Minister of Power, Professor Bart Nnaji
By Chineme Okafor
Participation by two companies linked to the Minister of Power, Professor Bart Nnaji, in the power privatisation process has compelled the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) to cancel the technical bid evaluation process conducted for Afam Generation Company Limited and Enugu Distribution Company Limited.
The NCP, after its meeting last Friday, had announced the results of the technical evaluation conducted for the 25 bids it received last month for the six generation companies (Gencos) created from the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
From that process, seven bidders were said to have successfully met the cut-off mark of 750 and above during the technical evaluation process and were prequalified to have their financial bids open on September 25.
They are: Phoenix Electricity, Transcorp Consortium and Ampiron Power Distribution Limited, which bid for Ughelli Power Company; CMEC Energy and GPN Nestoil Power Services Limited for Sapele Power Company; while Ampiron Power Distribution Limited, Mainstream Energy Solution Limited and North South Power Company Limited were prequalified for Geregu, Kainji and Shiroro Power Companies respectively.
However, THISDAY learnt that the NCP was silent on the bidders that were prequalified for the Afam Power Station owing to the potential conflict of interest that had arisen during the privatisation process.
An NCP source informed THISDAY that before the consideration of the report of the evaluation, Nnaji, who is a member of the NCP by virtue of his position as Minister of Power, had brought it to the attention of the council that O & M Solutions of Pakistan, a member of one of the consortia bidding for Afam, had worked as a contractor for Geometric Power.
The consortium, in which O & M Solutions has a stake, is Skipper Nigeria Limited, which had submitted technical and financial bids for Afam on July 17, the deadline set by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) for the submission of bids for the Gencos.
Other companies that bid for Afam, a power plant in Rivers State with an installed capacity of 776mw, are Primeniza Energy Limited and NPG Consortium.
The minister further notified the NCP that Geometric Power has a minority stake in Eastern Electric Nigeria Limited, which had submitted technical and financial bids for Enugu Distribution Company Limited on July 31.
He also informed the council that owing to his position, he had notified President Goodluck Jonathan of his company’s bid for Enugu Distribution Company, and brought it to their attention that although he has an interest in Geometric Power, he had resigned from its board and transferred his shares to a blind trust.
Nnaji had on several occasions maintained that since his appointment as the president’s Special Adviser on Power and later as Minister of Power, he had resigned his appointment in Geometric Power, transferred his shares to a blind trust and does not participate in the day-to-day operations of the company.
Geometric Power, a pioneering independent power producer, was set up by Nnaji and built the 22mw Emergency Power Plant in Abuja. It is in the process of rounding off the construction of an integrated power plant in Aba, Abia State.
Following this disclosure, Nnaji was said to have excused himself from the consideration of the report of the technical bids.
Having been informed of Nnaji’s direct and indirect interest in two companies being privatised, the NCP source said that the council decided to cancel the technical evaluation that had been conducted for Afam and disbanded the evaluation team.
It also decided to stop the evaluation of the Enugu Disco, which is still ongoing, and would likewise disband the evaluation team.
The decision to cancel the evaluation for both companies, the source explained, was premised on the fact that all major stakeholders in the power privatisation process had been asked to send nominees to participate in the evaluation process.
“The BPE had a nominee, the power minister sent a nominee, NERC (Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission) sent a nominee, NIAF (Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Fund) sent a nominee, and BPE advisers sent nominees.
“So the council had no way of guaranteeing that the minister’s nominee, during the evaluation of the technical bids, was not biased,” the NCP source said.
He added that it was on this basis that the NCP decided to cancel the technical bid evaluation process for Afam and Enugu (which is still ongoing), and that other evaluation teams, without the minister’s nominees, would be reconstituted to re-evaluate the bids submitted for the PHCN successor companies.
He said the evaluation process for Afam is not expected to exceed three days, adding that the report should reach the NCP either this week or early next week, while that of Enugu would be submitted alongside the report of other Discos.
The source said NCP had taken the decision because it was imperative for the process to be transparent and fair, as any hiccup could mar the entire programme.
However, it is uncertain if NCP’s decision to re-evaluate the bid submitted for the Enugu Disco would still comply with the rules of the privatisation programme.
Providing clarification on the rules of the privatisation process, which the NCP had approved during his tenure as Director General of the BPE, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, said although the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act, 1999, does not bar staff of the BPE and council members from participating in the process, the Code of Ethics does so.
According to him, “The Code of Ethics, which the NCP approved during my tenure as a subsidiary legislation, as permitted under the Act, prohibits staff of the BPE and every member of the council, whether statutory or co-opted, from participating in the purchase of shares through the privatisation programme.
“This was approved by NCP and I am certain the present DG can provide you with the Code of Ethics, if you want it.”