Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo reject sale of PHCN firm

Adams Oshiomhole Governors of four states that lost the bid for the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (DISCO) have vowed to stop the winner, Vigeo Power Consortium, from taking its prize.

The four states bidded for the Benin DISCO, one of the offspring of the behemoth Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), through their technical partner, Southern Electricity Distribution Consortium, but lost the bid to Vigeo.

Governors Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) spoke at a news conference in Abuja yesterday.

The governors said their states, along with Ondo State, bidded for the company.

Oshiomhole, who spoke on behalf of the others, described the bid process, as conducted by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), as fraudulent. It failed the credibility test, he said.

But the BPE and Vigeo Power Limited denied the allegation of lack of tranparency and incompetence.

The governor said: “The entire process was a racket that’s inconsistent with running a transparent government. The BPE used a set of criteria that have never been used before.

“The figures put forward by Vigeo were shady and we observed that funny things started happening, even before the bids were opened.

“A number of technical issues are at stake in this exercise. The winners of the bid have little knowledge about the environment in which they want to operate. The BPE manipulated the process in favour of the preferred bidder.”

The protesting state executives maintained that besides lacking the technical know-how to operate the company, Vigeo sponsors do not have the required financial capability to handle the project.

According to them, having invested huge taxpayers’ money from their various states in the electricity distribution projects, they are not going to sit idly by and watch their people’s investments go down the drain.

The governors wondered how Vigeo’s technical partner, NDPL, with operational scope of 510 square kilometers, won a bid to operate a 57, 000 square kilometres service territory in an area like the Niger Delta without any knowledge of that volatile area.

“They (Vigeo) do not even know the area, yet they want to do something in five years that they have not been able to do in 11 years in an urban 500-kilometre territory they are currently operating in.

“Our consortium is led by the industry leader in India, covering 4328 villages and 43 towns. It won the Gold Shield Award for the Year 2011 for utility excellence, posting the highest loss reduction ever in Asia (6.6 percent in 2010) and (10.12 percent in 2011),” the governors emphasised.

They lamented what they described as an attempt by the BPE to further cripple the power sector by manipulating the bid process in favour of individuals with the “right connection” but without the required financial muscle and technical know-how to operate the project.

They insisted that the winners of the bid quoted forged figures and cooked up the books just to win, adding that the people in their states will be made to suffer if the “manipulation” is allowed to stand. The government of the day will also suffer the backlash, they said.

Oshiomhole went on: “In our region, you cannot succeed in operating the utility without the participation of the state governments, knowledge of the environment and relationship with the different stakeholders like the youth, community leaders and others. Our consortium passed all these tests, but others did not.

“Our states have invested heavily in power generation, transmission and distribution across the length and breadth of our respective states as we recognise the importance of power as the precondition for socio-economic growth and industrialisation of our states.

“It was for this reason that we participated in the bid process and came out as the most technically competent with the consortium that is most suited to the peculiarities of our region. The BPE should not play with our collective future.”

The Nation

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