President Goodluck Jonathan
By Chineme Okafor
The $23.7 million three-year management contract, which the Federal Government signed with Canadian firm, Manitoba Hydro International (MHI), to reposition the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), is still shrouded in controversies, investigations by THISDAY have revealed.
Investigations on the status of the management contract revealed that it is still being vehemently opposed by interests in the power sector.
A top presidential source informed THISDAY at the weekend in Abuja that irrespective of President Goodluck Jonathan’s last minute intervention late last year to rectify and finally approve the contract in the wake of its feared cancellation, Manitoba is yet to actually assume control at TCN.
The source, who described the status of the management contract as being “half and half”, explained that Manitoba was yet to actually get its “schedule of delegated authority” from the Ministry of Power and as such, has been unable to begin actual work at TCN.
According to the source, Manitoba’s work at TCN has been largely frustrated by strategic political interests camouflaged as national interests as well as desperate attempts to delete key management positions from the contract which was signed between the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on behalf of the Federal Government and Manitoba in July with a commencement date of September 1, 2012.
“The Manitoba/TCN management contract is still hanging in the balance as I talk to you today, except if the government wakes up tomorrow morning to act otherwise.
“What we have is a half and half contract where Manitoba is really being opposed and prevented from assuming full control at TCN because the Ministry of Power and other vested interests are bent on changing provisions in the contract, especially the market operations, which is part and parcel of TCN.
“People who are already at TCN do not want to leave and that is understandable because there is a lack of clarity in the whole process.
“The government pays Manitoba in line with provisions in the contract but has also failed to give them the schedule of delegated authority which will empower Manitoba to commence work,” the source said.
The presidency source further revealed: “Up till now, I understand that Manitoba still writes to NERC, the regulatory authority, updating them on the status of the contract.
“The ministry also, still conducts recruitment for TCN at this stage which is not in accordance with expectations for the sector and the role TCN should play.
“This lack of clarity affects the market especially as we are about to get payments from the preferred bidders of PHCN successor companies.
“The whole issue is weaved around strategic political interests that are camouflaged as national interests, the ministry and others have their eyes on certain positions and seem desperate to condemn aspects of the contract but in all sincerity, there is nothing bad with provisions of the contract.”
When contacted to comment on the situation, Chief Executive Officer of MHI, Mr. Don Priestman, confirmed that Manitoba has not taken control at TCN but hopes to do so as soon as the recently constituted board of the company is confirmed by the government.
Priestman said: “We are not in charge at TCN but we would have loved to be in charge. However, we are working with our Nigerian counterparts at the TCN, collecting data, attending meetings and doing studies but we are not in charge.”
He disclosed that Manitoba was not happy with the implementation of the contract, saying: “Of course, nobody would have expected that but that is what we have seen and we have to be very patient with the government and hopefully we will see some changes soon because there are very important developments that had just happened recently in the sector.
“The government has announced the constitution of the board for TCN as well as a new Minister of Power and we look forward to their confirmation.”
THISDAY also sought to know if Manitoba was experiencing any form of overt opposition from people at TCN and Priestman said: “Well, there are people who do not want changes and others who do.
“But I think we are hopeful that these two significant developments will speed up the process and we can get our schedule of delegated authority.”
Efforts to get the reaction of the Ministry of Power on the continued opposition to the management contract were not successful as none of its public information officers agreed to comment, following the redeployment of its former Deputy Director, Media, Mr. Greyne Anosike.
The Manitoba/TCN contract had been subjected to controversies with various interests scheming to undo certain provisions in the contract meant to reposition TCN for its expected roles in the emerging electricity market.
The Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) had last year accused the BPE of mis-procuring the contract, which it said required a certificate of no objection from it. That action led the government to intervene in the contract.
Also, Vice-President Namadi Sambo had recently set up a committee comprising the Minister of State for Power, Hajia Zainab Kuchi; Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Sam Amadi; Director of the Budget Office, Bright Okogu; TCN; Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP), Beks Dagogo-Jack; and the Market Operations of TCN, to amongst other things, come up with a suitable structure for the Market Operator.