…ACB orders ESCOM not to proceed
…investigating OPC, Energy, and ESCOM officials.
The drama involving mysterious Nigerian businessman “Chief” Obinna Amucheinwa on Monday took a new twist as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has issued a restriction notice, stopping the state-owned Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) from dealing with the “Chief” contract.
The Investigator Magazine has extensively revealed the battle between Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba and her ally Secretary for Energy Alfonso Chikuni on hand and ESCOM led by its Board Chairperson Morgan Tembo and Chief Executive Officer Kamkwamba Kumwenda.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau on Monday stopped any dealing on the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that involved “Chiefs” Westland Construction and ACSG Consortium.
Chikuni, Kumwenda, and Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority boss Henry Kachaje in early July flew to the USA courtesy of “Chief” and the Ministry of Energy signed a provisional agreement (not provided for the laws) without ESCOM.
On return, ESCOM Board threw out the PPA agreement, questioning preferences being granted to the “Chief” and the CEO is said to have met President Lazarus Chakwera who agreed with his decision.
Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda advised ESCOM to postpone the issuance of any new PPAs in a move largely interpreted as a snub on Zamba and Chikuni to block them from proceeding with the PPA for the “Chief.”
Chikuni wrote to Chakaka Nyirenda pleading for a waiver on the deal. ESCOM Board members reported they were being threatened to approve the deal or be fired.
“Whereas the Anti-Corruption Bureau has instituted an investigation in respect of suspected offense under the Corrupt Practices Act. Take Notice that you shall not without my written consent deal with or proceed with any transaction, agreement, or other arrangement in relation to the 300MW Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Westland Construction and ACSG Consortium,” Martha Chizuma, Director General of the ACB wrote on 21st of August, 2023.
This means officially Zamba, Chikuni, Kachaje, Kumwenda and others involved in dealing with “Chief” matters are under official investigation, placing the country’s energy sector in another leadership crisis after former Energy Minister Newton Kambala and others were arrested in relation to fuel procurement at National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA).
On Monday, 12th June, Alfonso Chikuni, sent an email to Kumwenda, Maxwell Muli Makwenda (ESCOM), and Henry Kachaje giving the three a draft copy of the PPA which indicated that had already been signed at the behest of the Chief’s delegation.
“You will recall that we had meetings with US-based investors on 300MW solar thermal at the MERA officer (office). – The attachments will remind you. The Ministry signed an MoU during their mission,” wrote Chikuni with the subject “Review of the Conditional PPA.”
This confirms that the Chief’, who is the main signatory of the company was in Malawi either in April or May and made (if not demanded) with the influence of high-level government officials to have a PPA agreement signed before due diligence and other protocols were followed.
Chikuni, having already signed the PPA, flew into the USA apparently to do due diligence, which is a cover-up of another botched public finance commitment in which President Chakwera’s administration seems to specialise.
“However, you will also recall that they requested a conditional PPA to be signed which should enable them to start a dialogue with their financiers to which we granted consent. We shared our duly approved template. They have now made input,” said Chikuni in the email copied to Solicitor General Allison Mbang’ombe, whom he asks to assist “with framing the Conditions Precedent.”
The PPA signed with reference WAPC/ESC/MW/MOE/2023O6.01 dated June 1st, has a different company name than what Chikuni and the company visited in Utah, USA whose address was traced to a charity farm.
The company that signed the agreement was listed as Westland-ACSG Power Company Limited but the letterheads for the invitation now reads ACSG-POWER PROJECT CONSORTIUM raising questions as to which legal entity Chikuni and the company married ESCOM with.
Chief to install 1000mw plant
Chief, a man whose company only updated its energy sector role in late 2022 is expected to raise at least K500 billion for 300MW during its first phase and later accumulate to 1000MW which will see Malawi join the league of major electricity producers in Africa.
The PPA agreement stipulates that it is valid for “20 years from start” meaning it could well run into 2043 or 2070 when Chakwera and the majority of his “deal makers” are likely going to be very far from the seat of power.
“You need 1200 hectares for a 300MW solar power plant. You will need over 4,000 hectares for such a project to reach 1000MW. Chief’s home Nigeria has the lowest intake of solar energy and has power shortages, he opts to invest in Malawi when he can make a killing in Nigeria. It does not need a primary school chap to see that this is another scam,” analysed a solar expert, who said only Egypt has developed a 2500MW solar farm in Africa.
The 1000MW plant would cost over US$1 billion for a country with local export products that cannot access finance for such a mega project, which shows the paperwork is proposed just to raise finances and dump the project.
The government has failed to bring the investor “Chief” into the public as they fear he could be revealed his true nature of character and business across the world.
Chief whose main address is Abuja, Nigeria seems to have shifted the energy consortium to the USA where individuals related to his “Consortium” cannot be readily traced again.
There is no land designated for the project.
PML winding up had no “Chiefs” company.
The Investigator Magazine sought to establish how long the “Chiefs” company has been in the energy sector in Malawi and could not find any application at the folded state-owned Power Markets Limited, which means the Ministry of Energy had the PPA ready as they wind up of the PML.
The final list of PPAs for PML shows 37 PPAs were signed with some projects being rolled while others feasibility studies were being done. None of the PPAs belong to the ACSG group of the Chief.
All PPAs indicate the location of the projects.
Among the PPAs is Quantel which intends to produce 50MW Solar Power at Bwengu in Mzimba, Atlas (40MW-solar) at Balaka and already 20MW approved, Serengeti Nkhotakota (21MW-solar), Votalia (40MW-solar) at Dwangwa in Nkhotakota and JCM with a total of 60MW solar at Golomoti and Salima which is already operational. EGENCO also has a PPA for a solar farm with 20MW in Salima.
Green Cells in Zomba is expected to produce 34MW from solar but did not sign the PPA, Elsewedy Electric with 50MW solar at Phombeya but has not concluded negotiations, and Larsen and Turbo with 100mw solar at Phombeya now undertaking a full feasibility study.
AMEA in Lilongwe is targeting 50mw, while a partnership of Press Corporation and Ashtron wants to produce 50MW at Nkhoma in Lilongwe.
YM Power has suggested 151.5MW Kindwe Wind Farm in Dedza districts. A firm identified as Droege proposed a floating 20M solar farm at Monkeybay and 50mw at Mzimba from Windmills.
Other companies with major projects include Jindal with a 350MW coal plant at Liwonde, Rukuru with a 100MW coal plant, and Rudevit/Greenstone Energy with a 100MW hydropower plant on North Rukuru. JF Investments is exploring a 300 LNG Gas power project in Mchinji.
Illovo Sugar Company is exploring the Bagesse Power project for its Dwangwa and Nchalo factories while the Mpatamanga hydro plant is expected to generate up to 350MW.
According to Chikuni and Kumwenda, people who got most of the PPAs have sold them or disappeared. He could not however say which capacity “Chief” has to deliver 1000MW and ESCOM Board later said it could not proceed due to the public questions surrounding “Chief.”