Members of the House of Representatives committee on power have threatened not to approve appropriation in the 2021 Federal Budget for the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET) “if the agency is not returned to the Ministry of Power.”
The Chairman, House Committee on Power, Magaji Da’u Aliyu, who issued the threat on Monday said NBET has always been an agency under the Ministry of Power “and should be allowed to remain that way.”
“NBET no doubt has a critical role to play as the key financial organ of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).
“As lawmakers, we frown at every possible attempt at contravening aspects of the law. The provisions of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, 2005 with regards to successor companies, shows clearly that NBET is an agency under the Ministry of Power.
“It is my opinion that the alleged decision to move the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company Plc from the Ministry of Power to the Ministry of Finance is akin to hitting the self-destruct button.
“We cannot afford to play politics with an issue as sensitive and as vital as this. I, therefore, wish to use this medium to reiterate that as far as the National Assembly is concerned NBET still remains an agency under the Ministry of Power,” he said.
The lawmaker did not explain in details where his fears emanated from.
Trail of crisis
Last December, the Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, had announced the suspension of the Managing Director of NBET, Marilyn Amobi, following the crisis that rocked the organisation.
Ms Amobi’s suspension followed a report that detailed how she instigated the arrest and detention for several hours of nine top officials of the agency by the State Security Services (SSS, also called DSS).
But, her suspension, which was first announced by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) quoted the minister as saying the order for the MD to step down was in continuation of the government’s effort “to reorganise and sanitise the Federal Ministry of Power and its affiliated agencies”.
However, barely a week after the suspension, President Muhammadu Buhari overruled the Minister over the decision and ordered the immediate reinstatement of the controversial MD.
Apart from her reinstatement, the president directed that Ms Amobi be moved to the finance ministry until further notice.
The decision had provoked wide criticism, as many saw it as an attempt by the government to condone corruption despite several indicting investigative reports by the anti-graft agencies.
Both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other relate Offences Commission (ICPC) had submitted indicting reports against Ms Amobi.
Meanwhile, on the Mambilla Hydro-Power project, Mr Da’u Aliyu said despite government’s determination to pursue its completion in recent times, the over 40 years old project existed only on paper.
The lawmaker said there was nothing on ground to show the project has commenced before the coming of the present administration.
He spoke on Monday during the committee’s oversight visit to the Ministry of Power headquarters in Abuja.
In the presentation of a Right-of-Way report presented by the Director, Renewable Energy & Rural Power Access, Federal Ministry of Power, Faruk Yusuf Yabo, the lawmakers were told the land for the project has just been acquired.
“Until now, there was no legal title to the land. Let me sincerely thank President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Power for achieving this feat. There was never anything like Mambilla power project. It exists only in books and on papers before this government,” he said.
He said the approval of funds and other activities geared towards kick-starting the Mambilla project was an indication of government’s display of political will in providing adequate and steady power supply to Nigerians.
The committee chairman said the National Assembly was concerned about the slow pace of implementation of the Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission Act, 2010 and its subsequent amendment.
He drew the attention of the minister to the House’s earlier resolution that HYPPADEC should commence operation by January 1, 2020.
Following the resolution, he said HYPPADEC was ordered to relocate to Niger to commence operation.
Earlier, the Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, said the HYPPADEC Act was passed into law in August 2010 and amended in July 2018.
The Minister said the objective of HYPPADEC was to bring development to the communities in the area affected by activities of hydro power plants.
“In accordance with the concern and directive of the National Assembly during 2020 Budget defence for immediate take -off HYPPADEC, the ministry has appointed a director to oversee the coordination of the take-off of the commission.
“A source of funding to enable the take-off of the commission has been approved,” he said.
The implementation of Kashimbiiia 40MW Hydropower Project is at 100 per cent completion but that of Mambila 3,050MW HEPP is currently at inception stage.