By Adedapo Adesanya
In its latest round of seeking accountability, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the World Bank President, Mr David Malpass, to publish details of electricity projects funded by the lender in Nigeria since 1999.
According to an application dated February 6, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation called for the release of archival records and documents relating to spending on all approved funds to improve access to electricity in Nigeria between 1999 and 2020.
It demanded to know the bank’s role in the implementation of any funded electricity projects and to identify and name any executed projects, and Nigerian officials, ministries, departments and agencies involved in the execution of such projects.
This is coming after the World Bank board of directors last week approved $500 million to help boost access to electricity in Nigeria and improve the performance of the electricity distribution companies in the country.
SERAP urged the bank to “explain the rationale for the approval of $500 million to implement electricity projects in the country, despite reports of widespread and systemic corruption in the sector, and the failure of the authorities to enforce a court judgment ordering the release of details of payments to allegedly corrupt electricity contractors who failed to execute any projects.”
SERAP said: “This application is brought pursuant to the World Bank’s Access to Information Policy, which aims to maximize access to information and promote the public good.
“There is a public interest in Nigerians knowing about the bank’s supervisory role and specifically its involvement in the implementation of electricity projects, which it has so far funded.”
According to SERAP, the $500 million is part of the over $1 billion available to Nigeria under the project titled Nigeria Distribution Sector Recovery Program.
“We would be grateful for details of any transparency and accountability mechanisms under the agreement for the release of funds, including whether there is any provision that would allow Nigerians and civil society to monitor the spending of the money by the government, its agencies, and electricity distribution companies,” it said.
SERAP noted that should the Bretton Wood Institution fail and/or refuse to release the information and documents as requested, it would file an appeal to the Secretariat of the Bank’s Access to Information Committee to challenge any such decision, and if it becomes necessary, to the Access to Information Appeals Board.
SERAP added that it may also consider other legal options outside the bank’s Access to Information framework.
The letter copied to Mr Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, read in part: “SERAP believes that releasing the information and documents would enable Nigerians and civil society to meaningfully engage in the implementation of electricity projects funded by the Bank, contribute to the greater public good, and enhance the Bank’s oft-stated commitment to transparency and accountability.
“The World Bank has been and continues to be involved in overseeing the transfer, disbursement, spending of funds on electricity projects in Nigeria. The Bank also reportedly approved a $750 million loan for Nigeria’s electricity sector in June 2020 to cut tariff shortfalls, protect the poor from price adjustments, and increase power supply to the grid. As such, the World Bank is not a neutral party in this matter.
“SERAP is seriously concerned that the funds approved by the Bank are vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. The World Bank has a responsibility to ensure that the Nigerian authorities and their agencies are transparent and accountable to Nigerians in how they spend the approved funds for electricity projects in the country, and to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.
“SERAP also believes that the release of the requested information and documents is of paramount importance to the public interest in preserving the legitimacy, credibility, and relevance of the Bank as a leading international development institution. The Bank ought to lead by example in issues such as transparency and public disclosure raised in this request.
“It would also demonstrate that the Bank is willing to put people first in the implementation of its development and governance policies and mandates, as well as remove any suspicion of the Bank’s complicity in the alleged mismanagement of electricity projects-related funds.
“The information is also being sought to improve the ongoing fight against corruption in the country and the provision of regular and uninterrupted electricity supply to Nigerians as a fundamental human right.
“The information requested is not affected by the “deliberative” “corporate administrative matters” or “security and safety” exceptions under the Policy. The information requested is crucially required for Nigerians to know how the funds released to the authorities to improve electricity supply in the country have been spent, and monitor how the funds are being used.
It contended that it was necessary to do this as the country had not benefit as it should from the financing, it cited its report titled: From Darkness to Darkness: How Nigerians are paying the price for Corruption in the Electricity Sector which documents widespread and systemic corruption in the electricity sector, and reveals how about N11 trillion electricity fund was squandered by successive administrations in Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999.
“This report raises specific questions of public interest, and the World Bank ought to be concerned about how Nigerian authorities are addressing reports of widespread and systemic corruption in the electricity sector, and to seek some answers from the authorities on the problems.
“However, as the report shows, the Bank’s funding of the electricity sector has not resulted in corresponding access of Nigerians to the regular and uninterrupted electricity supply. Successive governments have failed to provide access to regular and reliable electricity supply to millions of the citizens despite budgeting trillions of naira for the power sector.
“Millions of Nigerians still lack access to free pre-paid meters. Authorities continue to use patently illegal and inordinate estimated billing across the country, increasing consumer costs, and marginalizing Nigerians living in extreme poverty, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly.”
It reiterated that the World Bank leadership has to disclose information on agreements and the mechanisms the bank is putting in place to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of all funds on electricity projects in Nigeria.
Reps Invite PenCom, PTAD Over Failure to Pay Pensioners
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The Director-General of the National Pension Commission (PenCom) and the Executive Secretary of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) have been asked to explain to the House of Representatives Committees on Pension and Public Service Matters why they have failed to pay federal civil service retirees their pensions for nine months.
This directive was given to the officials after a lawmaker from Edo State, Mr Sergius Ose-Ogun, moved a motion on the matter on the floor of the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja on Tuesday.
Also to appear before the panels are the Head of Service (HoS) of the federation and the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGoF).
Presiding over the plenary today, the Speaker of the House of Reps, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, directed the teams to investigate the alleged non-payment of pension to the retirees by PTAD within four weeks and report back to the lower parliament with their findings.
