Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji
Muhammad Bello and Ejiofor Alike
The Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, Monday disclosed that while his ministry received the sum of N75.5 billion budget for 2012, the National Assembly provided for N78 billion.
Nnaji added that the difference of N2.5billion was the lawmakers’ addition for some constituency projects.
The minister, who briefed State House correspondents in Abuja after meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan on the performance of his ministry in the implementation of the 2012 budget, described power and its provision as the biggest constraint in the nation.
The disclosure came as the minister called on leading Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country to look into the management of the pension funds of the staff of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
Intimating that the ministry’s performance in the implementation of the budget was 52.9 per cent, the minister explained that of the 75.4 billion budgeted for capital projects, N21.5billion has been released while the amount use is N11.4billion.
He said the government was prioritising the completion of a dozen ongoing projects, which requirements will be captured in the 2013 budget so as to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the running of the power sector.
Prior to yesterday’s meeting with the president, some heads of departments and agencies under the ministry had petitioned the government about the release of funds to them.
The minister did not give the names of the agencies concerned, but he stated that for the purpose of clarification, the meeting with the president was for the purpose of setting the records straight “for the purposes of ensuring an appraisal of performance.”
“It is to ensure that Mr. President’s intention to ensure that proper standards are set and priorities in terms of service deliveries are properly defined,” added the minister.
The scrutiny by civil society organisations, according to the minister, has become necessary because of the “huge amount of money which should be in the pension scheme but cannot be traced.”
In a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Ogbuagu Anikwe, the minister noted that if the 50,000 employees of PHCN had over the years, been contributing 25 per cent of their salaries to the pension scheme as alleged by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), they should have over N300 billion in their bank account.
“What we have rather found is a paltry N3 billion, which cannot cover the terminal benefits of up to 30 per cent of the workforce. Even so, the money came from PHCN internally generated revenue, rather than as a contribution from the PHCN staff towards their retirements. It is clear from the reports I have that it is either the PHCN staff did not contribute 25 per cent of their salary or that some unscrupulous officials made away with over N300 billion which was over the years deducted from their pay,” the minister said.
Nnaji stated that he hinged the call for a public scrutiny of the management of the pension funds on the need for values of probity, accountability and public morality.
According to him, some of the civil society coalitions he requested to look into the account include, Save Nigeria Group led by Pastor Tunde Bakare; Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre run by Mr. Ibrahim Awaal Rafsanjani, Concerned Professionals headed by Professor Pat Utomi, and the Civil Liberties Organisation.
Others include Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria headed by Mr. Shehu Sani; Law and Social Development Centre chaired by Mr. Bamidele Aturu, and the Institute of Human Rights and Democratic Studies led by Dr Josephine Okei-Odumakin.
The rest include the Transition Monitoring Groupwhich comprises over 200 non governmental organisations and led by Moshood Erubani, formerly of the Campaign for Democracy.