By Chineme Okafor
There are indications that high-handed concessions at the presidency are among some of the current challenges holding back timely delivery of power projects conceived under the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs).
This came as more details were revealed Tuesday, on why President Goodluck Jonathan redeployed the former Minister of State for Power, Mr. Darius Ishaku, from the ministry to that of Niger Delta Affairs.
THISDAY reliably gathered Tuesday from authoritative sources at the presidency, Ministry of Power and Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) in Abuja that of the many hitches to the timely completion of most of NIPPs, instances of political trade-offs with incompetent contractors at the presidency, contract and procurement manipulations at the Ministry of Power as well as bureaucratic bottlenecks at the seaports have mostly impacted on the progress of the projects.
According to the source at NDPHC, the decision of the presidency to often wave certain concessions on reliability of contractors handling the various power projects, theft of NIPPs materials and criminal acts perpetrated by officers of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) at ports where NIPPs equipment await legal clearances have all added to delay the scheduled delivery of the projects.
The source explained that contractors that have repeatedly failed to meet up with projects timelines and were recommended by the management of NDPHC for contract revocation based on their incompetence were often granted lifelines by the presidency while officials of the NCS continuously seek for gratification from project contractors before clearance for equipment at the ports could be secured.
“For instance, the Lot Four (4) Afam-Ikot Ekpene 330kV power station and its associated projects which has been unduly delayed by the contractor handling it, Paymabargh and Cartlark Nigeria Limited and was recommended for revocation by NDPHC has been re-awarded to the same contractor who has failed to deliver since 2006 when the contract was awarded.
“The Presidency in its wisdom decided to give back the contract to the contractor; that Lot is very critical to the whole NIPPs programme because it comprises a 330kv switching station at Ikot-Ekpene with four bays incoming 330kv double circuit transmission lines from Alaoji, Afam, Ikot-Abasi and Odukpani and two outgoing 330kv double circuit transmission lines to Ugwuaji,” the source said.
The source added that the contract was awarded to Paymabargh/Cartlark in 2006 with scopes covering engineering, procurement and construction (EPC); and that the project has been on for six years now without completion of the EPC.
However, the Managing Director of NDPHC, Mr. James Olotu, in a recent meeting with NIPPs contractors also confirmed that undue interferences by various Federal Government agencies and theft of project equipment have largely contributed projects delay.
Olotu said in his admonition to the contractors: “We understand your challenges, there are various government agencies that have been holding back the progress of work at the NIPPs sites starting from the customs and then to the ministry of power but we urge you to quickly tidy up your schedule of work at these sites so that Nigerians can take responsibility of these assets.
Nigerians will not understand these challenges when they do not see power supplies and so no matter how much we cry about theft and arm-twisting, they won’t understand until they can see the power, so I urge you to please hurry up on your tasks.”
Meanwhile, it was also gathered that the directive issued by Ishaku in October that power equipment in the central store of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) which is located at Shogunle in Lagos be distributed also contributed to his redeployment.
Ishaku had directed that all 33/11kv transformers, transformers panels, oil and other power equipment at PHCN central store be allocated to communities that need them within two weeks.
He, however, failed to note that most of the equipment belonged to the NDPHC.
The presidency source stated that the thoughtless directive was quickly brought to the attention of President Jonathan by NDPHC which had also reported losses of its equipment as a result of Ishaku’s oversight.