The House of Representatives has said that the country had lost revenue in excess of N15 billion from alleged unauthorised sale, leasing and transfer of non-core assets of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
The non-core assets are properties of the PHCN not directly used for power generation or distribution. They were not included in the assets sold to private-sector investors in the wake of the full privatisation of the sector, which started in 2011.
The assets were said to have been retained by the Federal Government as public property and handed over to the Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO) for coordination.
However, many Nigerians had petitioned the House, alleging that some of the assets were either sold, stolen, leased, vandalised or transferred to some persons without due process.
The House had mandated its Sub-Committee on Power/Privatisation/Procurement to investigate the alleged “shady deals” with a view to recovering the losses.
The committee opened a public hearing on the issue at the National Assembly in Abuja on Monday.
The Lead Chairman of the probe panel, Rep Gaza Jonathan, stated that while the government’s plan of keeping the assets in the care of NELMCO was to sell them and use part of the proceeds to offset the liabilities of PHCN, not much of the objective had been achieved.
Jonathan, while giving details, said, “It will interest you to note that a conservative investigation has revealed monumental losses to the government and the people of Nigeria in excess of about N15bn as a result of under-leases, unauthorised sales, misappropriation of funds, abuse of process and outright negligence.
“In consideration of the present financial and economic times when the country is facing harsh realities caused by recession, it has come as a great concern to the House that on the transfer of these assets, many of them are being leased at undervalued rates, while others are gifted out to distribution companies and some even diverted.”
Jonathan added that the scope of the investigation covered non-core assets sold from the “era of Niger Dam, Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, National Electric Power Authority, PHCN and NELMCO.”
On Monday, the committee grilled officials of NELMCO; the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE); power firms and heads of agencies directly linked with the transactions.
The BPE confirmed that the assets were indeed handed over to NELMCO, noting that they were initially being sold “without coordination.”
The Director General of the BPE, Mr. Alex Okoh, told the committee that the National Council on Privatisation intervened by taking over the assets from NELMCO and placing them under a new assets sales committee.
However, he disclosed that when the current All Progressives Congress government took over power in 2015, NELMCO wrote to the NCP to complain that it was its responsibility to oversee the sales.
Okoh stated that the NCP, now under Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, looked into the complaints of NELMCO, following which the assets were returned to NELMCO again.
“Up till now, the sales have not commenced. We are still waiting for the approval of the NCP,” he said.
On its part, NELMCO made a presentation to the committee to admit that following an audit of the assets done internally, there was a “revealing report” on how the assets were managed in the past.
SweetCrude reported that The Managing Director of NELMCO, Mr. Adebayo Fegbemi, said,
“There was an audit. We reviewed the entire stock. The report is revealing. We have yet to dispose of the assets. We are planning the sales to ensure that we comply with government’s guidelines on the sale of public assets.”
When he was asked for the total stock of the assets, the MD said a reliable answer could only come after a “comprehensive audit of all the assets” that were transferred to NELMCO at various times.