A coalition of civil society groups has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the management of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) over suspected illicit transactions.
The coalition, led by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre), made this call in a petition to the EFCC, a copy of which it made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday.
Other groups in the Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom are the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) and Order Paper NG.
The rest are the International Press Centre (IPC), Daily Trust Newspaper, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), The Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation, Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ), Civic Media Lab and Sahara Reporters.
The petition, signed by HEDA’s Programme Officer, Sina Odugbemi, was fueled by an earlier investigation by a media consortium, including Premium Times. It detailed a string of suspicious transactions involving NBET officials following corruption allegations communicated on LeaksNG, an online Whistleblower platform of which HEDA is a member.
The allegations include that the contents of the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) signed by two power generating companies, Omotosho Electric Genco and Olorunsogo Electric Company, with the Nigerian authorities in February and August 2016 involved fraudulent deals which disregarded the content of the PPA.
“The PPA rules say for a generating plant to qualify for Available Capacity Payment under the PPA, the generating plants must provide evidence that they have an active Gas Supply Agreement (GSA) and Gas Transport Agreement (GTA).
“This is also contained in clause 3.2.2 and 4.2.1 of the PPA and in the absence of this agreements, the PPA signed with the generating plants would be deemed inactive leaving them to be entitled to receive payment for power supplied.”
The coalition said the procedures violated Section 1705 of the Financial Regulations which states that “the Head of Internal Audit Unit in all ministries/extra-ministerial offices and other arms of government shall ensure that 100 per cent pre-payment audit of all checked and passed vouchers is carried out and the vouchers forwarded under security schedule directly to the appropriate Central Pay Office for payment.”
The Whistleblowers quoted a 2014 report that claimed NBET wrote the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) requesting to be excluded from being subjected to the BPP Act in its power purchase agreement, which the BPP declined following which NBET advertised a notice for an expression of interest for legal practitioners to give legal interpretation on BPP posture.
Two years after the procurement process had been stopped, it said the Managing Director of the NBET, Evelyn Amobi, requested the Internal Audit of the agency to pay N30 million to two firms; Azinge and Azinge as contract sums of N14 million and Alex N16 million respectively.
In their petition, the whistleblowers wrote:
“It was reported that in 2016, NEXANT, a software and energy firm, engaged the services of Uzoma Achinaya, former staff of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN); to provide advisory and analytics work for NBET and that in line with the arrangement, Mr Achinaya would work for NBET for a certain period after which he would present a report to NEXANT and claim his payment from NEXANT. This was said to have happened.”
The coalition also raised allegations that instead of NEXANT paying the consultant, NBET’s leadership decided to pay him despite not being party to the engagement agreement.
It said, “on January 23, 2017, Mr Achinaya wrote Mrs Amobi requesting NBET to pay him N7 million in advance for the work he had done so far, stating that the amount should be recovered from the payment after the resolution of issues with NEXANT.”
“Other questionable issues were irregularities in the request which led to its being flagged by the Internal Audit as a result of which the payment was declined to Mr Achinaya, prompting the audit department to insist that it declined the payment because Mrs Amobi’s N7.5 million request was above her N2.5million approval limit.
“Other grounds were that the process of contracting was not subjected to due process.”
Mrs Amobi was accused of sidetracking laid down procurement rules through the Parastatal Tenders Board of NBET to seek consideration and approval for the requested fund.
The whistleblowers said it heard that the board submitted its report claiming that due process was followed in the award of the consultancy contract.
The coalition stated further that in 2017, Mrs Amobi allegedly made a request to the Accountant-General for officials from his office to be transferred to NBET to head both the Internal Audit and Finance departments in order to cover up loose ends.
It said the Accountant-General granted the request granted in June 2017, and posted Hauwa Bello from the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) to head the Internal Audit of NBET.
The internal auditor, Sambo Abdullahi, was subsequently moved to the Learning and Development, a newly created department at NBET, while Waziri Bintube of the Finance Department was reposted to Risk and Guarantee, another department alleged created by Mrs Amobi to allegedly victimise the two top officials.
According to the coalition, a month earlier, Mrs Amobi had facilitated the transfer of two people, Ajulo Adesola from the National Agency for Science and Engineering (NASENI) and Acho Onyechege from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to NBET as treasury officers.
It said the transfer flouted the requirement of NBET charter which places the responsibility of recommending postings within the agency on the Human Resources Committee of NBET.
Section 2.4 (b) of the charter that the Human Resource Committee shall ‘review and make recommendations to the Board for approval of the Company’s organizational structure and any proposed amendments.’
“The coalition which had earlier sought the action of the Minister of Power, now makes an appeal to the EFCC to ensure that the above allegations are properly, effectively and painstakingly investigated with a view to punishing corrupt officials.”