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Whistleblowers Seek EFCC Probe On Electricity Trading Company

The Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET) has come under the search light of Nigeria’s leading coalition of whistle blowers.

The corruption trackers want thorough investigation into the affairs of NBET and its Managing Director, Mrs. Marilyn Amobi.

The Coalition in a joint statement issued on Monday urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) to probe the management of NBET said to oversee millions of public funds sourced from electricity trade.

Led by Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) an international gadfly noted for its campaign against noxious funds said the EFCC should immediately probe suspected illicit transactions involving the NBET.

The petition to the EFCC was signed by HEDA’s Programme Officer, Mr Sina Odugbemi.

HEDA and its fellow members of Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom including the Premium Times Center 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 wrote the petition.

Others 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.

This petition is fuelled by earlier reports in Premium Times detailing a string of suspicious transactions involving NBET officials following corruption allegations communicated on LeaksNG, an online Whistleblower platform which HEDA is a member.

The listed allegations were 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 fraudulently deals which  disregarded the content of the PPA.

The PPA rules says 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 direct to the appropriate Central Pay Office for payment”

The Whistle blowers quoted a 2014 report that claimed NBET wrote the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) requesting to be excluded from being subjected to Bureau of Public Procurement (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, the Internal Audit was said to have received a request from Mrs. Amobi for payment of N30 million to two firms; Azinge and Azinge to be paid a contract sum of N14 million and Aelex N16 million respectively.

In the petition, the whistle blowers 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 and that in 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 Amob 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 whistle blowers 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, a request granted in June 2017 by the Accountant General of the Federation.

This resulted in the posting of Hauwa Bello from the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) to head the Internal Audit and Sambo Abdullahi to the Learning and Development, a newly created department at NBET, Waziri Bintube of the Finance Department was reposted to Risk and Guarantee, another department alleged created by Mrs. Amobi to victimise the two top officials.

A month earlier, Mrs Amobi according to the coalition  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 flouting the requirement of NBET charter which places the responsibility of recommending postings within the agency on the Human Resources Committee of NBET contained in 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 organisational structure and any proposed amendments.’

The Coalition appealed to the EFCC to   ensure that the above allegations are properly, effectively and painstakingly investigated with a view to punish corrupt officials.

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