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    Lawmakers accuse NBET of wasteful spending, ask NDPHC to review the gas supply agreements

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    The House of Representatives has accused the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) of wastefully spending federal government revenue without appropriate approval

    Specifically, the lawmakers said NBET makes monthly payment of $33 million to a private company, Azura for power generation in the country without federal government approval contrary to extant laws of the federation

    NBET managing director Nnaemeka Eweluka, had told the House committee on Finance when he appeared before them on friday that Nigeria has about 25 power purchase agreements, with about $30 million monthly commitment to one of the companies Azura, due to a “take or pay clause obligated to adhere to.”

    But James Faleke, chairman of the committee faulted the NBET’s boss claim, stressing that records at the disposal of the lawmakers showed that it was $33 million that was paid monthly and not $30 million.

    The lawmaker raised the issue at the commencement of investigation by the House’s Finance Committee into the proposed sale of the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) on Friday.

    Faleke asked NBET MD if he got approval from the Federal Executive Council (FEC) before it signed power purchase agreements but the managing director said it did not, because it was not an infrastructural concession.

    Enraged by the disclosure, the committee’s chairman accused the NBET boss of expunging a particular section that requires FEC approval, while he was the general counsel of the agency.

    Faleke said:  “I put it to you, while you were general counsel, you expunged a particular section that requires FEC approval. You expunged it. I will provide you documents that will prove it. The requirement for signing an agreement include obtaining the advice of the Ministry of Justice.

    “In one of your communications to the Ministry of Justice, the then Minister said ‘I do not agree with this. Do not sign because it is not in the interest of Nigeria’.

    I have the document. When it got back to you in the office, you as the Counsel General expunged that portion that required you to take any agreement to the Ministry of Justice and you are telling now that it is not true.

    “I have also heard in your circles that you said you will not provide the documents and that we are looking for money. We are not looking for money. This committee is not looking for money. We want to save Nigeria.

    “I want to know why you as MD will commit Nigeria at the present rate to over $33billion every month without FEC approval. If Buhari is aware, the Minister of Finance will seat here and give us such approval. We are unable to pay salaries, we are unable to pay teachers and the power, we are not getting it. Then, we will continue to pay for 20 years.”

    Faleke lamented that Nigerians do not get value for the huge some of money they are paying for power, saying the power needs of Nigerians have not been met, despite all the intervention by th Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

    He said: “On behalf of Nigerians we are concerned by the agreements you signed with power generation companies and Nigerians are not getting that power. We are interested as a committee to know, the officers in charge of these agencies, who signed agreements on behalf of Nigerians, do they take the necessary things into consideration before signing it.

    “It is the situation we find ourselves and the earlier we, the operators of government agencies, get to know this the better for this country. People complain that Nigeria is borrowing money but those of us that are responsible for revenue management and cost management are just playing to the gallery in a way that satisfies our personal interests.

    “Pure impunity! If an investor comes and says he wants to invest in power, for that investor to invest in power, he must have carried out his own survey to be sure that consumers are available to consume his power. It is purely business.

    “What is our responsibility in buying the power from him? Let him sell the power to the people. Nigerians initially felt we needed to intervene in the power sector and provided support. But we are still where we are today.

    “We have millions of Nigerians out of job, out of school but no job because we have no power to provide industries. That is why I asked you: are you satisfied with value for money? When we have no power for industries to establish, why are we paying such money?”

    Responding to questions by raised by lawmakers, especially Faleke who sought to know if there was bank guarantee to the companies which signed agreements with NBET, the managing director said: “yes, World Bank partially guaranteed.

    “World Bank guarantee involves a network of agreements. All world bank guarantee involve an indemnity agreement that is signed for the government by the Minister of Finance. Every sovereign commitment involve the federal government and it is the Minister of Finance that signs agreement that creates guarantee on behalf of the government.

    On the possibility of the federal government pulling out of the agreement with Azura power plant,
    Eweluka said: “if you are asking an investor to invest $1 million dollars in a business, why would you want to exit? There are grounds for termination of the agreement.”

    Ruling, the committee’s chairman, directed Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to submit records of all power evacuated from Azura from 2015 to date while Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) is to submit tax compliance and payments by all the companies.

    Similarly, Faleke asked Chiedu Ugbo, the managing director of Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) to review the Gas Supply Agreements (GSA) from $10 million to at least $3 million.

    “It is interesting that the NDPHC is just saying they read on the pages of papers that a company that you signed an agreement with to provide you gas for $10m a month is static. Take-or-pay, you pay the $10m. If we don’t pay, the World Bank will pay. And the moment the World Bank pays, your rating will drop. That is the meaning.

    “And a Nigerian will sit before us here and tell us that they don’t have to go to FEC or anywhere; you will just sit down in your office, some people will manipulate you and you just sign agreements on behalf of Nigerians, and you commit Nigerians, and the same Nigerians pay you your salary -NBET. It is sheer arrogance and wickedness. We are just starting. By next week, it will be more explosive. I can assure you that,” the chairman stated.

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