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Province dismisses allegations

Hydro's dealings with Nigeria legal, above board: NDP

BRUCE BUMSTEAD / BRANDON SUN FILES

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/2/2016 (1126 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Selinger government, the Opposition Tories and some local Nigerians say they aren’t worried about Manitoba Hydro’s operation in Nigeria despite a recent Nigerian senate motion condemning the company.

The controversy, percolating since 2012, includes allegations Manitoba Hydro International (MHI) has been hired to help make Nigeria’s transmission system profitable so it can be more easily privatized, an allegation Manitoba Hydro rejects.

More recently, a group of Nigerian senators alleged there are “apparent illegalities” in the way Manitoba Hydro is paid by the government, in U.S. dollars instead of the Nigerian naira.

Manitoba Hydro said that allegation is false, and is part of a campaign by a small group of politicians and media outlets who oppose foreign involvement in Nigeria’s power system.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/2/2016 (1126 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Selinger government, the Opposition Tories and some local Nigerians say they aren’t worried about Manitoba Hydro’s operation in Nigeria despite a recent Nigerian senate motion condemning the company.

The controversy, percolating since 2012, includes allegations Manitoba Hydro International (MHI) has been hired to help make Nigeria’s transmission system profitable so it can be more easily privatized, an allegation Manitoba Hydro rejects.

More recently, a group of Nigerian senators alleged there are "apparent illegalities" in the way Manitoba Hydro is paid by the government, in U.S. dollars instead of the Nigerian naira.

Manitoba Hydro said that allegation is false, and is part of a campaign by a small group of politicians and media outlets who oppose foreign involvement in Nigeria’s power system.

Eric Robinson, the minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, was not available to comment Friday. In a statement, the Selinger government said it stands by Manitoba Hydro’s dealings in Nigeria.

"Nigeria is a sovereign nation, and MHI is only there to improve the operation and efficiency of that country’s transmission system. We have been assured by Hydro that the corporation will obey all local laws and resolve this issue," said the province. "We are not concerned about rumours of privatization."

Manitoba Hydro International, a subsidiary of the provincial government’s power company, was created in 2009. It’s done consulting work in several countries in Africa as well as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Mongolia.

In 2012, MHI began a three-year, $24-million contract to manage and improve the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), the state-owned power utility.

A short time later, Nigeria privatized its power generation and distribution systems in a complex series of deals involving several foreign investors. The hope was the move would improve Nigeria’s power supply, which was — and continues to be — in dire shape. Most homes, even in the capital, have light for just a few hours a day, and many rely on expensive diesel generators.

Winnipegger Florence Okwudili, a leader in the local Nigerian community, went to visit family over Christmas who were still using the generator from Canadian Tire she sent them three years ago. She said promised improvements to the power system have not materialized.

"The effects are not being felt by the common Nigerian," said Okwudili, who said corruption and fraud make it difficult to operate in Nigeria.

Florence Okwudili, a Nigerian who lives in Winnipeg, says corruption and fraud are rampant in her home country and make it tough for firms to operate there.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Florence Okwudili, a Nigerian who lives in Winnipeg, says corruption and fraud are rampant in her home country and make it tough for firms to operate there.

Though the high-voltage transmission system MHI was hired to run is still state-owned, MHI has been the subject of critical media coverage in Nigeria during the last several years.

Late last month, Nigeria’s senate passed a motion demanding a committee investigate "the entire circumstances surrounding the preparation, execution and implementation of management services for TCN and all other related matters."

But Nigerians in Winnipeg, including Okwudili, say most Nigerians don’t feel MHI is involved in dubious dealings or a secret plan to privatize the transmission network.

Shola Agboola, president of the Nigerian Association for Young Adults of Canada, said many Nigerians hoped the country’s power reforms, and the involvement of a reputable Canadian company, would spark huge improvements to their daily lives. That hasn’t happened, and Agboola said MHI officials may have underestimated the trouble the company would have navigating Nigeria’s political culture.

He said the country’s new president, former army major general Muhammadu Buhari, appears to be more committed to transparency and anti-corruption measures, which could help quell some of the criticism of MHI.

Manitoba Hydro spokesman Scott Powell said MHI has more than doubled the country’s high-voltage capacity to 5,500 megawatts and has reduced system loss and collapses.

He said MHI follows local laws as well as the company’s own code of ethics.

The Progressive Conservatives said Friday Manitoba Hydro should be free to make its own operational decisions.

"...I don’t think it’s for politicians to dictate to utilities concerning operational decisions," Manitoba Hydro critic Ralph Eichler wrote in a statement.

"...One thing we’ve said all along is that operational matters at Hydro should be decided by Hydro experts and not by politicians."

MHI’s contract was recently extended for a fourth year, until July. Talks are ongoing about another extension of one or two years.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

 

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History

Updated on Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 6:44 AM CST: Adds photos

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