Presidency blames BPE for cancelled Manitoba power contract…denies friction between Jonathan, Sambo

Vice-President Namadi Sambo and President Goodluck Jonathan

Vice-President Namadi Sambo and President Goodluck Jonathan

The Presidency on Wednesday said the management contract for the Transmission Company of Nigeria awarded to a Canadian firm, Manitoba Hydro International, was cancelled because of a series of infractions on the part of the Bureau of Public Enterprise.

It denied that the cancelled contract had caused a division between President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo, who chairs the National Council on Privatisation.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, made the clarification in an interview with Punch correspondent.

Abati said the contract was awarded by BPE and not NCP as Nigerians were made to believe.

He explained that BPE awarded the contract contrary to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

Abati said, “The BPE has no power to approve a management contract, according to the provision of Section 16 sub section 4 of the 2007 Public Procurement Act. That section says that the BPE must obtain a certificate of no objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement.

“Another section of the Act says that certain contracts must be approved by the Federal Executive Council. The management contract in question is $23.6m, which is above the approved threshold of BPE. The vice-president is a member of FEC.

“For the BPE to go ahead and approve that contract simply means that due process was not followed. It is a matter of due process, a matter of best practice; it is not a personality matter. The infraction was committed by the BPE.”

Despite the confirmation of the termination of the contract, a source told one of our correspondents that the Canadian firm would still be allowed to apply to manage the critical power infrastructure if it so desired.

Abati said, “Yes, the President has cancelled the contract because it was not done in accordance with the Public Procurement Act. President Goodluck Jonathan has directed that a new process for the selection of the management contractor should begin immediately and should be completed in 30 days in order not to cause unnecessary panic.

“The President also directed that the new process should conform to international best practices.”

However, one of our correspondents learnt that the cancellation of the contract was at the instance of the Technical and Legal committees of the National Council on Privatisation as well as the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke.

A Presidency source said the NCP, headed by Vice-President Namadi Sambo, did not take a decision on the cancellation, but recommended the review of the contract following the issue of compliance with due process raised by the AGF and the NCP committees.

The source added that the action was not against Manitoba but the process, adding that the Canadian firm could still apply to manage the transmission company.

The PUNCH had exclusively reported last week that the contract might collapse following moves to strip the contractor of key functions included in the contract, and the failure of the Federal Government to issue Delegated Authority to the company two months after the contract was supposed to have taken off.

The company had been stripped of its power to control human resource and finance at the company, contrary to the provisions of the management contract following strong opposition by the workers of the TCN and the Power Holding Company of Nigeria.

The Chief Executive Officer sent to TCN by Manitoba, Mr. Don Priestman, had confirmed that the Federal Government had yet to issue the Canadian firm the Delegated Authority it required to work.

Meanwhile, worried by the spate of system collapse leading to blackouts in the country, the Presidential Task Force on Power has met with officials of TCN to resolve the problem.

At the meeting in Abuja, the PTFP Chairman, Mr. Beks Dagogo-Jack, charged regional and top managers of TCN to commit to the target of 5,000MW electricity generation by December.

The task force was told that some businesses threatened by improved power situation could have been collaborating with corrupt workers to frustrate power stability in the country.

The Head, Media and Communications, PTFP, Mrs. Awele Okigbo, confirmed these in a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja on Wednesday.

Okigbo said the interaction between the TCN management team and the technical heads of the task force focused on the review of the sudden rise in the frequency of power grid collapses.

She said, “The meeting dealt extensively with the immediate and remote causes of the collapses and identified a few remedy plans with short to long-term delivery times.

“From the National Control Centre Manager’s submission, it was made clear that there are two major causes for the system collapses namely; generation-side triggers, especially during periods of very low power availability, and transmission-side triggers, with the latter contributing over 60 per cent of the trigger incidents.

“Top on the list of major causes for the collapses is the overgrown vegetation interacting with high and low voltage power lines, which worsens during the wet season and through logging activities.”

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