By Tordue Salem
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, yesterday declared the privatisation of the power sector, a failure.
He also described power generation and distribution companies as grossly lacking in the capacity to provide sustainable electricity to Nigerians.
Gbajabiamila, who made the observation at an interactive session with the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, in Abuja, spoke in response to NLC leaders’ posers on the sector.
He said: “On the issue of power, I think we perhaps privatised to the wrong people who don’t have the capacity. Perhaps we privatised our power sector to brief-case businessmen and all of that, and that’s why we are here. But we must pursue the solution to this mess in the power sector, to its logical conclusion.
“For example, the issue of estimated billing as far as I’m concerned is an anomaly, it’s only in Nigeria you have that. We have actually passed a Bill for a law to review the issue of estimated billing, but unfortunately, the Bill still sits in the Senate. We hope there will be concurrence.’’
The speaker assured that the House would ensure the regime of estimated billing was abolished in the power sector.
Besides, he promised that the House would also look into the high cost of production of petroleum products in the oil sector of the country.
Lamenting the fact that Nigeria’s production of a litre of oil at $31 per barrel remained the highest in the world, which he described as unacceptable, Gbajabiamila said: “Like everything Nigerian, our production of a litre of oil is as high as $31 per barrel when other countries are producing at between $10 and $12 dollars per barrel. That is not acceptable; it doesn’t make sense.
“If you ask them(oil sector players), they will tell you that part of that is for security; the security of pipelines and all of that. But we will look into the issue of refineries.’’
On the issue of palliatives for Nigerians suffering, as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, the speaker assured that “there is a competent Committee on the COVID-19 that will follow up on the money meant for Nigerians in this difficult time.’’
In his remarks, NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, who spoke extensively on the power sector and welfare of Nigerian workers, also urged the House, which he described as the final bus stop of the people, to expedite action on the review of labour laws to secure better working conditions for the country’s workers and follow up on the fair distribution of palliatives to the poor to cushion the agonizing effect of COVID-19.
He also decried the high cost of production in the oil sector and pleaded with the House to ensure refineries were put to maximum use, the high cost of production of petroleum products reduced and used to better the lives of oil and gas workers.
“How can we produce oil here, then take it outside this country, refine it and bring it back at a very high cost to our economy and people, when we have refineries here? It doesn’t add up,’’ he said.
He also urged the speaker to push for the upgrade of the refineries and press for the refining of all oil products in the country.
Wabba equally called for a fair and just distribution of palliatives to the poor in the country, whose plight had been worsened by COVID-19.