Saturday, February 17, 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Infighting rocks Niger Delta power company over mega contracts

EXCLUSIVE: Infighting rocks Niger Delta power company over mega contracts
February 01
08:21 2018
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The Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) — one of Nigeria’s biggest hopes of attaining steady power supply — is in the throes of serious infighting over allegations ranging from fraudulent award of multibillion naira contracts to insubordination.

At the centre of the biggest allegations is one Nkechi Mba, the general manager of procurement.

In a petition addressed to the house of representatives, a whistleblower group called “Citizens United Against Corruption” described Mba as the “body, soul and spirit” of all that is wrong in the company.

She was also accused of favouring companies she allegedly has interest in the procurement process.

The petitioners accused Chiedu Ugbo, the managing director, of abdicating his authority to Mba, whom TheCable understands had been lobbying for years to be made an executive director.

“The ethnic champions are being led by one Nkechi Mba, a general manager and head, procurement department. NDPHC is today being run by this woman as the de facto MD/CEO – thanks to Chiedu Ugbo,” the petitioners wrote.

Ugbo has strongly denied any wrongdoing, informing TheCable that nobody can fault him on due process because he follows it diligently in all transactions.

But Mba dared TheCable to publish the allegations and be slammed with a law suit.

“If you publish the allegations, I will sue you and ask the court to force you to reveal the identities of the petitioners. I will show you that I am a lawyer,” she said.

‘MASSIVE CORRUPT SCHEME’

One Michael Adeyanju, who signed on behalf of the petitioners, alleged that upon assumption of office, Ugbo wrote an internal memorandum redeploying staff across various departments “in favour of a section of the country”.

He said with the “stage now set”, they launched a “massive corrupt scheme” by initiating inappropriate award process for the procurement of goods and services in clear breach of all known requirements of the public procurement act.

“Some of the transactions which are patently tainted by corruption, abuse of office, conflict of interest and fraud are enumerated below, in addition to other sundry irregularities and impunities,” the petition read.

“Fraudulent approval and payment for unapproved extra works totalling a most 350,000,000 (Three Hundred and Fifty Million Naira only) to a transmission Contractor – Messrs. Chris Ejik International Agencies Limited under the Lot-l 4T Transmission Project.

Ugbo, the NDPHC MD, joins Babatunde Fashola, minister of power, to inspect a power project

“In this carefully orchestrated scandal, the sum of N243,854,285.30 was paid for an unapproved and non-existing and non-verifiable extra works on New Abeokuta Transmission substation (Lot 14-E) while N104,458,969.89 was paid on Papalanto-Old- Abeokuta, New Abeokuta 132 KV DC Transmission Lines (Lot 14-C).

“This triggers a conflict of interest, abuse of office and corruption. A simple desktop google check of the website of Benchmac & Ince will reveal this while the list of firms engaged by legal department can be obtained from the Department thus authenticating this grave allegation.

“Over N42 million naira was paid to the firm in one of the legal briefs awarded to it in clear breach of established due process. This is clearly against the provision of the Code of conduct for Public Officers which forbids a Public Officer from putting himself in a  position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.”

In a memo seen by TheCable, Ifeoluwa Oyedele, NDPHC executive director, engineering and technical services, queried Sinclair Anih, head of maintenance and operations, accusing him of attempting to defraud the company.

In the query dated November 28, 2017, Oyedele said Anih directed Messrs Savvytech Limited to place orders for air in-let to the tune of N270,958,485.

Oyedele said it was not within the powers of Anih to make the order, adding that the “contract sum is above the threshold of the EXCO”.

Anih, however, replied, saying he gave the directive under the impression that it had been approved by the management of the NDPHC.

Ugbo with Osinbajo at a programme on the power sector in Abuja

In another document seen by TheCable, Oyedele accused Mba of bribery, corruption and insubordination.

Mba had written a petition against Oyedele, to which he replied, saying “Mba is the transgressor who now wants to pretend to be the victim in this matter”.

Oyedele alleged that Mba had been invited to defend an unapproved processing of a contract for the construction of Ogwuaji road in the “princely sum” of N649, 218, 186.90.

He also alleged that Mba approached him to facilitate bribing of some unnamed officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“A few weeks after my resumption in NDPHC, Mrs. Mba approached me and pleaded with me to prevail on the MD to yield to her advice for the NDPHC to offer finanacial incentives (or bribe) to officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) so they could accelerate the release to NDPHC of the sum of N8.1 billion which was then due to the latter from the Nigerian Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility (NEMSF) representing legacy debts owed to both generation companies and gas suppliers by power distribution companies,” Oyedele wrote.

“I was, to state the least, shocked to my bone marrow! I had thought that such brazen effrontery could not come from a junior officer to a superior officer especially in the change era that we are in.

