Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, recently came under attacks from some Senators and former President Goodluck Jonathan, in a manner that smacks of politics, writes Olawale Olaleye
It was Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, OFR, who recently delved into the power debate, putting in black and white, his observation about some noteworthy improvements in that very critical sector of the economy. It is, however, important to note that he took on this patriotic assignment, not as a stakeholder or one with vested interest but as an ordinary Nigerian, who has learnt to appreciate progress however insignificant, where one is incontrovertibly established.
â€œI am drawn to believe that many Nigerians have seen some improvement in electricity supply in the last few months,â€ he stated, adding: â€œI just hope that this assumption is indeed true. In Lagos, where I live, I have noticed an unusual availability of electric power, so much so that for some weeks, we have not been using much of the generator. Yes, often the supply is disrupted, but before you can start the generator, the power is restored.
â€œEvery once in a while there is a collapse of the system but it quickly comes back to life. In my family home in far-away Arochukwu, in Abia State, I have also been surprised by some improvement in electricity supply in recent time. In fact, the change has been most dramatic in Arochukwu. For years, I had never arrived home to find the lights on. We would have to start the generator to have light to get into the house and most times, we could spend a whole week without electricity from the mains.
â€œTherefore, we need to congratulate all those working hard to provide this noticeable improvement. From the Minister of Power, Works & Housing to NERC to Bulk Trader, GENCOS, TRANSCO and the DISCOS. They have always been on the receiving end of endless criticism by Nigerians and therefore, we must acknowledge this visible improvement in output.â€
When an honest and fact-based intervention of this nature derives from an independent mind, it is justifiable to then question the rationale of some senators, who recently demanded the removal of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, a man who has put his all into resetting the power sector from the crass mismanagement that typified the arrangement of the past to a stabilising and functional entity as evidenced by the testimonies of the honest few.
For the record, the senate resolution followed a motion sponsored by Senator Mustapha Bukar, APC senator from Katsina State, who requested President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a separate minister for the ministry of power and allow Fashola continue piloting the affairs of the Works and Housing ministry alone.
His motion was sequel to an additional prayer by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Francis Alimikhena, APC Edo, and seconded by the Deputy Minority whip, Biodun Olujimi, PDP, Ekiti. According to them, the ministry under the supervision of Fashola was usurping the duties of power related agencies, thus hindering the quest of the federal government to improve power generation and supply in the country.
Unfortunately, they have not said anything particularly instructive or noteworthy, because generation can no longer be the problem, when there are over 2000 megawatts unused, because of the capacity of the concerned companies to evacuate power so generated.
Today, power generation is hovering between 6,900 and 7000 from the 3000 that was available on assumption of office of the minister. Indeed, as at May 29, 2015, what was on the grid was 2500, which now is 4800 megawatts! In the area of transmission, it is currently swinging between 6,700 and 6,900 from the 5,000 that was obtainable before Fashola came on board.
Explained away, what this means is that the difference between the 4800 that is currently on the grid and the 6900 that is being generated as at today is what is locked up somewhere unused as a result of the lack of capacity to evacuate them, which clearly is no fault of the federal government or the minister as it is being made to appear by people who, probably have personal axe to grind with the minister.
Again, what this means in essence is that the buck lies with the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), which is the one certified to address the issues of regulation, the tariffs inclusive. But should anyone request for the redundant 2100 megawatts as you read this, it is ready to fire up the grid several notches up.
Distribution which is considered the contention here is being addressed and this is manifest by the level of works going on in Ife and Magboro. The one being handled now by General Electric in Afam is a private investment and therefore not a business of the government.
So, if the concern of these â€œemergency patriotsâ€ has been that the minister was doing deals, such doubts would have been long cleared if they had followed his memos quite closely at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, where all he had presented so far to the FEC were concerns of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). And lest anyone forgets, the TCN has always been dismissed as the weakest link, but that link has been identified as the strongest in the chain now, courtesy of Fasholaâ€™s conscious and scientific approach to the issues.
To put it pointedly, what he has been attending to since assuming office are the contracts he met on the ground, in addition to the Mambila project, being a major one. What therefore is the problem of the senators who are so fixated on the minister that their blurred vision cannot see the palpable efforts and the commensurate improvements, except that they want him shown the way out of the ministry? Whatever they thought he was doing with the monthly meeting outside of supervision betrays their deep-seated illogic in objectively analysing their so-called concern.
However, while the senatorsâ€™ excesses could be brushed aside, perhaps, on the grounds of their deliberate ignorance, the skewed intervention of former President Joanthan is an unfortunate slant to the debate in general. Jonathan recently alluded to the fact that Fashola, as governor of Lagos State, once said he could make power available in six months if in charge.
Certainly, a deficient interpretation of the statement by Fashola, which was deliberately misconstrued and pushed into the public space for the undiscerning to feast on, and since he assumed office, the translation has sold widely than the true intent of the statement, which was made in Lekki, long before the elections of 2015.
Fashola had gone to Lekki to commission an Independent Power Plant, which boasted about 10 megawatts to run the street lights and water works, when the people of the community asked when power supply would reach their homes and in responding, he said it was doable within six months if licensed by NERC and if Eko DISCO accepted to go into an agreement with the government with clear understanding of when and how to recoup the stateâ€™s investment.
And in citing the plant being commissioned as an example of the fact that there was nothing esoteric about providing power once the knowledge and the understanding of the workings are right, he said he would make it possible to those identified homes and areas in Lagos in three to six months, earlier citing nine months. But this was to be interpreted to mean â€˜any serious government would ensure stable power in six monthsâ€™, as if he meant the whole country. How mischievous!
People could choose to twist the fact of his statement, the very reason he has asked for the video to support the unfounded claims by those, who have refused to see the good in his efforts, even if they are supplied electricity 24/7, they would rather peddle falsehood.
Despite the deliberate attempt in some quarters to downplay is performance, available facts show Fashola is doing a lot more than those before him in ensuring stable power in all parts of the country. What he therefore needs is support and encouragement and not the kind of vilification from those feeding fat on the nationâ€™s common patrimony. The minister is not one to toy with his job or laze about when there is work to be done. This is in addition to always making sure that he braces up for every assignment in terms of knowledge acquisition and working tirelessly as if it was his last.
The fixation on him is not a bad idea in itself if meant to make him deliver result. But choosing to be mischievous and not support a hard working public servant is unfortunate. The excuses so far advanced by the senators are lame and undeserving of any debate in the first place.