Siemens: Where the power minister got it wrong




 


Today’s Nigeria is increasingly gravitating into a one stop reference on how not to govern a nation. Gradually, our nation has been reduced into a dumping ground of sorts where every kind of intolerable and obnoxious practice is foisted on the hapless people. This assertion looks not only insulting on the face of the country but could also be attributed to the country’s bane of development and economic prosperity. There is an assertion among the comity of nations, that most things that are shoved down the throat of Nigerians and Nigeria will be completely unacceptable anywhere else in the world. Needless to say, this is a cause for serious worry.
As a student of history, contemporary leadership and governance literature, who is very curious about knowing the happenings around the globe, especially as regard international best practices in political and economic relations, I have come to be convinced that, neocolonialism is the most unfortunate legacy of the imperialists, which still hunts Africa, especially Nigeria, the famous ‘Giant of Africa’.


The fact is that the socio-economic makeover of developing nations has been tethered to the leprechaun act of fake treasure which the so-called developed nations attach value to them only as markets for their finished goods and ready sources of raw materials. This parasitic relationship has left developing countries gasping for breath and thrashing wildly from the sheer weight of economic domination. 
So, make no mistake of thinking that developing nations can compete with these large production powers that enjoy comparative advantages and economy of scale that gives them the wherewithal to produce way beyond their balance of trade and dump it on developing nations.
Nigeria is one of the unfortunate countries of the world caught in the dead grip of so-called large economies because of her economic potential or more correctly put, value-calculated in an exploding population fit only as a dumping ground for all manner of substandard goods. Sadly, this potential and many other shiny projections from international outfits like IMF has made Nigeria vulnerable to foreign investors whose aim is mostly to exploit the country. 


Yet, we have elected to return to the practice of patronisng foreign companies even in areas where indigenous companies have demonstrated evidential capacity in providing whatever service(s) that these foreign outlets can. This assuming, we decided to be charitable enough to hammer on the fact that most of these foreigners employ only their people in lucrative positions while the locals are left with menial jobs regardless of how recognisably skillful they maybe. No, let’s forget all that! 
Here then is the reason the statement by Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Engr. Saleh Mamman, where he threatened that Nigeria may cede the job of power distribution to his newly found bride, German engineering conglomerate, Siemens, was both perplexing and mind-boggling. This is the same company that the Nigerian government divorced a decade ago over bribery scandal. It will be interesting to hear what the minister will offer as for this bold statement that, frankly, leaves a great deal to be desired. 


Only in Nigeria will a foreign company that was debarred on corruption allegation, stage a dramatic comeback and even begin to scheme and maneuver their way to take over existing contract between the government and indigenous contractors who have invested hugely to the tune of $2.4 billion assets in the business. The federal government, according to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) submitted to the Federal Executive Council (FEC), said on February 19, 2020, that it was considering a proposal to take over power supply from the Discos and hand it over to the German Siemens.
But, I think it’s high time the minister of power put on his thinking cap and know who he’s dealing with. He should also endeavour to put Siemens on a veracity check before following through with this decision of his that is nothing short of hasty. Unless, of course, the minister plans to reenact the 2007 saga by returning Siemens to the fray.


Taking Mr. Minister down memory lane in case he pretends not to be aware, selective amnesia being a sickness of convenience for our leaders, let me remind him of their antecedence. Mr Minister’s new found investors, Siemens, were sometimes ago accused of bribery in Nigeria; banned and later indicted by the government. The German conglomerate was from 2001 to 2007 accused of giving thousands of dollars in bribes to some government officials in some named countries including Nigeria to get money-spinning contracts and the same Siemens also accepted to pay $1.3 billion in penalties to United States and German authorities.  
I don’t want to say much on the credibility of Siemens but the much I know about the integrity of President Buhari depicts that, any dealing with Siemens by the present administration, will put a question mark on its fight against corruption, which has been the mainstay of this administration. 
How will the Buhari government engage in any transaction with Siemens despite their tainted antecedence not only in Nigeria but in other parts of the world where similar opportunities are given to them?
Sure, the minister was either ill-advised or he was acting the script designed by the adversaries of the nation. The Buhari administration, especially on its war against corruption, must, as matter of honesty, halt this madness, lest Nigerians begin to take a questioning look on their anti-corruption credentials.  The eleven electricity distribution companies (DisCos) were licensed in 2013 by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) by virtue of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005. The Act was necessitated by some challenges in the Nigerian power sector, principally concerning power outages and unreliable service. The Act called for unbundling the national power utility company into a series of 18 successor companies: six generation companies, 12 distribution companies covering all 36 Nigerian states, and a national power transmission company.


The DisCos, whose staffing are largely Nigerians, have without any grain of doubt recorded tremendous accomplishment in repositioning the power sector in the country and they are one of the major employers of labour. Consequently, surrendering the power sector to Siemens is akin to depriving thousands of Nigerians from their jobs and that will surely further aggravate the ceaseless security challenges in the country.
In fact, we all know the major challenges confronting the DisCos but let me state it here for the purpose of clarity. The problem with the DisCos is revenue realisation and this is due largely to the nonchalant attitude of most of their customers who have a nagging attitude of refusing to pay for the energy they’ve consumed. I wonder how we expect the DisCos to buy what they cannot sell? 
If the indigenous DisCos are trying to honour their agreement based on the terms of the contract, the least the minister could do is respect them rather than the outburst he has served as a threat. This only emboldens Siemens to seek out their previous accomplices to perfect a white collar take-over and leave Nigerians as sitting ducks.


This is why the minister and President Buhari must interrogate their newly built advances towards a company that has been found to spare no honour in pursuing what it wants. Nigeria is too fragile to be plunged into another avoidable crisis, no thanks to the shenanigans of foreigners who have demonstrated disdain in the handling of Nigeria’s interests.
Muhammed writes from Abuja
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