Beaming the Searchlight on Manitoba

Manitoba-Hydro-International-696x319

Damilola Oyedele examines the findings of the House of Representatives Committees on Power and Privatisation that investigated the alleged infractions by Manitoba Nigeria Limited in its management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria

Several stakeholders have accused Manitoba Hydro International (MHI) Nigeria Limited of failing to meet its key performance indicators (KPI) as contained in the Schedule of Delegated Authority (SODA), which the federal government issued in the contract for its (MHI) management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).

Ahead of the expiration of the management contract on July 31, 2016, several groups, including the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) had urged the government not to renew the contract. Specifically, HURIWA, noted that the electricity situation in Nigeria has remained abysmal despite MHI’s contract to upgrade and manage Nigeria’s transmission network.
The pressure on the government to kick out MHI from the TCN continued despite the claims by the management contractor that it had received very little support from the government to do the job which have received condemnation from experts in the power sector.
Those who faulted MNI’s job insisted that the work culture of the expatriate workforce in MHI Nigeria Limited were different in terms of operational ethos and principles of the parent company which is based in Canada.

Allegations by the House of Representatives
The alleged infractions by Manitoba in the management of Nigeria’s transmission network, had prompted an the House of Representatives to direct an investigation into the affairs of the company, following a motion by Hon. Jonathan Gaza Gbewfi (Nassarawa PDP).
Gbewfi, in the motion raised at plenary, had accused the company of unlawfully revalidating a 2010 contract worth N1.9billion, and awarding it to ABB India without recourse to the Public Procurement Act.

Like HURIWA, the lawmaker also accused the firm of draining Nigeria’s crucial foreign exchange.
He said although the official exchange rate of the US dollar to the Naira four years ago, was around N160, the exchange rate used by the management company since 2012 has been N395 to a dollar, which was still higher than both the official and parallel market rates.

Gbewfi added that as a result of the unlawful exchange rate, the TCN fraudulently and illegally lost N3.7 billion, over and above its entitlements in the management contract.
He further noted that consideration of the management contract with Manitoba included emoluments for 15 expatriates, but only eight expatriates were working at TCN.

He added that in these harsh economic times, the Managing Director of TCN, a public corporation, draws a monthly salary of N35,500,000 while other expatriates and the Managing Director, (ISO) earned monthly incomes of N20, 500,000 and N19,100,000 respectively.
The House had directed its committees on Power, and Privatisation to investigate the issues raised in the motion and report back it.

Other lawmakers, who spoke to THISDAY on the matter, also accused Manitoba of not paying the proper taxes despite being incorporated in Nigeria, even though it is a Canadian firm.
Specifically, one of the lawmakers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, blamed what he called the excesses of Manitoba on the terms of the contract, which he said was hurriedly signed, without adequate consideration to the national interest.

“It was drawn in such a way that it gave the foreign managers more latitude to manage our sovereign wealth. It is not proper that sovereign wealth is given to foreigners to manage. The market funds, the pool of funds where even the funds which we get from power sold to Ghana and Niger is managed by them,” the lawmaker lamented.
He added that Manitoba could not be considered to have performed well, when assessing the deliverables which they signed up for.

Power Woes Worsen
The electricity situation in Nigeria has progressively moved from bad to worse as generation has plummeted to all time low, in recent times due mainly to vandalism of gas pipelines and other electricity equipment.

While experts have identified the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta region, resulting in the shortage of gas, as a major reason for the low power generation, the inability of the TCN run by MHI Nigeria Limited to grow and keep significant spinning reserves to jumpstart the system on events of sudden collapses had adversely affected the stability of Nigeria’s electricity grid.
The country’s hydro support base such as Kainji, Shiroro and Jebba dams are also being affected by lower water levels, while some of the distribution companies have had to battle with operational disruptions by the labour unions and other issues.

Also in the last one year, there has been no considerable infrastructure investment by the government, therefore contractors are not being adequately mobilised for maintenance work.
There are also lingering issues between distribution companies and customers such as metering, litigation, and issues relating to letters of credit.
The Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) has also been accused of not activating its majority stake, which gives it veto, in decisions with the distribution and generation companies.

Oversight by National Assembly
When contacted, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Power, Hon. Daniel Asuquo acknowledged that some infractions have been discovered in Manitoba’s activities during a recent investigative hearing on the N2.7billion severance for Commissioners of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

“We realised that there have been a lot of infractions as regards procurement. Contracts were awarded verbally, due process was not followed. TCN staff came and gave verbal evidence,” he said.
Asuquo also disclosed that the Minister of State for Power, Mr. Mustapha Baba Shehuri, at the hearing, had requested that the ministry be allowed to look into the infractions and other issues identified, adding, “till date, we have not gotten any report from them on that.” He said that the joint committees would request for the ministry’s evaluation report of Manitoba for the mandated investigation.
Asuquo, declined to comment on whether the contract which expires at the end of this July, should be renewed or not, insisting he cannot preempt the investigation.
He however promised that the Senate and House Committees on Power would henceforth ensure proper oversight of the power sector, with a view to identifying and tackling the issues hindering steady electricity supply in Nigeria.

 

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