Prepaid Meter Intervention Funds diversion: CBN seeks Court order to freeze accounts of Mojek, Integrated Power, 10 meter providers

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…Asks court to freeze 157 accounts of accused companies

…There must be grave consequences for offenders — Yusuf

…CBN must follow due process — Ehindero

By Uthman Salami, Ariemu Ogaga and Matthew Denis

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has accused 12 Meter Asset Provider (MAP) companies for allegedly diverting the intervention funds meant for procurement of Meter for Nigerians.

The apex bank also asked the Federal court to freeze 157 accounts of companies that are Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) for the alleged diversion.

The accused companies listed by the CBN as being involved in the diversion as seen on The Cable include Mojec Meter Asset Management Company Limited, Integrated Power Nigeria Limited, Holley Metering Limited, Protogy Global Services Limited and Turbo Energy Limited.

Others are G Unit Engineering Limited, Koby Global Engineering Services Limited, FLT Energy Systems Limited, Smart Meters Asset Provider Company Limited and Cresthill Engineering Limited.

Nigeria power sector has witnessed severe dispensation such as incessant collapse of national grid, which has occurred for a record sixth time this year alone and lack of proper provision of prepaid meters.

In helping the sector, the apex bank provided financial intervention funds to some companies, which they accused of having diverted the funds.

Following this, the apex bank in a suit filed at the Federal High Court in Lokoja, Kogi State, on July 20, requested commercial banks to restrict the account of 10 companies that received power sector intervention funds under the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) for 180 days pending the outcome of its investigation.

On this backdrop, during an interview with our correspondent, stakeholders urged for dire consequences for any company found culpable whilst also advising for due process.

The CBN in the suit said, “The Central Bank of Nigeria reviewed the activities of twelve (12) including the defendants herein Meter Asset Providers (MAPs) alleged to have diverted the Central Bank of Nigeria’s power sector intervention funds under the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP).

“The diversion of the power sector intervention funds under the National Mass Metering Programme (NMMP) provided by the applicant’s banks, has further occasioned grave instability in the power sector and sustained the estimated billing regime which the federal government is making frantic efforts to make a thing of the past.

“The diversion of the said funds through the bank accounts of the defendants has continually undermined.

“The applicant’s bank intervention system supports various sectors of the Nigerian economy.

“The diversion of the said funds and sustained instability in the power sector is capable of causing significant economic and financial loss to investors, as well as the entire systems and the Nigerian economy in general, if not curtailed.”

Speaking with Nigerian NewsDirect on the development yesterday, an economic analyst and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), Dr Muda Yusuf disclosed that appropriate sanction should be meted at affected companies for infractions.

According to him, “The funds were diverted and not used for the purpose it was given, then there need to be consequences.

“Because the CBN meant well for making the funds available, and it is an intervention that is supposed to benefit Nigerians because of the critical importance of power and challenges facing the sector. So if this privilege is abused and proven to be so then there should be consequences.

“This should serve as a lesson and deterrence to others because it is a mark of discipline that whatever intervention funds are met for should be used for the same purpose. Sanctions are proportional to the infractions that have committed; in delivering sanction there be a sense of proportionality, he stated.

On his part, the Chief Executive Officer of Sage Consulting & Communications, Mr. Bode Fadipe said CBN’s move is quite strange.

He said, “It looks rather strange that the CBN will seek an order of Court for the freezing of the accounts of 157 companies. Has there been an audit and the need arose for the accounts of the 157 companies to be frozen or is it part of the commencement of an audit process, which on the face of it, should not be strange.

“A fundamental consequence of taking money from the public is that it must be accounted for.

“The biggest concern for me however is the implication of the action of the CBN, assuming it is true, on the metering programme. To what extent will this action of the CBN affect the metering of customers? How quickly will this process be completed? Does it mean that the NMMP will be on hold until the exercise is completed?

“If this is the situation, it means customers are now left with the second option of getting a meter and that is the method where customers pay in advance before they are metered after which they get their refund through energy credit. Given the financial situation of most of the DisCos, is this a burden they can carry now?” he queried.

The Lead Strategist of Nigerian Workforce Strategy and Enlightenment Centre (NIWOSEC) Dr. David Kayode Ehindero said the Central Bank should tread with caution and indulge in due process.

“Though the Apex bank might be towing the right step to abet corruption and illegal diversion of funds, there should be due process.”

According to him, the CBN alleged that these companies took intervention funds but the court must grant room for fair hearing by the management and owners of these companies before embarking on the freezing decision.

He said, “If intervention loans or funds were taken for supplying meters, who monitor and supervise these people, it’s taken years before the CBN is taking such action.”