From: Kemi Yesufu and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The House of Representatives, on Wednesday, mandated its Committee on Power as well as Banking and Currency Committee to investigate the payment of an estimated N2.8 billion as overtime charges for power equipment abandoned at ports.
The House condemned what it said was corruption surrounding the importation of the equipment procured by the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as a key intervention towards the un-bundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
The resolution of the House was subsequent to the adoption of a motion on the need to investigate the payment of over N2.8 billion for clearing overtime charges for equipment purchased for the then PHCN, National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) and the Federal Ministry of Power, sponsored by Gaza Jonathan Gbefwi.
In his lead debate on the motion, Gbefwi explained that between 2012/2013, the Federal Government procured the high-tech equipment with concessions in the form tax exemption to facilitate quick clearance.
The lawmaker expressed regret that rather than the equipment being cleared immediately, due to how critical they are to the success of the power sector reforms, they were left to rot at the ports.
Gbwefi also alleged that some of the equipment was “fraudulently” cleared by some DISCOS and GENCOS, hence the need for the House to thoroughly investigate the entire process of the importation of the equipment.
He added that the House ensure that the equipment taken by the DISCOs and GENCOs be retrieved as they weren’t imported into the country by them, rather they were purchased by the Federal Government.
“Those equipment which were granted priority at the time of procurement and should have been evacuated withing days of arrival were abandoned and now have been turned into a conduit pipe for siphoning billions of Naira from the government in the name of overtime charges and other sundry fees”, he said
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had in November 2016 approved the clearance of 218 containers of power equipment stranded at the ports due to suspension of the issuance of import duty exemption certificate for some period in 2014.
When put up for a voice vote by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, the motion was unanimously passed, with the joint Committee given three weeks to report back to the House for further legislative action.