Last week's reconstitution of two critical bodies in the power sector-Presidential Action Committee on Power and Presidential Task Force on Power-by President Goodluck Jonathan has sent a strong signal to the power sector community that despite the gale of controversy that trailed the recent resignation of former power minister, Bart Nnaji, the Federal Government is not looking back on its privatisation programme, reports Festus Akanbi
There are indications that although former Minister of Power Bart Nnaji may have bowed out under controversial circumstances a fortnight ago with the attendant threat to the time-table drawn for the ongoing power sector privatisation, the Federal Government last week moved to ensure a continuous flow of processes and activities to meet the deadline set for the ongoing power sector reforms. The Federal Government's determination to push ahead with the privatisation programme was demonstrated with the speedy reconstitution of two important bodies saddled with the responsibility of pushing ahead with the time-table drawn for power sector reforms before Nnaji fell out of favour.
Last Wednesday, President Goodluck Jonathan reconstituted the Presidential Action Committee on Power and Presidential Task Force on Power, the two bodies charged with overseeing the implementation of Federal Government's agenda for power sector reforms. The President retains the chairmanship of the Presidential Action Committee on Power (PACP). Vice-President Namadi Sambo is the deputy chairman of the committee while other members include the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Head of Service, Chief of Staff to the President, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Minister of Power, Minister of State for Power and Minister of Petroleum Resources. Also in the committee are - the Minister of National Planning, Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Special Adviser to the President (Performance Monitoring & Evaluation), Director-General - Bureau of Public Enterprises, Director-General - Bureau of Public Procurement, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Power. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Power will serve as Secretary of the PACP.
Bart Nnaji out, Dagogo-Jack in
While the President is directly in charge of the PACP, Engr. Reynold Dagogo-Jack, who is the Special Adviser to the President on Power, has taken over the chairmanship of the Presidential Task Force on Power. The task force has the responsibility of developing and driving the Federal Government's action plan for the power sector as well as articulating a proper plan of action for implementation in the areas of power generation, transmission and distribution.
Other members of the reconstituted task force on power are the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Chief Executive Officer - Transmission Company of Nigeria, Managing Director, Niger Delta Power Holding Company, Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Gas Company, Chief Executive Officer, Geregu Generation Company, Chief Executive Officer, Ughelli Generation Company, Chief Executive Officer, Eko Distribution Company, Chief Executive Offcier, Abuja Distribution Company, Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Bulk Electricity Company, Chief Executive Officer of Gas Aggregation Company of Nigeria and Evaristus Mogbo.
The Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Fund will serve as consultants to the task force while an officer of director's rank in the Federal Ministry of Power designated by the Permanent Secretary will serve as secretary to the task force. The chain of events that has made the power sector the issue of the moment was triggered by the recent resignation of the former minister, which he said was done to save President Jonathan from ridicule by some forces, which "were unrepentantly against the ongoing privatisation of the power sector".
Nnaji, First Fall Guy
Sources described Nnaji as the first fall guy of the new resolve to enforce the code of conduct for public officers and work in tandem with the performance contract recently signed with President Jonathan by his cabinet members.Sources said the resignation of the power minister was seen as a test case for the new pact which frowns on any insider dealings in government. The National Council on Privatisation recently announced the firms that passed the technical evaluation stage for only five of the six generating companies, excluding Afam generating company, because the evaluation of bids for the plant had been cancelled and the evaluation team disbanded. The cancellation came after the shock discovery that Nnaji may have had a direct interest in one of the consortia that bidded for the plant located in Rivers State. The Afam power plant, which has an installed capacity of 776MW, was rehabilitated by the Anglo Dutch oil giant Shell on behalf of the Federal Government not too long ago. The three companies which submitted bids for Afam generating company are Primeniza Energy Limited, Skipper Nigeria Limited and NPG Consortium, but it is unclear which of these three is connected with the minister.
The minister, who before his appointment was the chairman of Geometrics, confirmed his interest in a bid for the plant at the crucial meeting of NCP on August 24 at which the evaluation of the bids for Afam, Geregu, Kanji, Shiroro, Sapele, and Ugheli power plants were appraised, and authority given to the Technical Committee on Privatisation to announce the firms that were okay to proceed to the next stage of the bid process.
Explaining the rationale behind his resignation, Nnaji, however, said his action was to protect the image of President Jonathan in view of the alleged gang-up of some forces against him. In a statement, Prof. Nnaji said he voluntarily resigned to preserve his integrity, which had come under serious scrutiny and attacks. He said the serious attacks majorly came from powerful vested interests that were out to soil his image and get him out of office. This resignation is also to ensure that there is no spill over of these attacks to the President who is working very hard to transform the nation.
