• Contractors, power tussle, others threaten NIPP projects
• Why minister was transferred
• Presidency ‘helpless’ as contractors frustrate scheme
A VITAL platform on which the Federal Government’s electricity reforms rest remains shaky despite all efforts to shore it up.
The National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) which was nearly stalled by power tussle and conflict of interests years back seems to be bogged down again by these issues.
And following the withdrawal of police officers from private individuals and facilities, the kidnapping of officials of NIPP contracting firms has been on the increase. Also on the increase, The Guardian learnt Wednesday, is the vandalism and theft of sensitive items at the sites of the contractors.
This is coming as fresh facts emerged on Tuesday on why former Minister of State for Power, Darius Ishaku, was redeployed. The Guardian learnt that the man took an action that is now affecting the delivery date of the NIPP.
Late September, Ishaku visited the Ikorodu Port of the Nigeria Customs and Excise to receive the inventory of all the power equipment at their custody since 2004.
Taking delivery of these items from the Comptroller of the Port, Dan Ogu, who represented the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs, the minister had thanked the customs for protecting these equipment from vandals all these years and immediately directed that the facilities be immediately distributed to all successor companies of the PHCN. He noted that a distribution committee would be set up to identify areas of need to enable each company to take delivery of the available equipment. Many of the equipment were NIPP facilities.
This action, which The Guardian learnt, has hindered the progress of many of the NIPP and the contractors are still battling to rescue the very sensitive items from the PHCN formations where most of the equipment were deployed in error.
A furious President Goodluck Jonathan on hearing of this development and its implications for the scheduled completion of the projects had called for Ishaku’s head.
In a related development, it was learnt on Tuesday that the end of the 2013 completion date for the turning on of most of the NIPP power plants may still be far-fetched as contractors seem to be holding government to ransom over their inability to complete their NIPP sites on schedule.
Sources close to the various power sector stakeholders told The Guardian that many of the contractors had devised means of delaying the completion of their projects so that their contract dates would expire and they would rush to government to pay variations in the amount approved for the projects.
“Government is aware of this trick and seems hand-tied in handling the issue,” a source said.
Another source who attempted to explain the handicap in dealing with the contractors told The Guardian that, just like in the oil and gas industry, there was serious power play in the way the contractors are behaving, “especially considering that many of them are friends to those in the corridors of power.”
In March this year, Vice President Namadi Sambo put paid to the several attempts by the contractor handling the construction of NIPP Lot 4 330 KV substation at Ikot-Ekpene to return to site despite the termination of the contract by the Niger Delta Power Holding Company of Nigeria.
The management of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company had last November terminated the project for alleged non-performance by the contractor six years after the contract was awarded.
But the National Assembly immediately made spirited efforts to save the contractor from the suspension to no avail.
The Guardian learnt that Sambo, who chaired a meeting of the board of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company earlier in the year endorsed the suspension placed on the defaulting contractors and gave an order for the site to be re-awarded to a more competent firm to ensure that the project makes remarkable progress before the rainy season sets in.
The Guardian was told yesterday that the suspended contractor had since returned to site based on interventions from “those that matter.”
Also this year, Sambo issued standing instructions to contractors handling NIPP to ensure that the projects reach at least 50 per cent completion by the middle of the year.
A few weeks to the end of the year 2012, there are strong indications that the projects are far behind the target set by the government.
The NIPP was conceived by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 2004 as a fast approach to solving the country’s electricity challenges.
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