NCP moves to decide on Enugu Disco

Atedo Peterside09 September 2013, Lagos – Unless there is a last-minute change of plan, the Power Sub-Committee of the National Council on Privatisation, NCP, will meet today to decide on the sale of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, Disco. The Technical Sub-Committee will meet tomorrow.

A Presidency source said Sunday that the meeting would discuss and possibly resolve the seeming impasse over the sale of the Enugu Disco whose preferred bidder, Interstate Electric, has continually failed to pay the required 75 per cent balance despite enjoying obvious sympathy within government.

The Guardian had last Monday reported that in what looked like a division in the NCP headed by Vice President Namadi Sambo, the Chairman of the Technical Committee, TC, of the NCP, Mr. Atedo Peterside, had taken up the Director-General, DG, of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, over what a stakeholder described as “a crooked attempt to sell the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company to Interstate Electric.”

Another letter from Peterside to some members of NPC had expressed similar discomfort with the state of affairs and the failure of the council to meet. The Guardian’s report last Monday had quoted a previous letter to the DG, BPE, asking him to do the right thing in the existing situation.

But the latest letter of Peterside accused BPE of frustrating efforts to convene a meeting. In fact, the letter blamed the NCP’s failure to meet on BPE.

The letter read: “Many of you contacted me recently to inquire why a Technical Committee meeting has not been called to consider and deliberate upon the updates on the PHCN privatisation.

“My understanding has always been that it is the chairman of a committee who decides when it is appropriate to call a meeting, having considered possible agenda items and the need to dispense with them promptly with a view to achieving the broader objectives/mission.

“The reason we are unable to meet is because the DG of BPE, who controls the BPE’s budget, and therefore, releases funds to pay for hotel bills and sitting allowances, has ‘surreptitiously’ vetoed all my efforts to convene a meeting of our Technical Committee of recent. His latest plot was to copy me a text he purportedly sent to His Excellency, the Vice President, requesting approval for our committee to be allowed to meet and refusing to give me feedback even after I gave him (the DG) twenty-four hours within which to revert to me. He did not reply to my e-mail and did not even bother to explain why he did not reply.”

It went on: “As you are all aware, the Technical Committee serves as an advisory/due process watchdog over the BPE and we are accountable to the NCP. Accordingly, I find the DG’s surreptitious attempt to keep us ‘in the dark’ objectionable in the extreme. For the record, I do not believe for one second that the DG is acting on instructions from above. His ‘body language’ and enthusiastic evasiveness suggest that he is the initiator who has proactively been looking for ways to avoid transparent table issues/updates before this Technical Committee.

“In the circumstances, there will be no meetings of the Technical Committee until further notice. Meanwhile, members should please, therefore, stop calling me to ask why a meeting has not been convened. I will revert with additional feedback after carrying out further investigations/consultations with the relevant high authorities.”

It was not clear if this week’s planned meeting was motivated by Peterside’s outcry, but the BPE had vowed that any preferred bidders who failed to pay up by August 21 would lose their bids, while the reserve bidders would be invited to take over.

More than 19 days after the deadline, Interstate Electric is yet to pay, putting a lie to government’s avowed declaration to adhere to the rule.

The Guardian had reported that Interstate on August 29, 2013, paid additional $12 million to the BPE. The additional payment is considered too meagre out of the $93 million that it was expected to pay latest August 21 as outstanding 75 per cent required.

The NCP meeting is expected to take a final decision on the situation, among others. The timing of the meeting, according to a source, confirms concerns that BPE had secretly given Interstate a 20-day extension to pay, a condition it was unable to meet as at the time of going to press.

Meanwhile, as part of preparations for the upcoming post-privatisation era in the power sector, government would tomorrow inaugurate the management of an electricity agency, which the Presidency announced last Friday.

The new organisation, known as the Electricity Management Services Limited, EMS, was announced by the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, last Friday.

According to Nebo, EMS would carry out consulting services and provide shared services, such as logistics and meter testing.

Nebo also announced a management board approved by the President. It is headed by Peter Ewesor as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer.

– The Guardian

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