By Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has asked Nigerians not to blame the federal government for dearth of electricity in their homes.
Fashola, who argued that the country’s power sector had been privatised and largely not under the control of the federal government, acknowledged that there were problems in the sector.
He added that the problem was not that of the government if citizens in the country do not have electricity.
He spoke on Wednesday night at the December edition of the monthly Nextier Power Dialogue in Abuja, stakeholders including consumers were in attendance.
“There are problems without a doubt and we must deal with them. But let me remind you; all of the assets that the ministry of power used to control for power have been sold by the last administration before I came. And so, if you don’t have power, it is not the government’s problem. Let us be honest,” Fashola said.
He then added: “The people who are operating the power sector -generation and distribution, are now privately-owned companies. I am here because I am concerned. If your telephone is not working, it is not the minister of communication that you go to. Let us be very clear.”
Fashola, further explained: “So, for those of you who want to weaponise electricity, face the businessmen who have taken it up. Let us be honest: If your bank over-charges you interest, is it the minister of finance you go to? So, let’s be clear. This is now a private business by an Act of parliament 2005.”
His role as minister, he said, was not to run the power systems but proffer policy directions, among others.
He said: “My role is regulatory oversight and policy, but I have a problem which is the fact that I can’t see a problem and turn my back, so I’m getting involved. So, the people you should be talking to about transformers is not me; the ministry doesn’t supply transformers anymore.”
Defending his position after a participant at the dialogue insisted he had the job of supervising the sector which Gencos and Discos played in as operators, he said: “I think that NERC (Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission) is the referee of the game. I am FIFA (Federation of International Football Association). And it is not right as you said that FIFA gets involved, because whether the referee makes a mistake or not, the goal stands.”
“So, the FIFA man does not enter the field to say go and change the result, but it’s an interesting analogy that I’ve also contemplated in my head and that’s why you didn’t catch me by too much surprise. However, it is important to allow the referee to continue to decide the game because investors like to know who decides.”
Wednesday’s dialogue dwelt on how far the power sector has fared under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.