Group Kicks against Proposed Sale of NIPPs, Demands Sack, Prosecution of BPE DG

Peter Uzoho

The Future Group (TFG), a civil society organisation has called for a halt in the proposed sale of five of the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs), describing the proposed sale as a bad move that could further plunge the nation’s power sector into a deeper crisis with attendant injury to the economy and the citizens.

TFG also called on the federal government to relieve the Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE), Mr. Alex Okoh, of his job for allegedly conniving with other unscrupulous elements to defraud Nigerians of their commonwealth.

The group in a widely-circulated petition, titled, “Stop Okoh …Save Nigeria”, signed by its Chairman, Mr. Patrick Philip, equally called for immediate sack and prosecution of Okoh, on account of the pending case of contempt of court over the sales of Aluminum Smelting Company of Nigeria (ASCON) Ikot Abasi.

The petition was addressed to the National Assembly, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), the Presidency, the Judiciary, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) among others.

“We wish to call on the EFCC to revisit case no:

ID/1432/C/2015, filed at the Lagos High Court, Ikeja on the 25th of April, 2015 by the EFCC, between the Federal Republic of Nigeria versus Bolanle Babalakin, Alex Okoh, Stabilini Vision Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited; bothering on fraudulent retention of proceeds from a criminal conduct.

“We understand attempts allegedly have been made in the past to stifle the case. We urge you to please proceed with the prosecution of this case, in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. The interest of our country supersedes any other interests and therefore must be upheld at all times”, TFG said.

The group drew the attention of the federal government and the general public to the perceived dangers of the sales and allowing Okoh to continue to oversee BPE, which is in charge of the proposed sales, alleging that he has interest in the entire saga.

The TFG noted that the NIPP was established in 2004, stating that the programme was an intervention that aimed to improve government funding in the critically ailing electricity sector.

Eighteen years past the project’s launch, the petitioners contended that there were contending conversations surrounding the federal government’s proposed sale of five NIPPs.

“Insufficient electricity supply has always been an issue in Nigeria, inhibiting the development of the country’s industries and overall economic growth.

“In 2004, President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration launched the NIPP to address the challenge of power generation specifically. The project’s objectives also included curtailing the immoderate gas flaring from oil exploration,” the group stated.

While noting the objection of the House of Representatives to the sale of the five power plants located in Geregu, Omotosho, Olorunshogo, Calabar and Benin-Ihovbor, through BPE, which had as of 2022, gulped about $7.875 billion, it, however, lamented that ‘‘the federal government’s decision to sell 25 key national assets, particularly the five NIPPs has been one bitter pill very difficult for Nigerians to swallow.”

While the country was still grappling with epileptic power supply despite several billions so far sunk into the power sector, TFG said it was totally distasteful for a government to contemplate selling such critical infrastructure now.

It noted further that the consequences of such sales in the country and Nigerians far outweighed its benefits, adding that almost eight years after the privatisation of the power sector in 2014, there had not been any visible improvement in terms of power supply, expansion or investments by the new owners of distribution and generation assets.

‘‘A dime has never been declared as profit for the government’s 40 per cent asset ownership in the privatised companies till date. It has been a pitiable tale of ‘private gains, public losses.

“Yet the federal government rather than make these companies work effectively by demanding probity and accountability, is lamentably determined to discard another set of critical economic assets, with a flimsy and brazen reason to fund 2023 budget,” it added.

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