Senate orders probe into planned concession of 700MW Zungeru power plant
The Senate on Wednesday ordered its Committee on Power to investigate the circumstances and conditions under which the 700MW Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Plant, ZHPP in Niger State is being concessioned.
The probe also relates to the utilization of the annual budgetary allocations made to the project, the completion level and the management of external loans from the Chinese Exim Bank, which is tied to the project.
The committee is also to look into the fate of unsettled host communities where the project is sited, the adequacy or otherwise, of selection criteria for the concessionaire and to generally establish whether the proposed concession of ZHPP is an exercise that would ensure that government get the deserved value for funds expended on the project.
Similarly, the upper legislative chamber urged the National Council on Privatisation, NCP and its secretariat, the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE and other ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) concerned to suspend indefinitely, the proposed concession pending the conclusion of investigations by its committee and consequent adoption based on the findings and recommendations.
These resolutions were sequel to a motion on the "Need for Senate Intervention in the Ongoing Bid to Concession the Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Plant in Niger State" sponsored by Senators Gabriel Suswam (PDP Benue North East) and Yahaya Abdullahi (PDP Kebbi North) during plenary.
Leading debate on the motion, Senator Abdullahi said the 700MW ZHPP, which is considered to be the second largest hydroelectric power plant in Nigeria after Kainji Hydroelectric Power Station, also in Niger State, "was originally awarded in 2013 in the sum of $1.3billion."
He noted that apart from the huge loan secured by the federal government from the Chinese Exim Bank to fund the construction of ZHPP, the National Assembly has approved billions of naira annually through its budgetary appropriation powers towards the completion of the project.
Specifically, the Ex-Senate Leader disclosed that "over N43 billion was allocated to the ZHPP under the 2022 Appropriation Act and another N76.5 billion is being proposed by the Executive in the 2023 budget."
According to him, the project was expected to have been completed within 60 months from the date of execution of the contract in 2013, noting, in spite of that, that several factors have threatened the speedy completion of the project.
He further stated that "the NCP and BPE, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Power, had in compliance with the provisions of Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, invited interested investors to participate in a two-stage process that would lead to the selection of a concessionaire that would operate, maintain and manage the ZHPP for a minimum of 30 years."
Senator Abdullahi added that the Invitation for Submission of Request for Qualification, RFQ, was published in the media on October 27, 2022, while a road show was also organised to further create awareness of the exercise.
Contributing, Senators Sani Musa (APC Niger East), Sadiq Umar (APC Kwara North), Jibrin Barau (APC Kano North) and Yusuf A. Yusuf (APC Taraba Central) all queried the rush to concession the ZHPP after huge funding by the federal government and when the project is yet to be completed, and therefore kicked against the proposed concession.
In his remarks, the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan declared that the upper legislative chamber was not in support of the concession, warning that "if anyone approves it, we will reverse it because Senate is totally against it. Therefore, the NCP and BPE should suspend it."
He wondered why concession or privatisation always happens in the power sector, despite billions of naira being spent by the federal government.
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