"I would like to reiterate that before I accepted to serve as minister, I resigned my directorship of all companies that I had interest in and put my shares in those companies in a blind trust; this means that I was not privy to the day-to-day business decisions of those who ran this trust."
The Man Dagogo-Jack
Dagogo-Jack was a consultant with the Department for International Development (DFID)/Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility's (NIAF) serving on the Presidential Task Force on Power (PFTP), which works as the technical engine room of the Federal Ministry of Power. It has the responsibility of providing the required technical expertise for planning, intervention, evaluation and actualisation of the Presidential Roadmap on Power launched in August 2010.
Between May 2010 and May 2011, he worked as Senior Special Assistant to the President (NIPP).
In this position , he served as the team leader for project performance monitoring & evaluation for the National Integrated Power Power Projects on the Presidential Task Force on Power. His duties covered exposing all performance risks & gaps in the projects and engaging with the project delivery agencies - the project owner, vendors, other interfacing government agencies, consultants & even host communities to shape the risks into manageable dimensions & take home realistic
completion timelines. Before joining the presidency, Dagogo-Jack had served as Commissioner of Works & Transport in Rivers State.
He is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he participated in advanced management course in airports systems planning & design. He also attended University of Benin.
Perhaps, one group of people the former minister would not forget in a hurry is the electricity workers union which had forcefully resisted the privatisation of the power sector. The fear of the workers union was that the sale of PHCN successor companies to new investors would threaten the jobs of its members. The combative posture of the workers union had necessitated the deployment of soldiers to strategic locations to guard the facilities against vandalisation. The presence of security forces was protested by the workers, leading to pockets of confrontations. For instance, the chapter of the union at Shiroro Hydroelectric Power Station two weeks ago staged a protest against what they termed high-handedness of the former minister, locking the entrance to the power station. Also, the Senior Staff of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) had in a seven-page petition to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Power and his House of Representatives counterpart detailed the genesis of the current crisis and the alleged lies and misinformation being dished out to the public by government officials. The petition by the President-General and General-Secretary of SSAEAC, Bede Opara and Abiodun Ogunsegha, said: "The issues of pension, gratuity and superannuation fund must be addressed conclusively. Government should pay gratuity to all in accordance with provision of the Staff Condition of Service reviewed in 2010. Stakeholders want to see early resolution of the labour crisis but the reality on ground is that the new minister will have to continue the negotiation which was put in place during Nnaji's tenure.
One of the targets set under the administration of Nnaji was the quest to raise the level of power generation. The former minister had said he would move power generation to 6000 MW by December 2012. Indeed, President Jonathan recently disclosed that an additional 5,000 MW would be added to the national grid by 2013 from 10 new power plants which are currently under construction nationwide. Lending his voice to the campaign for an improvement in power delivery, the Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, had urged the federal government to develop and implement a blueprint on cheap and sustainable energy that will transform the country into an industrial power house in the coming decades. He said Nigeria would need 20,000MW over 20 years to be a power house and added that while private investors and international banks would be ready to lend Nigeria money for electricity, there were, however, fears of policy changes because of change in government. He said Nigeria's population is projected to hit 300 million in 25 years with 90 per cent of them under 25 years who would need to be employed.
However, stakeholders in the industry wonder if the change of baton at the power ministry would not constitute a setback to the current drive given the fact that the new helmsman at the ministry may have to familiarise himself with the realities on ground, a development which industry operators say may make nonsense of the target already put in place by the immediate past minister. The matter is even made worse by the fact that the selection of a minister for the power ministry which is considered as one of the plum portfolios is usually characterised by delay associated with the nomination and clearance by the Senate.
One other unfinished business left behind by the former minister is the issue of gas supply. According to Nnaji, as at December 2011, the nation could technically have produced 5,500MW; thereby exceeding its 5000MW target, but only a little over 4,000MW was generated because of gas constraints. Records show that 70 per cent of Nigeria's power is generated from thermal stations while only 30 per cent is from hydro stations. Gas constraints account for the decline in power availability, and it is expected that the 12-month emergency gas to power supply recently declared by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, will substantially improve gas supply to the power sector in order for the trapped capacities at the various thermal stations to be released to the grid. The current power generation which is the highest power output ever generated in Nigeria, has, however, been attributed to the sharp increase of gas availability to the thermal plants, even as Prof. Nnaji informed that when fully stabilised, the country's power supply could easily hit 5,000MW. Going by the change of guard at the power ministry, there is no doubt that the incoming minister may have to open another line of communication with gas producers, thereby dragging the entire process back. However, whether or not the Federal Government will be able to achieve the time-table set for the ongoing power sector reforms will be dependent on how speedily it is able to clear all the controversies that have reared their heads in the exercise.