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How politicians grabbed power firms’ shares under Jonathan, by ex-minister

Former  Minister of National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman yesterday exposed how politicians and officials in ex-President Goodluck Jonathan ’s administration jostled for shares in the power generation and distribution companies that were privatised in 2013.

Usman, who spoke in Abuja at the 26th October Lecture of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), said government officials who ordinarily should have been neutral in the privatisation exercise were, however guilty of foul plays and used their positions to leverage their interests in the exercise secretly.

The former minister said at the NSE lecture, which was delivered by its former president, Mustafa Shehu, that most of the transaction principles often included and followed in the privatisation of government’s assets were sidestepped during the sale of the power assets to private investors.

He said the outcome of the power privatisation was heavily influenced by political considerations against economic or technical capacities of the eventual preferred bidders.

 The ex-minister then linked parts of the challenges facing the sector to the alleged foul plays.

Usman, who did not mention names even when asked, said: “I was part of the power privatisation, and I am not going to extricate myself. It is a collective responsibility and I am not comfortable with the speed at which we rushed that exercise.

“I was the first Director General of TCPC (Technical Committee of Privatisation and Commercialisation), which is the agency that started privatisation in this country in 1988. We had our office in Lagos, and we did the first privatisation in this country. As at that time, we had the code of conduct that ensured that no member of the management or the board actually could buy any of the assets that we were selling.

“The electricity privatisation unfortunately was not handled that way. If you look at all these DisCos and Gencos, unfortunately, some of us saw it that time but there wasn’t much we could do because of the rush and political thing it had become. There is in each and every one of them at least one or two ‘big masquerades’.

“That is not how to do privatisation; you don’t sell because of some people who are in the government, you sell because they have demonstrated the expertise, and a lot of people rushed into it because they think electricity is like telecoms without even understanding the industry.”

Usman, who expressed disappointment over certain development in the country, said Nigeria lacks implementation and not planning.

Former Governor of Kano State Musa Kwankwaso said: “Our legislatures in this country have to come together with all other stakeholders to bring in good legislation that help ensure that this country has adequate, efficient and affordable energy for everybody in Nigeria.”

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