While moving his motion today, Mr Ose-Ogun described as “unacceptable” the claims by PTAD that the non-payment was caused by technological glitches, specifically from the AGoF and the Government Integrated Financial Management System (GIFMIS).
According to him, the failure of the agency to pay pensioners’ monthly pensions and gratuities under the “Defined Benefits Scheme for the said period of nine months…amounts “to gross incompetence and ineffectiveness” as Section 32(b) of the Pension Reform Act Cap P4 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 saddles PTAD with the responsibility of carrying out functions aimed at ensuring the welfare of pensioners.
He said emphasised that Section 14(2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides that the security and welfare of the people of Nigeria shall be the primary purpose of government.
He used the opportunity for the House to look into the matter based on Section 88 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), which empowers the National Assembly to conduct investigations into the activities of any authority executing or administering laws made by the National Assembly.
INEC Gives Tinubu, Obi July 15 Deadline to Confirm Running Mates
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has given presidential candidates of the various political parties partaking in the 2023 general elections until July 16, 2022, to confirm their running mates.
Nigerians head to the polls next year to elect someone to replace President Muhammadu Buhari, who leaves office on May 29, 2023, after he must have served a two-term of eight years.
Early this month, most political parties held their presidential primaries and while names have been submitted to the electoral umpire, there are speculations that things may still change.
The latest announcement is coming after the electoral body released the list of candidates of political parties for the 2023 general elections and it includes names of presidential candidates and their vice-presidential selections, as well as senatorial and House of Representatives candidates.
Presidential candidates on the list are Mr Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and his running mate, Mr Ibrahim Masari; and Mr Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his running mate, Mr Ifeanyi Okowa.
Others are Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and his running mate, Mr Doyin Okupe; and Mr Osita Nnadi of the Action Peoples Party (APP) and his running mate, Mr Isa Hamisu.
The other presidential candidates are Mr Abiola Kolawole of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and his running mate, Mr Ribi Marshal; Mr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and his running mate, Mr Johnson Oladipupo; Mr Yabagi Sani of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) and his running mate, Mr Udo Okey-Okoro; Mr Ado-Ibrahim Abdulmalik of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) and his running mate, Mr Enyinna Kasarachi.
Also are Mr Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC) and his running mate, Mr Garba Magashi; Mr Mamman Dantalle of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and his running mate, Mrs Ojei Princess; Mr Chukwudi Umeadi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and his running mate, Mr Koli Mohammed; Mr Oluwafemi Adenuga of the Boot Party (BP) and his running mate, Mr Turaku Mustapha; Mr Daberechukwu Nwanyanwu of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and his running mate, Mr Ramalan Abubakar; Mr Dumebi Kachikwu of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) and his running mate, Mr Ahmed Mani; and Mr Hamsa Almustafa, presidential candidate, Action Alliance (AA) and his running mate, Mr Chukwuka Johnson.
The duo of Mr Tinubu and Mr Obi, while submitting their running mates, claimed they may still change them after consultations with key stakeholders.
The timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections released by INEC indicate that political parties have less than 20 days to withdraw or replace their candidates and running mates for the presidential and National Assembly elections.
Nigeria’s presidential and National Assembly elections have been slated for February 25, 2023, while governorship and state assembly elections will be held on March 11, 2023.
Initially, February 18, 2023, was chosen for the presidential poll but the date was amended after the signing of the amendments to the Electoral Bill by President Buhari.
Eaton Calls for Stoppage of Sulphur Hexafluoride Gas
By Adedapo Adesanya
Leading power management company, Eaton Nigeria, has advocated the regulation of sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) gas usage in electrical power distribution networks.
This call was made during the company’s Power & Water Nigeria Exhibition and Conference 2022, an event that connects the Nigerian utility industry.
The event which was organised by Vertex Global services saw the participation of experts and exhibitors from over 20 countries.
The gathering enabled global stakeholders to access engaging technical discussions, on-the-spot assessment of the region’s opportunities in power generation, distribution, renewables, and water & utility sectors; as well as exhibitions from leading local and international suppliers.
During his presentation on the topic, A Call to Action on the ‘dirtiest’ greenhouse gas in clean energy, Mr Charles Iyo, Regional Sales Manager Eaton West Africa said “Sulphur hexafluoride gas which is used in the production of most switchgears remains one of the world’s potent greenhouse gases that adversely affect the environment. 1kg of SF6 is equivalent to 23,500 Kg of CO2 in global warming potential, and each unit of switchgear is estimated to use 2.5 kg of SF6 gas; which makes it devastatingly dangerous to the climate.”
“Government in Africa, especially Nigeria needs to take proactive measures such as implementing new regulations to ban the use of SF6 Gas in switchgear production. Also, regulatory bodies and industry stakeholders need to collaborate and elevate industry practice and policies to implement the use of SF6 free technology thereby creating a safe and sustainable future,” he added.
Mr Iyo further highlighted SF6-free alternatives that could positively combat climate change, saying the adoption of vacuum technology is considered a safe, compact and reliable alternative to SF6 gas in the production of switchgears.
Eaton has been at the forefront of advocating the elimination of SF6 gas globally. The power management company pioneered SF₆ free medium voltage switchgear production in 1960 with Magnefix, a compact solution for distribution system operators.
The various range of SF6 free switchgears are produced with environmentally friendly technology in comparison with the methods used by many other suppliers, which use SF6 as insulation gas.
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