…seeks audit of money spent since 1999
By Victor Ahiuma-Young
ORGANISED Labour is alarmed by the huge public funds spent on the nation’s power since 1999, with little or nothing to show for it, besides power outages and crazy bills compounded by crass inefficiency. While recent reports claim that more than N11trillion has been spent between 1999 and now, experts are of the opinion that the funds expended on the sector in the last 18 years, is far more than N11trillion.
Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, at its recent Central Working Committee, CWC, meeting called for an urgent and proper auditing of the money spent in the effort to revive the power sector since 1999, lamenting that rather than transform into increased light provision, it has produced tens, if not hundreds of billionaires, as a result of diversion of the funds.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the CWC meeting, it said the CWC reviewed the continuing poor service delivery in the power sector and observed that “since the current administration came to power in May 2015, it had given N740 billion to the power sector as intervention fund, without much to show for it.
Provision of meters
The CWC, therefore, cannot comprehend the rationale behind the administration’s preparedness to give a further N39 billion to bailout the distribution companies (Discos) for metering purposes. There is no guarantee that the Discos won’t go back cap in hand to government again on the issue of provision of meters as the minister of power recently disclosed that Discos need N220 billion to provide meters to Nigerians.
Given that one of the conditions precedent for the privatization by the last administration was that the new owners would provide meters for customers within 24 or so months, CWC felt that the defaulting Discos ought to face sanctions and not additional bailout. The situation in the sector rather than improve, is deteriorating for instance in the FCT, AEDC are busy disconnecting street lights across the country, artificial billing is still going on and most industries have been subjected to perpetual use of private generators to power their plants.
This has made production in Nigeria too expensive and non-competitive. CWC, therefore, called for an urgent and proper auditing of the money spent in the effort to revive the power sector since 1999, which rather than transform into increased light provision, has produced tens, if not hundreds of billionaires, as a result of diversion of the funds. Nothing illustrates this better than a recent report which showed that in the almost 18 years of the current democratic dispensation over N11trillion has been expended from the public treasury to the power sector to no avail.
Endemic Corruption: Corroborating, the United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, through its President, Joe Ajaero, claimed people have underestimated the level of corruption in the power sector, saying “there is endemic corruption in the power sector.” The money sunk into the power sector if there was no single electric pole or wire in Nigeria, would have given Nigeria almost 40,000 mega watts.
Apart from the budgetary provisions towards revamping the power sector, there are other areas like National Integrated Power Project, NIPP, projects. During President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government, US$16 billion was sunk into the sector and when President Goodluck Jonathan came, there was $11 billion and another $10 billion in that order. There was even money deducted from the oil producing areas.
There was Niger Delta Power project which got monetary allocations. Today, what do we have? Even when they said they have built power stations, some of them were commissioned with generators because the stations did not function. But when they are even functioning, the power stations are sold to themselves through fronts. So, the level of corruption in the power sector must be addressed and for it to be addressed, you have to review the whole process of privatization. What we saw was people selling public companies to themselves and as at today they are still paying themselves after privatization.
Corruption in the power sector
They paid close to a trillion naira to themselves. How can you sell public property, pay the people that bought it more than three times of what you sold to them? We doubt whether any agency in Nigeria will be able to look into the level of corruption in the power sector.
It will take a special commission of the United Nations, UN, to look into it. People that work in the sector and some of us can tell you what we went through for speaking out. It is a syndicate. There is no notable politician today either in APC or PDP that can talk against the fraud in the power sector, or that he or she did not get a share. You said PDP privatized the sector, but let APC come out now and probe the process and if members of the party were not part of it.
Honourable Ndudi Elumelu came at the National Assembly to quote the outrageous billions and trillions said to have spent in the sector, nothing happened. Elumelu could not even make it back to the House of Representatives for speaking out that so, so and so amount of monies were sunk into the power sector .
He claimed mobilization fees were paid without people mobilizing to site, and so on. Nigerians watched on national televisions as Elumelu committee rolled out one revelation after another. After that, what happened? So, we should stop wasting our time talking about it unless we are ready to investigate and take action. We know a thief cannot catch a thief and when the seller is the buyer, it makes it difficult for you to investigate, unless from outside, not from within.