by Stanley Azuakola
Barth Nnaji — Nigeria’s Minister of Power until yesterday — has explained the reason for his surprise move to resign from the federal cabinet yesterday. According to him, he took the decision in order to save the privatisation and reform programme from people who might want to use ulterior motives to jeopardise it.
His resignation was immediately accepted by President Goodluck Jonathan who thanked Nnaji for his services and wished him well in his future endeavours.
It was discovered during last Friday’s meeting of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) that companies reportedly owned or linked to Nnaji made bids for the Afam Generation Company Limited and Enugu Distribution Company Limited. This runs contrary to the Code of Ethics of the privatisation process which bars staff of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and members of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) from buying shares in companies being privatised.
Nnaji who spoke to Thisday newspaper after his resignation, said that rather than drag President Jonathan and the entire privatisation process through the mud, he chose to quit. He, however, said that he reminded the president that he had brought it to his attention two weeks ago that a company he owned was part of a bidding consortium which submitted bids for Enugu Distribution Company.
The former minister further said that his time as a government official, first as special adviser to the president, and then as Power minister, has been fraught with all sorts of efforts to bring him down. He felt that rather than allow the naysayers destroy the entire process, it was better for him to leave.
“It is a huge conspiracy to scuttle the programme, but rather than drag the president and the programme down, I decided to tender my resignation,” he said.
Nnaji claimed to have put the power sector on track and believes that it would be difficult to derail the key power reforms which he started.
Meanwhile, despite his decision to resign, Prof. Nnaji has no intention yet of asking his power company, Gemetric Power to withdraw from the consortium bidding for Enugu Disco.
“As far as I am concerned, the bid is still alive,” Nnaji said.
“I know that they set up a new committee to re-evaluate the bids, but I don’t know if the process will still be fair after what has happened.”
However, a Thisday report said that Nnaji did not have any choice than to resign because the alternative would have been to get the sack from the president who was displeased with Nnaji for contravening the Code of Ethics.
Read the report below:
“The president had made up his mind by this morning, so if Nnaji had not resigned, he would have been sacked,” explained sources in the presidency.
Participation by two companies linked to Nnaji in the power privatisation process had compelled the NCP to cancel the technical bid evaluation process conducted for Afam and Enugu Disco last week.
The NCP, after its meeting last Friday, had announced the results of the technical evaluation conducted for the 25 bids it received last month for the six generation companies (Gencos).
From that process, seven bidders were said to have successfully met the cut-off mark of 750 and above during the technical evaluation process and were prequalified to have their financial bids opened on September 25.
However, the NCP was silent on the bidders that were prequalified for Afam Power Station owing to the potential conflict of interest that had arisen during the privatisation process.
An NCP source said that before the consideration of the report of the evaluation, Nnaji, who was a member of the NCP by virtue of his position as Minister of Power, had brought it to the attention of the council that O & M Solutions of Pakistan, a member of one of the consortia bidding for Afam, had worked as a contractor for Geometric Power.
The consortium, in which O & M Solutions has a stake, is Skipper Nigeria Limited, which had submitted technical and financial bids for Afam on July 17, the deadline set by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) for the submission of bids for the Gencos.
The minister also notified the NCP that Geometric Power has a minority stake in Eastern Electric Nigeria Limited, which had submitted technical and financial bids for Enugu Distribution Company Limited on July 31.
He went on to inform the council that owing to his position, he had notified the president of his company’s bid for Enugu Disco, and brought it to their attention that although he has an interest in Geometric Power, he had resigned from its board and transferred his shares to a blind trust.
Having been informed of Nnaji’s direct and indirect interest in two companies being privatised, the council decided to cancel the technical evaluation that had been conducted for Afam and disbanded the evaluation team.
It also decided to stop the evaluation of the Enugu Disco, which is still ongoing, and would likewise disband the evaluation team.
The decision to cancel the evaluation for both companies was premised on the fact that all major stakeholders, including the former power minister, had been asked to send nominees to participate in the evaluation process.
Coincidentally, Nnaji Tuesday afternoon had welcomed the NCP’s decision to disband the evaluation teams and re-evaluate the technical bids submitted for Afam and Enugu Discos in the wake of his admission that some members of the bidding consortia has links to a company he owns.
Nnaji said the NCP’s decision to re-evaluate the bids submitted by potential investors for Afam and Enugu Discos was necessary considering that justice should not only be done but also seen to have been done by all and sundry.