By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—The Senate, yesterday, constituted an ad-hoc Committee to carry out a holistic investigation into the management of funds appropriated to the power sector from the Olusegun Obasanjo civilian administration to date.
Announcing the 13-man ad-hoc committee, yesterday, Senate President, Bukola Saraki urged members of the committee to consider their reputation and integrity and come up with a report that would be acceptable to Nigerians. He lamented that a lot of money had been spent on the sector with no results, while Nigeria is still faced with the challenge of power supply.
The committee which has Senator Abubakar Kyari, APC, Borno North, as chairman, was also saddled with the responsibility of looking into irregularities in the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.
Yesterday’s action of the Senate would inadvertently probe how the Obasanjo, Umaru Yar‘adua and Jonathan administrations managed funds allocated to the sector.
A similar probe ordered by the House of Representatives into the sector in 2007 under the stewardship of Ndudi Elumelu quickly degenerated into controversy as it was alleged to be a witch-hunt. Another probe ordered by the Senate in that era under the stewardship of Senator Nicholas Ugbane also ended in controversy. Both Ugbane and Elumelu were in 2010 indicted by the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, of involvement in an alleged N5.2 billion contract scam in the Rural Electrification Project of the Federal Government.
Other members of the committee as announced, yesterday, were Senators Mohammed Hassan, Ali Wakili, Godswill Akpabio, Mao Ohuabunwa, Aliyu Wammako, Shaaba Lafiagi, Olusola Adeyeye, Babajide Omoworare, Fatima Razaki, Ighoyota Amori, Mustapha Bukar and Dino Melaye.
According to the Senate President, inadequate power supply in the country was a cause for concern as it had affected economic growth, stressing that besides corruption, lack of power supply had plunged the country into further hardship.
State of power lamentable — Saraki
Speaking on the issue yesterday, Senator Saraki said: “We thought that with the Power Reform Act and unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), we will begin to witness an improvement with regard to power supply, but unfortunately it is not so. The ad-hoc committee we will set up should look at the activities of the DISCOs and what is preventing Nigerians from benefitting from the unbundling of the PHCN.”
Also worried by the security challenge in the North East geo-political zone of the country and the need to assist the military in nipping in the bud, the activities of members of Boko Haram, the Senate, yesterday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, ask the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to reconnect Maiduguri, the Borno State capital to the national grid.
The Senate which also condemned inability of TCN to provide continuous and uninterrupted power supply to all parts of the country, however, expressed concern that Nigeria with a population of over 150 million produces only 4, 600 mega watts, while South Africa with a population of about 45 million people produces more than 40,000 mega watts.
The Senate resolution was upon a motion titled: “Disconnection of Maiduguri from the National Grid and General Power Degeneration in Nigeria” and presented by the Leader of the Senate, Senator Muhammed Ali Ndume.
In his motion, Senator Ndume observed that the disconnection from the national grid and degeneration of power supply across the country had affected economic activities because of the collapse of several industries, even as he expressed concern that with an installed power generation potential of about 5,000 MW, the output distributed today was about 1,950 megawatts of energy.
According to him, it was disheartening to note that Iran with 70 million people generates about 42,000 megawatts, while South Korea with about 35 million people generates about 60,000 mega watts of electricity.
Speaking further, Senator Ndume, who complained that the situation had grounded economic activities in the state, said: “I buy diesel to run my generator and that costs me N10,000 per day. No country can be said to be near development when there is no power. This Senate needs to investigate to give the government support. For years now, a lot of money has been spent but there is nothing to show for it.”
Also, speaking, Senator Danjuma Goje, APC- Gombe Central who noted that the motion was apt in view of the untold suffering the lack of power supply had caused Nigerians, said: “The problem of power was on before 1999 and I am surprised that up till today, the power sector is grappling with insufficient power supply.
Senators condemn poor power generation, distribution
Senator Goje, who served as Minister of State (power) during the Obasanjo administration added: “This motion is apt because there is a need to find out what happened in spite of the unbundling and huge amount so far spent.”
On his part, Senator Akpabio (PDP- Akwa Ibom North West) who lamented that many companies had shut down due to irregular power supply in the country, stressed that in spite of the financial contribution by some states in the South to improve power supply, Nigerians were still grappling with lack of electricity supply, adding: “In 2015 we are celebrating 4,000 mega watts. For me this is worrisome. We cannot have employment without power and Nigerians are complaining about the high cost and some localities who have not seen light for months are asked to pay high tariff.” Akpabio said the 8th Senate should do all within its power to assist the Federal Government in bringing an end to the problem.
POWER: Nigeria squanders N6.52 trillion on darkness since 1999
If comments of former Nigerian leaders are anything to go by, the country, in the last 16 years spent $29.635 billion or N6.52 trillion on power with little or nothing to show for it.
While the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly spent $16bn (N3.52 trn), his successor, late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, expended $5.375bn or N1.183trn while immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration spent $8.26bn (N1.817 trn).
Piqued by the poor power situation, late President Yar’Adua, on assuming power in 2007 said that “the government under President Olusegun Obasanjo wasted $10bn on the National Independent Power Project, NIPP with little or nothing to show for it.”
Then House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, put his own figure at $16bn and proceeded to set up a committee headed by Ndudi Elumelu to probe the billions of dollars spent on the independent power projects.
The Ndudi Elumelu-led committee concluded its investigations and submitted its report, but nobody was ready to account for how the $16bn spent on the sector failed to yield “commensurate result”.
Then it was discovered that about 2,500 containers of imported power equipment worth about $5bn were abandoned at the Lagos ports with the demurrage generated by the abandoned equipment put at over N4bn.
Investigations revealed that the equipment formed part of the $16bn that was expended within Obasanjo’s eight years.
Following the 2007 change in administration that brought in Yar’Adua as president, the funding arrangements for NIPP were subjected to intensive legal, political and financial scrutiny, resulting in over two-year interruption in funding for the projects.
After a protracted and intensive debate on the way forward, however, the National Economic Council (NEC) under Yar’Adua agreed later in 2008 to set aside an additional $5.375bn from the ECOA as a Power Emergency Fund to complete NIPP subject to the approvals of all the state legislative houses.
By official Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited (NDPHC) figures, at the time of the suspension, $2.8bn was already invested in NIPP, including $1.78bn in funded letters of credits which allowed some of the projects to continue despite the funding interruption. Contracted commitments totalled $7.385bn.
While campaigning in 2011, President Muhammadu Buhari, who was then the presidential candidate of of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), said that both President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo have questions to answer, if he was voted into power.
Speaking at a presidential debate organised by NN24, a television outfit, Buhari said he was not satisfied with the effort by the government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since 1999. “We need to know how much has been spent so far. Over $16bn was spent by Obasanjo regime, yet we don’t have power. Also, the government under Jonathan said we now have over 4,000 mega watts, yet our people don’t have the power,” he said.
Dr. Jonathan last February 21 disclosed that the Federal Government had invested about $8.26bn in the power sector through the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP), in the bid to boost the electricity generation capacity in the country by over 4, 700MW.