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Frisky Larr (MA)
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Crucial Questions on the Power Sector Dilemma
by Frisky Larr

 

Ordinary folks keep hoping each and every day that improvement in power supply is only a question of time since President Jonathan is making everyone believe that he has moved swiftly into action precisely on this sector since taking the reins of power. Is Nigeria cursed? Will Nigeria ever see the light? What role is the media playing in asking for accountability?

Today, the power sector probe by the House of Representative’s committee headed by Legislator Godwin Elumelu sometimes in 2008 is history. It was shortly after the inception of the government of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua that this committee was catapulted to the forefront of sensational revelations on projects in the power sector that were paid for by the government of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo but were subsequently abandoned by contractors after cashing in on payment.

 

Nigerians will remember the summoning of President Olusegun Obasanjo to the committee for open testimony on what he knew about the tragedies of the power sector. The Elumelu committee on power finally revealed that the government of the ex-President spent about $13 billion on the power sector with virtually nothing to show for it.

Records still reveal that President Obasanjo responded in writing to the summons of the Power Committee for his personal testimony. This response was widely publicized in Nigerian dailies but never followed up upon in terms of calling the government of the day to action.

One subsequent publication by the former Administrator of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Nassir El-Rufai, revealed that:

“Obasanjo was very anxious about the power situation in Nigeria and set up this project (NIPP). When Yar'Adua came in, he made statements while receiving Oby Ezekwesili in her new capacity at the World Bank to the effect that he believed that the amounts spent by Obasanjo were wasted. He came up with a figure of $10 billion. When his own Senior Special Assistant (Engr. Foluseke Shomolu) wrote him a memo to the effect that the figure quoted was inaccurate, the president fired him. Very conveniently, the House of Representatives began a probe of the NIPP under Obasanjo and sensationalized it. The National Economic Council also had a committee under Governor Suswan of Benue reviewing this NIPP. After a year, both committees were not able to establish any wrongdoing against Obasanjo and in fact confirmed that the actual amount spent was not $10 billion, but actually a fraction of that amount (less than $6 billion committed and $3 billion actually disbursed - the exact amounts quoted by Engr. Shomolu). And all that time, General Electric turbines worth billions were rotting away at our ports all because this administration wanted to gain traction by maligning its predecessor.”

In President Obasanjo’s written response to the power committee on his summons he had provided a list of power stations constructed by him that were close to completion before he left office. He talked about Okpai in Delta – built by AGIP – which has a capacity for 480 megawatts, Afam phase II with a capacity for 276 megawatts, Omotosho with a capacity for 330 megawatts, Papalanto with a capacity for 33 megawatts, Geregu with a capacity for 414 megawatts while Ikot Abasi had a capacity for 145 megawatts all in addition to another 2,000 megawatts produced by Rivers State. What was left to keep these stations functional and have them producing power was the installation of turbines.

President Obasanjo had placed order for these turbines from General Electrics before leaving office in 2007. These turbines were subsequently delivered.

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua however held the view that it was wrong to have constructed those power stations. He seemed to have subscribed to the views of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar that a decentralized system with smaller power stations built in local areas to supply limited areas would have been a better idea than the power stations built by Olusegun Obasanjo. For this reason, the turbines were left to waste away and rust at the ports. But no action was started on the alternative solution professed by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

When Goodluck Jonathan finally became President against the fierce resistance of the Yar’Adua mafia, Nigerians had high hopes. Information trickling out of Nigeria now reveals that President Jonathan is still groping aimlessly and seems clueless on what to do to move the power situation forward. While he is also reported to be favoring alternative power models such as the solar system, the uncompleted Obasanjo’s projects are still abandoned at the stage they were left in 2007. Turbines that have been paid for and delivered have still not been used. Yet no Journalist is asking questions. No blame is been apportioned. Indeed, the heat is not turned on, on those responsible.

Ordinary folks keep hoping each and every day that improvement in power supply is only a question of time since President Jonathan is making everyone believe that he has moved swiftly into action precisely on this sector since taking the reins of power. Is Nigeria cursed? Will Nigeria ever see the light? What role is the media playing in asking for accountability?

Can someone tell President Jonathan to complete the six power stations first before starting fresh and alternative projects to ensure improvement in the power sector?

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