Thanks Dangote but…

How do you have economic growth without power? So, no power, no growth because without power there can’t be growth. Egypt increased its electricity by 10 gigawatts, which is equivalent to 10,000 megawatts in 18 months.

dangote
President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote

In Nigeria we have been struggling for 18 years without adding 1000 and we have spent about three times above Egypt, why?” —Alhaji Aliko Dangote, VANGUARD, June 10, page 8.

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By Dele Sobowale

AT last a powerful and patriotic voice has spoken up about the scandal which the Nigerian electricity power supply situation had become ever since former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent between $13 billion and $16 billion on power supply and the nation ended with little or nothing to show for it. The ever self-righteous Baba Iyabo created the template which has made it possible for succeeding federal governments to swindle Nigerians of billions of dollars under false pretences of increasing our power supply without any significant improvement to show for the waste and massive embezzlement.

Perhaps Alhaji Dangote will want to follow me on a short look at the crimes committed by Buhari’s predecessors in office before his own government added its own from 2015 to 2019.

Insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result — Chinese proverb.

There must be something wrong with us Nigerians; otherwise how does one explain our penchant for electing into office the losers we did since 1999?

On September 7, 2007, late President Yar’Adua established a Power Sector Reform Committee when national power supply was stuck at 3000MW compared to South Africa’s 45,000MW. In July 2008, the committee issued a report listing 21 reasons for our intractable poor performance; but only seven are highlighted here. They are listed below. Anybody, who cares to listen (I stopped listening to him two years ago) to the past Minister for Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, would be astonished by the recurrence of the same reasons in 2019 for low power output in Nigeria.

We have either been voting the wrong people into office or Nigerians don’t really want change. That is being polite. Yar’Adua’s committee informed us that seven major reasons accounted for our power generation and distribution problems.

  • Insufficient generation due to old and obsolete equipment. Poor maintenance culture leading to inadequate and delayed maintenance of facilities. Shortage of gas due to inadequate supply Water management and shortages at the hydro stations Overloaded and weak distribution system Low tariff regime Lack of proper government funding.

All the lame excuses are important. But, the one which should engage our attention was the last one, namely, “lack of proper government funding”, because Obasanjo left office just sixteen months after spending an estimated $16 billion on power supply and Nigerians were being told that nonsense about lack of funds. A probe by the National Assembly which was rendered inconclusive by the corrupt cabals which were in control of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, at least revealed that several of the contracts awarded were not executed – yet the contractors were fully paid.

Several articles written urging Yar’Adua and, later, Jonathan to conduct an honest probe in an attempt to recover some of our billions of dollars and re-direct them towards improving power supply fell on deaf ears. The PDP always treated issues of embezzlement of public funds as “a family affair”. Mostly, unpatriotic and myopic men and women, it never occurred to most of them that they would one day leave office and live in a Nigeria they failed to develop.

Obasanjo Farms now pays billions to generate power and cannot compete with imported birds if an import ban is not in place. The Senate presidents and speakers who refused to stand for Nigeria are back among us suffering and not smiling.

Buhari came into office and swore to publish the list of the corrupt elements who robbed Nigeria through bogus contracts – especially NNPC and power sector deals. He finished his first term and nothing happened – for good reason. Some of the contractors are perhaps now in the All Progressives Congress, APC. They have become untouchables; and Nigeria’s power problems remains intractable – with the dire consequences we now experience as dividends.

As Dangote said, and we all know, there can be no significant economic growth without adequate power supply. And unless Nigeria, like India, can grow her economy by at least 4-5 per cent per annum for at least ten years, joblessness and its attendant evils – kidnapping, armed robbery, gun running, smuggling, cattle rustling, cyber crimes, etc. – will continue to provide jobs for millions of idle hands. And, there is very little government can do about it.

The World Bank recently reduced the nation’s growth forecast for 2019 to 2.1 per cent. Some of us regard that poor estimate as unrealistic. Our Gross Domestic Product, GDP, for this year might actually drop below 1.9 per cent – worse than 2018. Each 0.1 per cent drop translates to 250,000 Nigerians dropping below the poverty line and we are entrenching our nation’s position as the Poverty Capital of the world – again with all the dangerous consequences attached to that position.

No single cause can be identified to explain the Nigerian’s poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000MW; and distributes even less. Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close to $20 billion expended since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery and resignation among Nigerians. We will not allow this to go on.

On May 29, 2015, Buhari announced that it was disgraceful for the nation to generate and distribute 4,000MW, and he would not allow this to go on. On May 29, 2019, power generation in the country stood at 3,306.3MW.

He who speaks without modesty will find it very difficult to eat his words. How does Buhari explain to Nigerians that four years into his administration the nation is still stuck in the mud? Where is the room for hope that things will be better by 2023? Morning shows the day.

Yet, there is a way out. Buhari mentioned $20 billion as the expenditure on power since 1999. He should develop the courage and the patriotism to institute a powerful judicial inquiry into the expenditures from 1999 to 2019 May. Nobody, especially Obasanjo, should be allowed to be treated as sacred cow. OBJ and Jonathan must be asked to come forward and openly tell Nigerians what they did with those billions of dollars. Then, Buhari himself should step forward and tell us what happened from 2015 to 2019.

Anarchy is already on our door steps in Nigeria and the major cause is joblessness which is synonymous with idleness. Nigeria is rapidly creating millions of people with nothing to lose – they are the most dangerous elements in any society. We can’t go on like this. Somebody should give Buhari Dangote’s piece to read. May be he will listen to Africa’s richest man and Nigeria’s biggest investor. He, after all, is not from UniJankara.

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