Furore Over Renewal Of Manitoba Power Contract

By Sylvester Enoghase, Lagos

The Federal government last week renewed by one year the $23million contract granted to Manitoba Hydro International (MHI) for the management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), one of the successor companies of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

Opara  and Ajaero

Opara and Ajaero

The renewal of the contract followed the expiration of the initial three year contract, which is expected to end on July 31st, 2015.

According to the terms of reference of the initial contract, Manitoba was expected to turn TCN into a technically and financially efficient, stable, and sustainable company; a company that will be market-driven and capable of utilizing its maximum generation capacity and then distributing the energy throughout Nigeria 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The Canadian company was also to reorganize TCN such that the Transmission System Operation (TSP) becomes a separate entity from the Market Operator (MO) and System Operator (SO), allowing it to become a privatised commercial company.

The announcement of the renewal doused the uncertainty and speculations that the Canadian company would hands off the management of the nation’s power asset after the initial three year contract following the controversies which characterized the period.

One of such controversies led to the resignation in protest of former TCN board chairman, Hamman Tukur, who said the company was taking unilateral decisions to the detriment of the Nigerian government and the electricity sector.

He said: “Manitoba was given all sorts of power to the extent that certain decisions taken by Manitoba cannot be challenged by anybody.”

He was quoted to have said his resignation was because of the unilateral decisions that Manitoba was taking, including its usurpation of President Goodluck Jonathan’s powers.

He said by allowing Manitoba to appoint the company’s chief executive officer, former President Goodluck Jonathan had ceded his constitutional power to Manitoba.

The Senate Committee on Power also conducted investigation into the controversy surrounding the Manitoba power contract.

Sequel to this development, Former Minister of Power, Chinedu Nebo, was quoted to have said that government has now began a review of the contract so as to whittle down Manitoba’s  overblown powers.

“The board has so far reviewed the Schedule of Delegated Authority earlier issued to MHI, the management contractors for the utility company. It is therefore expected that the concern of the Nigerian public regarding the over-hyped powers of MHI would now be an issue of the past,” Nebo said.

“I am also aware that the board has also considered and made recommendations on some amendments to the management contract with a view to making MHI more responsive to the changing needs of TCN,” he added.

The Senate Committee on Power also conducted investigation into the controversy surrounding the Manitoba power contract.

However, in a statement, TCN announced that the Federal Government has signed a one-year extension of its current management contract with Manitoba.

It explained that the extension follows a three-year Management Contract signed in 2012 to manage TCN’s electrical power transmission, system operation and market operation undertakings, as well as train TCN personnel.

“The contract, which was signed by TCN, MHI and the Bureau of Public Enterprises, and which would expire on July 31, 2015, has now been extended to July 31, 2016.”

General Manager (Public Affairs) of TCN, Seun Olagunju, noted in the statement that Manitoba would continue to assume responsibility for the management and control of TCN’s entire operations, working alongside their Nigerian counterparts to transform the company into a technically and financially efficient, stable, and sustainable organisation.

She said by working with TCN staff, MHI has achieved a wheeling capacity of 5, 300 MW and reduced system losses from over 12 per cent to approximately eight per cent, adding that system collapses have reduced significantly, from 22 in 2013 to nine in 2014, while the duration of collapses has reduced from more than 2.5 hours to approximately 30 minutes.

But electricity workers under the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEC) picked holes in the government’s renewal of Manitoba’s power contract, saying that there were certain infractions committed by the former.

In a petition signed by its President-General, Comrade Bede Opara, and its General-Secretary, Comrade Abiodun Ogunsegha, the union contended that before the extension, government should have carefully and clearly evaluated the assignment and job carried out by MHI in improving transmission, and the wheeling capacity of the transmission line, with measurable milestones as contained in the contract.

The union also wondered why so much emphasis was placed on the contract renewal rather than an assessment of the impact that the MHI has had in improving and strengthening the operational capacities of the TCN.

They noted in the petition that: “It is not enough to lay claims to improving the power generation capacity that peaked at 4545MW recently, which was as a result of better and improved supply of gas to our thermal stations. It is necessary to ask how to raise the wheeling power of the TCN to accommodate and sustain increased/improved generation.

“It is also necessary that we know the structure the MHI has put in place to accommodate this increased generation in the nearest future. We are aware that a lot of generated MWs were lost due to the inability of the TCN in some locations to evacuate them into the grid.”

They  noted  that during the last contract period of three years, there was a glaring lack of coordination between the expatriate   and Nigerian teams in the TCN, adding that there was no team spirit amongst the management contractors, and also, between the management contractors and their Nigerian counterparts.

“We expect a better coordinated work regime, which regrettably, is absent. We also expect amongst other matters, serious and committed training programmes of Nigerians – an assignment that constitute part of the MHI contract.

“There is the need to look inwards in order to identify any challenge(s) that might negatively affect the schedules and plans by Nigerian operators or the management contractors. We expect the TCN as a technical arm of the Power Sector to be independent and insulated from partisanship political interests and influence.

The union advocated the need for an all-inclusive stakeholders meeting to re-evaluate, and design a practicable work plan that will ensure that the TCN plays its assigned role and achieves desired objectives.

In a chat with our correspondent, the president of SSEAEC said that the Canadian company did little or nothing to justify the huge sum of money Nigeria expended on the management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) in the last three years.

According to him, only a handful of expatriates actually worked on the project, which produced a minimal impact that can’t stand the test of time as far as transmission of power is concerned.

Before announcing the renewal, the National Union of Electricity Employee (NUEE) had raised an alarm over plot by some government officials to breathe fresh air into the Manitoba contract.

General-Secretary of the union, Comrade Joe Ajaero, who gave 34 reasons why workers in the sector had described Manitoba contractor as a failure, said the management contractor has failed to recognize best practices, cost effective solutions for quickly improving the TCN that were recommended by power sector expert.

He said management contractor rather chooses to seek private audience with government to plead that they are victims of circumstance instead of admitting their failure, saying that the market requires discipline and accountability not political posturing.

“If the administration is still confused over this matter, then the best solution is to have the management contractor and actual power sector experts sit together with it to address every issue so as to properly determine the fate of the TCN management contract,” he said.

Source : Independent

Tags: No tags

Comments are closed.