September 11, (THEWILL) – Barring any unforeseeable circumstance, plans are allegedly underway by the Bureau of Public Enterprises to forcefully attempt to take over Benin Electricity Distribution Company Plc (BEDC) a second time.
Despite the fact that the electricity distribution company has a subsisting court injunction by the Federal High Court, Abuja, against the Bureau of Public Enterprises, (BPE) and Henry Ajagbawa, appointed by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in July 2022, over the move.
The first time BPE attempted to forcefully take over the company was about two months ago and despite a court order, the defendants invaded the premises of BEDC in Benin City and broke into the office of the Managing Director and the board room bragging of government protection. This prompted the management of BEDC to issue a press statement explaining that there was no contractual, statutory or regulatory basis for the takeover and appointments.
Not willing to take any chance, BEDC dragged BPE to a United Kingdom arbitration panel to challenge the takeover of BEDC by Fidelity Bank Plc. Cherie Blair, the wife of Tony Blair, UK’s ex-Prime Minister, who is the Chair of Omnia Strategy LLP and Bode Olanipekun of Wole Olanipekun and Co are leading BEDC’s legal team.
An Omnia Strategy LLP document addressed to the Director-General, BPE, Alex Okoh, stated that the bureau’s improper action had VPL’s commercial interests and reputation to suffer through the forceful takeover of BEDC. But the BPE, NERC, Fidelity Bank, etc, are all bent on going ahead to forcefully take over the DisCo.
There is a strong indication that the aforementioned have, out of desperation, allegedly perfected devious plans to forcefully and unlawfully invade the premises of the company any time soon, with the support of some security agencies.
Ajagbawa is said to have allegedly fed the security agencies with lies and malicious allegations against the statutorily recognised and legitimate management of BEDC. Irked by how brazen Ajagbawa and the BPE have become, a senior official at BEDC has cried out to well-meaning Nigerians and the general public to prevail on the aforementioned to respect the pending proceedings and orders of the court, while also imploring all security forces in Nigeria to reject the illegal machinations of Ajagbawa and his collaborators and respect pending proceedings of court to avoid a breakdown of law and order.
The continued tussle for the ownership of BEDC has plunged electricity consumers in Edo, Ekiti, Delta and Ondo States into perpetual darkness. This prompted NERC to reiterate its insistence on taking BEDC from Vigeo.
NERC also reiterated that the interim management led by Ajagbawa is the only statutory recognised management of BEDC. It added that BEDC was a distribution licensee of the commission and by virtue of powers vested in the commission by the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, NERC was the primary authority vested with powers to statutorily recognise the board/management of BEDC as an operator in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry.
Recall that the federal government had announced a planned takeover of Benin, Kano and Kaduna electricity distribution companies (DisCos) by Fidelity Bank Plc. The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) had said the restructuring was a result of the contractual agreement between the bank and Vigeo Power Limited, a core investor in Benin DisCo.
BEDC is jointly owned by private investors with Vigeo Power Ltd holding equity of 60 percent and 40 percent being held by the Bureau of Public Enterprises on behalf of the federal and state governments.
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