“It took me few seconds to gather myself together and I wasted no further time to upbraid her on her impunity, warning that I would not be a party to such dishonourable act.

“Perhaps, the major reason why Mrs. Nkechi Mba will want me out of the way is my continued opposition to the unprofessional manner procurement is being handled and the many illegalities being committed by Mrs. Mba under this management.”

He said on more than five occasions, he stopped the award of “loaded and frivolous” contracts unilaterally processed for award by Mba.

“These contracts planned using incompetent companies are drain pipes aimed at siphoning the resources of the company,” he wrote.

Oyedele listed the contracts to include:

  • Sand-blasting and treatment of GT Exhaust Stack in Lot- Sapele (226,874,993)
  • Lot-2 – Calabar (N283,189,144) and Lot 3- Ihovbor (N229,844,913) all in the total sum of N737,909,050.
  • Technical audit of 2 Nos. 128 MW and Dual Fired Turbine Power Plants in Delta and Ebonyi states in the sum of N132,250,000.
  • Re-certification of cranes at Alaoji and Olorunsogo in the sum of N104,081,250
  • Calibration of meters in the GMS stations in the sum of N550,000,000.

Meanwhile, the group has called on Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who was instrumental to the appointment of Ugbo, to probe the allegations. Osinbajo is chairman of the NDPHC board of directors.

Copies of the petition were sent to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), according to the group.

‘WE DID NOTHING WRONG’

When TheCable reached Ugbo, he strongly denied all the allegations.

In the statement later sent to TheCable,  Yakubu Lawal, the NDPHC general manager, communications and public relations, said the petitioner has no evidence to support the accusations.

He described the allegations as “completely false and lacking in substance, and a mere exercise of the twisted imagination of the writer”.

“Our executive management committee (“ExCo”), the highest operating organ of NDPHC, comprises the managing director/CEO (“MD/CEO”), Mr. Chiedu Ugbo from the south-south (Delta state), an executive director, finance and administration (“ED, F&A”), Mr. Babayo Shehu, from the north-east (Bauchi state), and an executive director, Engineering & Technical Services (“ED, E&TS”), from the south-west (Ondo state),” he said.

“Each of the 8 persons that is currently a general manager (“GM”) in NDPHC had been so appointed and held his or her current portfolios prior to the appointment of the current members of the ExCo by the FGN in 2016 (save for one reassignment to adjust for a GM that had been an ED in acting capacity).

“Of the NDPHC’s GMs, 1 is from the north-west, two from the north-central, two from the south-east and three from the south-west.”

Responding to the allegations of improper procurement and breach of the public procurement act, Lawal said the company had been using the services of the current law firms before the appointment of the new executives.

He also said the contract for the construction of the Ugwuaji road, as raised by the petitioner, has not been awarded.

He explained that the installation of the CCTV was due to misinformation.

According to him, Chubas Ideal Communications Limited, the company involved, was asked to survey and suggest security equipment required at the plants.

He said, however, the company went ahead to fix the cameras without approval from NDPHC.

“Most of the law firms that provide services to NDPHC had been proving legal services to the company prior to the appointment of the current MD/CEO,” the statement read.

“The contract for this road is yet to be awarded by NDPHC. The road leads to a town that hosts one of the major transmission substations constructed by NDPHC and in which NDPHC still maintains a large warehouse.

“The road was seriously damaged during the construction process. NDPHC’s heavy equipment and machinery continue to ply the road.  This has been a source of agitation for repair of the road by the host community.

“On the contract for CCTV at two power plants, when management refused to pay for the equipment since there was no contract, Chubas reported its non-payment to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (“ICPC”).

“As part of its efforts to resolve the matter, NDPHC decided to pay for the work done, but only upon audit and verification of the works.”

Lawal also addressed issues such as the security guards who were replaced and virtually all the allegations of the petitioners, describing them as “false”.

ABOUT NDPHC

NDPHC is fully owned by federal, state and local governments with a mandate to manage the power projects under the  National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP).

Currently, 10 power stations across the country have been completed or are still under construction by NDPHC: Alaoji (1,074MW) in Abia state, Ihovbor (451MW) in Edo state, Calabar (563MW) in Cross River state, Egbema (338MW) in Imo state, Olorunsogo in Ogun state, Gbaran (225 MW) in Bayelsa state, Omotosho (451MW) in Ondo state, Geregu (434 MW) in Kogi state and Omoku (225MW) in Rivers state.

It has over 110 transmission in 27 bundles and about 250 distribution projects.

The NIPP power stations are expected to add about 4,774MW of electricity to the national grid network when completed.


This is a special investigative project by Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (CNJF) in partnership with TheCable, supported by the MacArthur Foundation. Published materials are not the views of the MacArthur Foundation.

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Copyright 2018 TheCable. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.thecable.ng as the source.
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