The power sector is in transition but it is transiting into a disaster

By Yusuf Adamu

Yes, Mr. Fashola, The power sector is in transition but it is transiting into a disaster.

The interview granted by the so-called super minister in charge of a super Ministry in one of the National Dailies recently has left me confused and concerned about the future of the Nigerian power situation. The interview clearly shows the Minister is clueless and visionless in his assignment and mission. It is full of contradictions. It is in retrospect a spectacular admission of failure. The Minister was saying that we should fasten our seat belts as more shocks are coming as far as he is concerned about the privatized companies. I am sorry for this country because we are left with no option or alternative.

All the fury and screaming about the blackouts poor services do not change anything and do not bother him.

It may actually not be his fault. A strategic mistake of merging problematic Ministries (infrastructures) into one and assigning it to people with little or no knowledge of these areas is confounding the situation. I still do not understand the wisdom behind this.

Anybody watching and listening to Fashola since assumption to his duties knows that we are in trouble. I am not making wild statement but I have nasty experiences on our roads which have become death traps all over the country. The situation in power sector is awful and is degenerating under his watch and every day he is making a bad situation worst.

I want to invite you to read Fashola’s score card as far as power sector is concerned and I am sure I am not off the mark and I might have been too generous to him. This is what Babatunde Raji Fashola said in November 12, 2014. I quote “A serious government will fix power problem in six months.” It is now two years since he took charge and power problem continue unabated.

Saying it as it is in black and white

In his inaugural address on may 27th 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari , said that our attempts to overhead our electricity sector have only brought darkness, frustration , misery and poor service as drag on Nigeria’s economy.

I do not know if Fashola ever remembers this and if he does I am going to assess him on the President’s remark for all to see.

Fashola’s score card in the context of the president inaugural speech of the May29th, 2015 on power sector and his recent remark that power sector is in transition. The question is in transit to what?

  • It is a common and open knowledge that the 180 million Nigerians that the government is serving openly lost faith in the privatization of the power companies and anybody who is anybody has spoken but Fashola is totally insensitive, out of touch and heartless on the feelings of the people he supposed to serve. There is monumental anger in the land over this power thing and anybody ignoring this is doing it at his peril. Those with people’ mandate should not behave this way.

His reckless defense of the fraudulent, corrupt privatization gives rise to suspicion of conflict of interest which he is showing by his actions and this specter of conflict of interest is looking more important than the national interest. I wonder why the government does not act. During the Jonathan’s administration, the minister of power was sacked for having interest in the privatization process which was going on even before it was completed.

  • His obsession with investor thing in the power privatization is something I cannot understand. He knows full well that these are no investors and none will come. His own actions will scare any investors. His insistence that the privatization stands regardless of the corruption and fraud will not stand and is just postponing the doomsday.
  • All his rhetoric, threats etc to the so-called new owners to perform do not change anything, other the system continues to deteriorate. He never sees this and he never bothers to find out why. I will give him the reason. The reason is simply that the so-called investors have no stake in the whole thing and do not care if it fails all together because they have nothing to lose.
  • Any serious investor would, without been told, face the issue of providing meters to customers but the metering has become a thorny issue .This reaffirms my belief that these investors are not serious about the business. You are in business to remain in business and if you cannot and are not ready to collect your revenue than you have no reason to run the business.
  • As a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and sworn to protect , promote the interest of the country, Fashola has refused to take measure to protect the 40% stake of the FGN in these companies and all his action/inaction point that does not care if that 40% becomes 0%.
  • Since assumption to duties the Hon minister has not given the actual power generation capacity .would excuses and failure due to gas has been the constant reasons he dished out to the Nigerian people. I challenged all the people in charge to prove me wrong.
  • Under Fashola the Nigeria Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC) has been dormant, ineffective and virtually toothless regulator.
  • Under Fashola all the remaining key power companies under his supervision are headed by people who have no knowledge of the industry.
  • Under Fashola Nigeria and its 180 Million people are held captive and hostage by the so called new owners of the power companies. We are paying for darkness and are daily extorted and exploited with nowhere to go.
  • Outages continue unabated and neither minister nor the companies have ever apologized or explained to us what are the problems
  • Under Fashola nearly 1 trillion Naira is pumped into privatized companies and yet no improvement. Imagine giving this amount to the defunct PHCN what it could have done with this.
  • Fashola has made a bad situation worse. His approach and handling of the power situation is not working and the system he is managing is in tatters and it is a question of time when the whole thing will collapse. Just yesterday when I was writing this paper a story came out giving a very gloomy picture of the power situation in the country .They gave statistics that the system collapsed over 200 times and more than half of it under the current minister. This story has gone international and how can any investor come to a country with this kind of system which collapses every day? I personally belief this figure is toned down the outages are far more than they are quoting.
  • The new power sector under Fashola is the same or even worsen the same old NEPA.

Above are few points on the super minister and they clearly reveal a spectacular failure by a super minister. If this is what Fashola is saying is transition then certainly it is transiting to disaster.

Is there future in Nigeria’s power sector?

Yes and no and it depends entirely on the government to see reason and re think. However, in all these mess, there is a hope that whether now or later somebody will have the political will to take the problems head-on and stop disaster. A government that came on the plethora of tsunami of change and hope should not be playing with this strategic infrastructure. A country of 180 Million that has electricity capacity less than that of Aberdeen in Scotland needs to look at itself.

The government should note that this privatization is not final. The provisions in the Sale Purchase Agreement are very clear and Fashola knows that but is deliberately refusing to make references to it. We should tell ourselves hard truth that it is insane to pursue a reform that is doomed and which will ultimately cost the country fortune now or very soon.

I am drawing attention of the government to this plain fact and inconvenient and indisputable truth that between Obasanjo, Yaradua and Jonathan Administrations over 30 Billion USD was spent on power with not a single Mega watt added to the system. This same government has spent nearly one Trillion Naira in CBN intervention to supposedly private companies. Just last week the same government decided to buy 3 million meters for the DISCOS. This must be an entirely different model of privatization which I call the Nigerian Model which does not exist anywhere. The new so called investors are treated like the spoilt children of the government. The big question is who is benefiting from this mess?

I pray and hope that a sensible voice will appear from somewhere to say enough is enough and let us go back to drawing board and see how we can stop these wastages. We do not need a minister that will be lamenting, complaining, giving excuses, engaging in blame game and at the same time doing nothing.  Nigerians are fed up with Fashola and the reasons are clear. I want to remind the  Hon minister of 2019 and what he said in The Nation news paper of  July 12th  2014, and I quote “The only way to have stable electricity is to vote out PDP” by 2019 it will be to vote out APC.

It is not too late for the government to get serious about this power thing .It can reboot itself to face the challenges doing nothing in this area amounts to not fulfilling the or honouring the campaign promises.

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