By Yusuf Alli/The Nation
No fewer than 51 investors are bidding for 11 distribution companies, including the controversial Enugu Distribution Company, which cost Nnaji his job.
According to sources, some of the powerful would-be investors that Nnaji may have offended include some ex-Heads of State, governors, top businessmen who are also election financiers, one or two retired Secretaries to the Government of the Federation, some stakeholders in the Southsouth and Southeast and top government officials.
These powerful interests are covertly promoting companies bidding for power plants and distribution companies through their surrogates and international investors.
Their list was, however, kept secret last night.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that these vested interests were “too hot for Nnaji to handle”.
It was learnt that Nnaji managed to accommodate these bigwigs until he ran into a “big storm” in the Southeast where his company, Geometric Power was implicated in the bid for Afam Power Plant and Enugu Distribution Company.
Geometric Power, is said to have a minority stake in the Eastern Electric Nigeria Limited, which submitted technical and financial bids for Enugu Distribution Company on July 31.
Also, one of the consortia bidding for Afam Power Plant, O and M Solutions of Pakistan, was once Geometric Power’s contractor.
A source said: “The ex-Minister cannot talk but he has a lot up his sleeve. He had been coping with pressure because the elite who call the shot in the country are neck-deep in the scrambling for these power plants and distribution companies.
“They include some ex-Heads of State, governors, top businessmen, who are also election financiers, retired Secretary to the Government of the Federation, some stakeholders in the Southsouth and Southeast and government officials.
“He is a victim of elite war for the control of the power sector. His tact, however, failed him in managing these elite, especially those from the Southsouth and Southeast. His problem started with the submission of the technical and financial bids for Afam and Enugu Distribution Company. Reports indicated that during the process, one of Nnaji’s close relations was sighted submitting bids for one or two companies.
“And the submission was witnessed by BPE officials, World Bank representatives and all security agencies.
“These security agencies might have also submitted indicting reports to the National Council on Privatisation.
“But the sighting of Nnaji’s alleged relation drew curiosity, which led to the unraveling of Geometric Power’s interest and equity in one of the firms bidding for Afam Power Plant and Enugu DISCO.
“Some stakeholders in the Southeast, led by a powerful moneybag, foresaw the likelihood of Nnaji coming from the backdoor to emerge as the sole supplier and distributor of power to the region in future. The management of a power plant in Aba by Geometric Power alluded to their fears.”
According to sources, the Southeast stakeholders capitalised on the implication of Geometric Power in the bid process to petition the NCP and the Presidency.
Another source said: “Based on the petition, which was verified by security agencies, Nnaji was confronted at the NCP meeting where he explained that he had resigned as a director of Geometric Power and put his shares in a blind trust.
“But the Chairman of the NCP, Vice-President Namadi Sambo, was not convinced and he walked Nnaji out of the session. The bids were later cancelled, based on Nnaji’s conflict of interest.
“An official report was made to President Goodluck Jonathan on the conflict of interest of the ex-minister and the President decided that Nnaji must go.
“What pained the government was that it had assured the international community of a transparent process and the involvement of the minister’s firm cast a doubt on the integrity of the process. It was like drawing back the privatisation process.”
A government source said: “This development has grave implications for the timelines for the privatisation of the power plants and the DISCOS.
“We will be forced to adjust the timelines and we might be seen by investors as unserious.”
The BPE had in a statement released the timetable as follows: “The transaction timeline reveals that the evaluation of the technical bids will take place between August 14 and 28, 2012. The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) will approve the results of the technical evaluation by September 11, 2012.
“The deadline for the short listed bidders for generation companies to submit their letters of credit is September 18, 2012 while October 2, 2012 is the deadline for short listed bidders for distribution companies.
“Consequently, NCP’s approval will pave the way for the opening of financial bids of the short listed investors.
“The BPE will on September 25, 2012 open the financial bids of prospective investors for the generating companies while October 10, 2012 is the date for the opening of the financial bids for the distribution companies.
“The announcement of the preferred bidders for the generating companies is October 9, 2012 while October 23, 2012 is the date for the announcement of the preferred bidders for the distribution companies.”