‎Ministry official blamed for delay in renewal of power transmission contract

Power transmission line.

Power transmission line.

*As parties battle over N18bn monthly market fund

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

23 June 2015, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Power, Mr. Godknows Igali, has been blamed for the delay in the renewal of the management contract for the Canadian firm operating Nigeria’s electricity transmission company, Manitoba Transmission Company.

A report in BusinessDay says the contract renewal for the company which is vital for efficient power transmission across the country is being frustrated by the permanent secretary, who now calls the shots in the absence of a minister.

According to the report, Igali, working through the chairman of TCN, Dahiu Waziru has stalled the process of renewing the management contract despite the documents having been signed internally.

“Igali, a close ally of former president Goodluck Jonathan, virtually controls the TCN today, having made redundant, Manitoba Hydro International, MHI the firm which was contracted three years ago to operate the power transmission company under a privatised electricity market,” the report stated.

It added that the permanent secretary gives orders directly to Ngozi Osuhor, the ministry appointed director for market operations at TCN, and the relationship is causing worries among the power companies and their investors.

The companies see the director as an agent of civil servants at the ministry who continue to work tirelessly to scuttle the reforms of the power sector,” it added.

The battle over control of TCN is traced to the average of N17-18 billion monthly in market funds, the control of which was brought under Osuhor’s mandate by the ministry, sidelining MHI the private sector managers of TCN.

The ministry of finance and the Bureau of Public Enterprises, (BPE) are the two shareholders of TCN and they have expressed no objection to the renewal of Manitoba’s management contract according to investigation. However, the permanent secretary has ensured that the TCN board does not give accent to the contract renewal.

Said a senior government official who asked not to be named, “Igali is the only one in charge and it is no secret that he has not been in favour of the management contract on account of who controls the market funds.

“You can see how the ministry people have succeeded over the years to frustrate each of the three former Executive Directors for market operations appointed by MHI. All three have gone back to Canada and today MHI has no one in that position, leaving the coast clear for them.”

Manitoba Hydro was engaged under a three year management contract in 2012 with option of a two year renewal after several attempts by senior government officials at the office of then vice president to frustrate the power reform programme by seeking to hold on to the award of lucrative procurement contracts.

It took the personal guarantee of Atedo Peterside, chairman of the Technical Committee on Privatisation (TCN) before the logjam was broken.

As permanent secretary, the report noted, Igali has singlehandedly rolled back part of the gains of the widely acclaimed power reform agenda by stalling several good policies and pushing through the controversial bill setting up two parallel regulators for the power sector despite opposition from the market.

Market operators say there is no use having a second regulator when one will do, and they fear it could be a ploy by civil servants at the ministry of power to regain some of the influence they lost to power privatisation.

The bill was reportedly signed by the former president at the behest of Igali and against legal advise from the relevant agencies involved in the power privatisation.

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