By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—THE Senate has begun a probe into how over N2 billion fund, including accrued interest, collected on behalf of the Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission, HYPPADEC, was expended.
Against this backdrop, the Senate yesterday mandated its Committees on Power, Steel Development & Metallurgy, and Public Accounts to summon the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC; the market operator, MO; relevant Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs and Electricity Generation Companies, GENCOs, to render a detailed account of the total amount, including interest collected on behalf of HYPPADEC.
According to the upper chamber, the appearance of the Minister and heads of these agencies of government will enable it establish the status of the commission’s funds, and report back in two weeks.
The resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a motion by Senator David Umaru, APC, Niger East, entitled, “Funds accruing to the Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission.” It was co- sponsored by 13 other senators..
The Senate also directed NERC to comply with the earlier one-S/Res/016/01/15 of Tuesday, 11th August, 2015 wherein it was urged to comply with the provisions of Section 32(1)(g) of Electric Power Sector Reform Act, ESPRA regarding the submission of quarterly reports to the National Assembly.
It, however, commended the legislative and executive arms for the renewed effort towards the takeoff of HYPPADEC and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to approve the constitution and inauguration of the governing council of the commission.
The Senate also urged both arms of government to sustain the present synergy aimed at ensuring the immediate takeoff of the commission in the interest of affected communities.
In his presentation, Senator Umaru David, said: “The Senate notes that section 1 of the Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC) Act, 2010 established the Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas (Commission) to among other reasons conceive, plan and implement projects for the physical development of hydroelectric power producing areas; implement all measures approved by the Federal Government for development of hydroelectric power producing areas ; and tackle ecological problems associated with operation of hydroelectric dams in the Members States of Niger, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, and Plateau;
“It is aware ware that section 14 of the Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission Act, 2010 established the Fund of the Commission and also stipulates that a certain percentage of the total revenue generated by any company or authority from the operation of any hydroelectric dams in the member states of Commission shall be remitted to the Fund of the Commission;
“It is aware also that by virtue of section 15 of the Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission Act, 2010, the proceeds of the Fund is to be used to defray the expenses of the Commission including infrastructural development projects to be executed for the direct benefit of the people of hydroelectric power producing areas in Nigeria;
“The Senate notes that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), established under section 31 of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act(EPSRA) , 2005 is the regulator of the electricity industry including the licensing and regulation of Electricity Generation Companies, GENCOs, Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, system operators, transmission companies and other persons involved in electricity trading in Nigeria;
“It observes that due to the delayed take off of HYPPADEC, NERC in exercise of its function under section 32(2) (d) of EPSRA directed different government agencies including the Market Operator (MO), one of the two special entities created to ensure efficient and transparent electricity market in Nigeria; the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company Plc (NBET), etc., to deduct and retain in revenue yielding accounts, 30 per cent of the total revenue of affected companies which was later reduced to 10 percent;
“It notes that between 2013 through 2015 to date , the Market Operator, NBET Plc and the DISCOs in compliance with NERC directive reportedly assumed responsibility for the collection of revenue meant for HYPPADEC and these funds so collected has accumulated into huge sums running into billions of naira.
“Observes that since the commencement of remittances by GENCOs and DISCOs, dispute has arisen among electricity market participants as to who has custody of the accumulated funds and the total amount that has so far been remitted to these government agencies to keep on behalf the HYPPADEC.
“Recalls that the Senate on Tuesday, 11th August, 2015, adopted resolution S/Res/016/01/15 urging NERC to comply with the provisions of section 32(1) (g) of the EPSRA by submitting its accrued quarterly report to the National Assembly which resolution has not been complied with by NERC.
“Aware that funds were earmarked by the Federal Government in the 2016 and 2017 Appropriation Acts as takeoff grant for the final inauguration of HYPPADEC. Specifically, the sum of N150, 000,000 (one hundred and fifty million) naira out of which N18, 000,000(eighteen million) naira has been released to the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
“Convinced that there is an urgent need for the Market Operator, the Nigerian Electricity Bulk Trading Company Plc, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, relevant GENCOs, DISCOs , including the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, to render account regarding the total collections so far received on behalf of the HYPPADEC and the actual custodians of these funds.
“Notes that the accumulated funds now reportedly in the custody of different entities will be much needed by the Commission once it comes into operation hopefully after the constitution and inauguration of the Governing Council of HYPPADEC.”
In his remarks, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who commended the sponsors of the motion, however, assured that the Senate was committed to ensuring that accumulated funds and the total amount that had so far been remitted to government agencies to keep on behalf of HYPPADEC were released to the commission.