Rivers ex-accountant general confirms $274.5m receipt for power plants
CONTRARY to claims that $302.9 million was paid by NG Power Limited to acquire the 70 per cent equity in four power plants owned by Rivers State, the judicial commission of inquiry has instead been told that $274.5 million was the amount.
The Justice George Omereji-led panel, which is probing the administration of former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, had also uncovered a report by Akintola Williams consulting firm, which indicted the state government of failing to disclose detailed information regarding the exact cost of building the four gas turbines as at the time it sold the plants.
The immediate past Accountant General of the state, Ngozi Abu, told the commission sitting in Port Harcourt yesterday that he was hearing for the first time that the sum of $302,960.000.00 was paid for the acquisition of the Omoku (150 megawatts), Trans Amadi (136 megawatts), Afam (180 megawatts) and Eleme (75 megawatts) gas turbines by NG Power HPS Limited, an affiliate of Sahara Energy Resources Limited.
Abu explained that prior to the sale of the facilities, the state government had opened naira and domiciliary accounts designated as “ sale of power asset” respectively with Access Bank, adding that on the 30 October and 8 November 2013, the sum of $35 million and $15 million were paid respectively into the account.
He stated that on the 7 November 2014, the sum of N7,975,425,757.94 was credited from NG Power to the ‘sale of power asset account.’ But by the December 1, 2014, the money was an equivalent of $50 million at the time it was moved to another state project account in Zenith Bank.
He further revealed that on the 21 November 2014, the sum of $141.3 million hit the power coffers. While On 23 December 2014, $33, 203,594.59 was credited to the power asset sales account.
Abu reaffirmed that he was only aware of $ 274,503,559.59 as the amount paid into the power asset sale account and not $302.9 million claimed by NG Power Limited, stressing that he only received a mandate from the immediate past governor to remit $23 million to Saipiem which was the contractor handling the 180mw Afam 2 power project out of the $33 million that came in November 2014.
The former accountant general revealed that he could not account for the shortfall of $28.4 million. He said that on 8 December 2014, he had declined to counter-sign an authorisation for the transfer of the $17,900.0000 million and $ 3 million respectively from the power asset sale account to a bureau de change, capital index account, because there was no mandate from the governor. According to him, the money was moved to the bureau de change on the order of the Director of Treasury and Commissioner of Finance.
Counsel to the panel, Dr. Zaccheaus Adangor, while cross-examining the Chief Operating Officer and Technical Adviser of NG Power, Dr. George Oluwande, said evidence from the documents submitted by the company indicated that they had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the state government for the sale of the power plants even before the state had officially made its intention known.
Adangor also faulted the failure of the firm to provide evidence of acknowledgement by the state government of the purported receipt of the $302.9 million paid for the 70 per cent equity share.
When asked how the company got to know that the state government intended to privatise the power project since there was no publication for interested companies to bid, Oluwande explained that as the contractor operating and maintaining the plants, they were privileged to get the information.
Probed why it was Sahara Energy Resources that obtained the loan which NG power HPS used to acquire the plants, Oluwande said that the syndicate banks were not willing to raise the money, so they had to use a sister company.
The counsel observed that though the contractual agreement between the state and NG Power HPS which gave the company right of first refusal in the event that it wanted to sell the turbines in Omoku and Trans Amadi, the MOU signed with the government explicitly stated that the first advance payment of $20 million shall apply in Afam 2 power plant.
Oluwande, however, insisted that his company paid $302,960.000 for the facility. He explained that after effecting payments, the state government signed off on the shareholder agreement and management of First Independent Power Limited for NG Power HPS.
Oluwande disclosed that NG Power HPS was the a special vehicle set up to acquire the shares in the power plants, with the support of its Korean technical partner, Hankuk Power Services Limited, a leading provider of technical services globally.