It is a veritable example of how not to use public funds or indeed, how not to conduct any business whatsoever.
A few months back, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) had informed Nigerians that power equipment imported by various contractors worth hundreds of billions of naira lay waste at the ports. These components were required for the numerous power projects scattered across the country.
The equipment, which is said to be mainly transmission projects, had been ordered under the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) while some were procured during the transition period when the current transmission firm was being set up.
Whatever the case may be, only last week, the Interim Managing Director of TCN, Mr. Usman Mohammed, informed Nigerians that his firm had spent about N2.5 billion to clear some power transmission equipment worth several billions of naira abandoned by different contractors at the nation’s seaports. He noted many contractors handling various power projects in the past had abandoned a lot of transmission equipment at the ports for no justifiable reasons.
As to possible reasons for the abandonment, Usman noted that “We found out that contractors formed the habit of collecting part-payments to import equipment and when the equipment got to Nigeria, they abandoned them at the ports without providing justifiable reasons.”
He explained that the poor execution of transmission projects in Nigeria was largely due to many unqualified contractors handling the projects.
While we commend the new management of TCN for rising to the challenge in the last one year, to clear stranded equipment from the ports, we dare say that several issues have been raised here.
There is the question of poor institutional memory bordering on impunity and the question of poor deployment of government’s resources, among others.
First, we wonder whether contracts worth over two hundred billion naira could have been awarded by various public corporations without proper documentation, monitoring, and evaluation. Letters of credit must have been opened for those orders so there would not be any confusion as to who placed what orders, costs of the equipment and when they were ordered.
We thought that even as the new TCN management had undertaken to retrieve the equipment from the ports, it is only incumbent upon it to ensure that the errant contractors are exposed if need be prosecuted and necessary restitution made. How can we vouch that the same contractors that had been remiss in carrying out previous contracts are not back in the fold causing more havoc?
Who bears the N2.5 billion spent to clear these goods? This is no way to spend public funds. The errant contractors and the colluding government officials, if any, must be fished out and made to bear some costs.
It is unacceptable and borders on impunity that contracts of this magnitude were handed to contractors and they were handled with so much insouciance, yet not one person is being made to answer. Nigeria’s power sector has been in the doldrums despite billions of dollars sunk into it because of this kind of laissez-faire attitude to work and in carrying out government business.
Further, if TCN had elected to quietly retrieve the equipment from the ports, without recourse to the contractors, how can we tell that it doesn’t have junk equipment which would soon be found to be of no use to Nigeria’s power infrastructure?
In a nutshell, we insist that the contractors and their cohorts in service must not be allowed to go scot-free; they must be made to pay a price if this impunity and crass breach of contracts are not to recur.