As tempers rise over the controversial sale of the Enugu Distribution Company, indications emerged at the weekend that the Federal Government may have bowed to pressures to clear the way for a meeting of the Technical Committee of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) to take a final decision to resolve the impasse.
THISDAY’s checks showed that a crucial meeting of the Technical Committee of the National Council on Privatisation has been fixed for Tuesday where the fate of Interstate Electrics, the winner of the bid will be decided amid fears in some quarters that the company, which failed to make the mandatory payment of $490 million at the close of the deadline on August 23, may not be able to muster enough resources to run the distribution company.
When contacted on Friday, the technical committee chairman, Mr. Atedo Peterside, confirmed the meeting but declined to talk further on the matter, saying it would be unfair to preempt the outcome of the crucial meeting.
In his response to THISDAY enquiries, Peterside said: “A meeting of the Technical Committee of the National Council on Privatisation has been convened for Tuesday morning. I am the Chairman of that Committee. It would be inappropriate for me to second-guess the outcome of a meeting, which has not even held.”
Although the outcome of the meeting is expected to be ratified by the NCP, sources said the Presidency wants the matter resolved as urgently as possible.
A newspaper report had quoted Peterside as blaming the leadership of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) for frustrating attempts by his committee to evaluate the controversial sale of the Enugu Distribution Company.
Interstate Electrics, the winner of the bid for the company, failed to make the mandatory payment of $490 million at the close of the deadline on August 23. However, the failure of BPE to invite the reserve bidder to take over the slot had incurred the anger of stakeholders in the region.
A source disclosed that the Presidency had to step in so as to give credibility to the privatisation programme by directing the BPE to make it possible for technical committee of NCP to meet on the matter without further delay.
Peterside was said to have been under pressure from the 23-member strong technical committee to call an urgent meeting.
He was quoted as saying that his committee was unable to meet as the BPE failed to release funds to pay for hotel bills and sitting allowances of the committee members, a development viewed as a veto of all the efforts to convene a meeting of the Technical Committee.
He was quoted as saying, “As you are all aware, the Technical Committee serves as an advisory/due process watchdog over the BPE and we are accountable to the NCP. Accordingly, I find the DG’s surreptitious attempt to keep us in the dark objectionable in the extreme.”
Following the passing of the deadline and the failure of Interstate to pay up, governors of the South Eastern states were said to have started mounting pressure on the presidency to intervene by calling the reserve bidder to purchase the power asset, but so far, the BPE appears bent on following a determined course, which has now called to question the integrity of the power privatisation programme.
Information from This Day was used in this report.