The Nigeria House of Representatives has summoned the Director General of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET), Dr Nnaemeka Eweluka, for refusal to appear for the 2022 budget performance review and 2023 budget defence.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Hon James Faleke, gave the ruling at the beginning of the budget defence.
NBET’s Managing Director of Corporate Services, Mr. Abba Aliyu, who appeared before the Committee on Finance, for the budget defence to represent the DG, said that the DG was on annual leave.
The committee had slated its first sitting on the budget with agencies under its supervision for Monday, but the General Manager of Corporate Services of NBET, Abba Aliyu who represented the agency told the panel that Mr Ewelukwa was on leave.
Chairman of the committee, James Faleke issued the summon to see the MD “Personally and unfailingly appear on Thursday, October 27,” when the representative said he cannot provide answers to questions on the controversial power purchase agreement entered into by the company, with a firm named Azura under a “Take or Pay” arrangement that commits Nigeria into a monthly payment of $33 million.
Eweluka had during an investigative hearing with the committee previously told members that the agreements were entered into without recourse to the Federal Executive Council (FEC), insisting that they were not like normal procurement processes that require such based on the recommendation of the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP), stressing he only relied on the advice of the Attorney General of the Federation, while the Minister of Finance signed on behalf of the government.
Faleke and other members of the committee were angry that the MD did not deem it necessary to spare a day to defend the agency’s budget. “He saw our letter and decided to go on leave. We have the issue of the $33 million, and another $10 million that the country pays monthly. We must resolve it,“ the committee chairman stated, directing the representative to go back and deliver their message.
In his ruling, Faleke stated that the National Assembly does not have issues with NBET but with the commission’s activities.
“I can clearly say that he saw our letter before going on leave because of item 5, he went on leave because of item 5.
“The issue of Azura and Aku gas, it has $3 million a month, it has $10 million a month, we will resolve it. He cannot plunge this country to this kind of debt and run away, he must come here and face us.“
The committee chairman, therefore, ruled: “In line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we hereby summon the managing director of NBET to appear before this committee on Thursday 27th October 2022, unfailingly 11 am.”
The committee had earlier interacted with the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC), during which its Chairman, Victor Murakor disclosed that the Commission has succeeded in recovering funds withheld by certain MDAs, adding that it has recovered N23.6 billion from the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) alone.
He said the 2023 budget estimates of the Commission totalling N827.4 billion was grossly inadequate, but that it was based on the ceiling imposed on it by the Budget Office, adding that it needs more personnel and operational vehicles to effectively deliver on its mandate.
Faleke charged the Commission to use the powers enshrined in its Establishment Act to recover funds for the government, vowing to ask relevant questions on where and why NCC held the money.
The chairman of the committee alleged that Mr Ewelukwa was avoiding responding to the issues on Azura and Aku power projects.