Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Electricity: TCN management contract may collapse

PHCN power station
The contract between the Federal Government and a Canadian firm, Manitoba, for the management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria may go awry following the stripping of Manitoba of powers to control human resource and finance at the company.
Investigation by our correspondent showed that the Canadian firm, which in July sealed a N3.72bn deal to manage TCN, one of the successor companies carved out of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, had lost its powers to manage the organisation at the insistence of PHCN workers.
With this development, the PHCN workers are to control both the human and financial resources at the company, while Manitoba employees seconded to Nigeria will be responsible for the technical expansion of the nation’s power grid.
While 17 other PHCN successor companies were slated for either privatisation or concession in the ongoing power sector reform programme of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Federal Government retained 100 per cent ownership in TCN.
However, in order to ensure effective management as well as expansion of the national grid, TCN was slated for management contract for an initial period of three years.
The management contractor was expected not only to expand the grid within the period of the contact, but also to ensure that Nigerian workers were effectively trained to fill the skill gap that had been identified.
However, the PHCN workers had consistently opposed the planned takeover of the human resource and market operator functions of TCN by the Canadian firm, arguing that it would render them redundant.
They feared that the Canadian firm could also embark on cutting down the staff strength of the organisation as well as clip the wings of the workers in determining who gets what.
Given the opposition of the workers, the Federal Government under the former Minister of Power, Prof. Bart Nnaji, used security agents, including police and army officers to ensure that Manitoba took charge on July 30.
However, it was learnt that following the exit of Nnaji, the workers resumed their opposition against Manitoba until the Federal Government succumbed to their pressure and stripped Manitoba of the human resource and market operation functions.
The workers had perceived Nnaji as a hardliner, who was not ready to shift position in the pursuit of the power sector reform, and employed every strategy to frustrate him.
Our correspondent learnt that without the market operation and human resource functions, the management contract was empty and it would be difficult to hold Manitoba responsible if the contract failed.
The Chief Executive Officer sent to TCN by Manitoba, Mr. Don Priestman, had on Friday, said two months into the contract, the Federal Government had yet to issue the Canadian firm the Delegated Authority it required to work.
The Executive Chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Dr. Sam Amadi, told our correspondent in a telephone interview that he was aware of the fight by the workers to strip Manitoba of the principal functions.
“I don’t know whether anybody has removed the functions or not, but certainly not from NERC. The workers were pressing for this. The contract said Manitoba is in charge,” Amadi said.
The President, National Union of Electricity Employees, Federal Capital Territory Chapter, Mr. Wisdom Nwachukwu, also told our correspondent on the telephone that the workers pressed for Manitoba to be stripped of the principal functions.
He said, “Initially, they said that their contract was only technical. We said they should show us a copy of the contract and they did not. It was later that we found that their contract included market operations and administration.
“We argued that if those functions were removed from us, nothing would remain of PHCN. We pressed for the revision of the contract. I don’t know what the situation is now because I had been sick and hospitalised.”
The spokesman for Bureau of Public Enterprises, Mr. Chukwuma Nwokoh, did not pick calls made to his mobile phone.
The Canadian firm, which signed the management contract deal with BPE on July 23, 2012, has already been paid a significant part of its management fee. It has also sent an eight-man team to the country for the turnaround of TCN, according to the terms of the contract.
Within the three-year period of the deal, Nigerian workers are expected to understudy the operations of the Canadian firm.
source: punchng

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