we make those laws, if we are in a society where there is such level of impunity we need to put things right and stop it.”

Senator Hassan, who sponsored the motion, decried the activities of Hydro International Nigeria Ltd. ((Manitoba), a Canadian company managing the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

He said that the company was incorporated under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but frowned at the company’s insistence on being paid in dollars instead of Naira.

“It is a criminal offence stipulated in Section 20(5) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Act, 2007 for any person or body corporate to refuse the acceptance of Naira as legal currency tender. We are worried that the TCN is imposed with this burden, under the management Services Contract of paying all taxes for the Management contractors while Manitoba does not pay taxes on monies paid under the contract. Section 9(2) of the Companies Income Tax Act (CITA) Cap 21, 2004 provides that tax must be assessed and payable upon the profit of any company accruing in Nigeria.

The Management Service Contract prepared by BPE for the management of TCN is fraught with apparent illegalities and total violation of the laws of Nigeria,” declared Senator Hassan.

As a result, the Senate thereafter directed the investigation into preparation, execution and implementation of the management contract for TCN.

It also ordered investigation into the roles of all persons involved in these matters and also to ascertain the relevance of BPE on the board of Distribution Companies of Nigeria (Discos).

The Senate also observed a minute silence in honour of late Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Samuel Odulana and urged the Federal Government to name a national or state monument after him. It set up a delegation led by the Deputy Leader Senator Bala Ibn N’Allah to condole with the family and people of Oyo state in south west Nigeria.

The Senate thereafter suspended its plenary for two weeks, and dissolved into sub committees to begin consideration of the 2016 Budgets of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government. The Senators are scheduled to resume in plenary on February 16.