- Says he now has funds to pay power, road contractors
- FG to clear legacy debt to Discos before year end
Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The sustained sabotage of Nigeria’s petroleum pipeline in the Niger Delta by militant groups has rendered the country’s public electricity supply system extremely vulnerable, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said Thursday.
Fashola disclosed this when he launched the Building Energy Efficiency Guideline (BEEG) for Nigeria in Abuja noting that because of such frequency in breakage of pipelines that supply gas to thermal power plants in the country, the federal government has stepped up its effort to diversify the country’s energy sources.
He noted that this effort will include accelerating works on several hydro power projects, as well as other energy sources with the potential to minimise the impact that such cuts in gas supply exert on the country’s electricity sector.
The minister who also spoke at another event – The Podium – which was organised by the Kukah Centre, reiterated that unless new energy sources are brought to the grid, militants and other criminal elements will continue to hold the country to ransom with frequent pipeline breaks.
He had at the launch of the BEEG which was put together by the Nigeria Energy Support Programme (NESP) stated that the country’s electricity sector was left at the mercy of pipeline vandals but would have to find a way to overcome the menace.
“Repeated acts of vandalism has rendered us vulnerable and we have to proactively move to overcome that one single source of supply,” said Fashola.
He added: “This is a journey of diversification and energy security, and it will make it impossible for anyone to hold the country to ransom on energy supply.”
The minister subsequently said when he spoke at the public dialogue organised by the Kukah Centre that the country would in line with plans to ensure energy security, concession about eight small hydro power plants to private operators to build and operate.
He also stated that works on other bigger hydro plants like the Zungeru, Kashimbila and Mambilla would be accelerated, adding that work on Zungeru has resumed after unplanned interruption.
“I have always asked myself, why should I damage an asset that serves me because I am angry? It is a matter of public ownership and collective trust that anyone who tampers with it tampers with all of us and so no matter how angry you are, you must find another way to ventilate your anger, otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense to me,” he said in reference to the breaks by militants.
The minister also took time to disclose other developments in his ministry, parts of which include the government’s decision to pay off legacy electricity debts owed to the 11 electricity distribution companies (Discos) in the country by its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as that owed to road contractors who he reportedly persuaded to go back to their respective sites.
“MDA debts, we are in the process of winding down that debt, I have written to the debt management office and I got a response from them just two days ago proposing options to wind down the debts and I think as government, we must live by example, if we ask people to pay for what they use, then we must pay as well and I am determined to ensure that we do that.
“The ministry of defence through the minister is also acting in concert and it is something we hope that before the end of the year, we wind down,” Fashola stated.
The Discos had through their platform, the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) said that government’s MDAs owed it huge debts for electricity they consumed but did not pay over the years.
ANED gave a breakdown of the debt profile in which the Nigerian Army was the single largest debtor to the Discos with N38.75 billion; the Nigerian Airforce followed in the inglorious list with N3.09 billion, Navy N3.3 billion, Police N4.66 billion, Customs N528.78 million, Prisons N895.6 million and Immigration N47.8 million. The MDAs also owed the Discos N9.98 billion in unpaid electricity bills.
Fashola said he got approval two days ago to disburse what was approved in the 2016 budget for his ministry and which has now been given to the ministry. He said contractors of the ministry, majorly road contractors will now be paid monies owed them by the government.