1. Interstate Electrics Ltd, the preferred bidder for the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, yesterday, August 29, 2003, paid a paltry $12m to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) out of the $93m it was expected to pay not later than August 21, 2003, as the outstanding 75% required to pay to assume the ownership of the electricity firm.
2. This amount is too little and too late. It represents a mere fraction of the $93m remaining 75% since it managed to pay 25% last May. It shows clearly that Interstate just does not have what it takes to run the Enugu Disco, nor does it have the technical experience to run a modern electricity business.
3. Indeed, it is befuddling that the BPE accepted the payment in the first place. Payments for the 15 power generation and distribution companies closed at 5pm on Wednesday, August, 21, 2003, that is, a whole eight days ago. All the bidders paid except Interstate, thus showing a profound lack of seriousness on the part of this consortium. This business needs a huge capital outlay, considerable technical skills and a realistic business plan. Enugu Disco has been in a dungeon for decades, like other companies created out of the highly corrupt and grossly inefficient Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
4. The reserved bidder, Eastern Electric, ought to have been invited immediately Interstate failed to pay up. Interestingly, Eastern Electric has pledged its readiness to pay the reserve price of $126m for the Enugu Disco. Given the involvement of respected international and Nigerian firms in this consortium, there is a good chance that Eastern Electric will do a good job.
5. The preference of the BPE and the NCP to give Enugu Disco, which is the sole supplier of electricity to the Southeast and parts of the South-South, to Interstate at all costs would seem to support the speculation making the round that some key officers in the Jonathan administration are hell bent on destroying socioeconomic life in Igboland.
6. The whole world is worried at the desperation of some compromised government officers to bend the rule for Interstate headed by a controversial government contractor, Emeka Offor, who is a leading member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Both the BPE and the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), headed by Vice President Namadi Sambo, owe the nation an explanation as to why they contemplated extending an unprecedented 20-day extension to only Offor’s Interstate when other bidders, including the ones promoted by former Heads of State, chose to abide by the rules.
7. When the BPE and the NCP last July turned down a bid by the Dangote Group for a generation facility because it was only 5 minutes late, the international community applauded the government’s desire to uphold the integrity of the privatization process. Also when a bid by Rockson Engineering Ltd, which is executing a number of key electricity projects for the Niger Delta power Holding Company, was rejected for being a couple of minutes late, we all hailed the action in the belief that we now had a government which did not care about whose ox was gored. Only two weeks ago, Notore Company, the new owner and manager of the National Fertiliser Company at Onne, Rivers State, was disqualified from bidding for a NDPHC project because it was 30 minutes late. So, what is special about Offor’s Interstate, which would not have been pre-qualified in the first place if not for the Nigerian factor?
8. President Jonathan has, through his inaction and silence, once again failed the nation when it mattered most. Still, it can still redeem itself to some extent by doing the right thing about the privatization of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company.
9. Interstate’s $12m is too little, too late.
Hon Godwin Inalemo
Dr Haruna Abubakar Suleiman