*As Finance Minister reels out recovery plan
By Olugbenga Salami
Disturbed by the continued darkness in many parts of the country, the Senate yesterday blasted the federal government over the N4.4 trillion injected into the power sector as intervention funds within the last 21 years without regular electricity.
Specifically, the upper legislative chamber lamented the N1.7trillion injected into the sector within the last five years, all without corresponding improvement in electricity supply.
This is as the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed reeled recovery plans being made by the federal government.
These were fallouts from an investigative public hearing on “the power sector recovery plan and impact of COVID-19 pandemic”, carried out by the Senate Committee on Power.
Specifically, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, at the investigative hearing, was full of condemnation for the signing of a pact which he believed had dragged Nigeria into deeper financial crisis without meaningful outcome.
He sought serious investigation into all aspects of the Share Purchase Agreement.
According to him, the overall expectation of the Nigerian government and the citizens was that the power sector, after privatisation, would be far better but lamented that the expectation was yet far from being fulfilled.
He said: “The purpose of privatization, just to remind us, is not for government to wash away his hand, to run away from responsibilities.
“When you have privatization, you have Share Purchase Agreement. This investigation should look at what has happened.
“What are the responsibilities and the obligations of the Federal government in the Share Purchase Agreement. What is BPE.(Bureau of Public Enterprises) supposed to do.
“And equally and very important, what are the successful investors who are given 11 DISCOs and Six GENCOs supposed to do and within which time framework.
“Government should not be given free money. 1.8 trillion naira has been given to DISCOs maybe in their books. The actual money might have been given to the GENCOs.
“1.8 trillion naira is a huge amount of money. Is it part of the Share Purchase Agreement that we should be given this kind of money or what are we supposed to do as a government. What is our obligation.
“Government cannot afford to just spend money that you hardly understand why it is given and I will advise the Executive here, next time, if there will be any next time, to give such money, bring it to the national Assembly for approval.
“We want to be very critical on how funds are given to privatized enterprises. We expect that by now, our level of generation, transmission and distribution would have been far better.”
He however said he would rather call for a review of the privatisation deal and not for an outright cancellation of the deal.
“Why I will not call for an outright reversal of the privatization that was done in 2013, I believe the time has come for us to review it. If those who are in charge now don’t have the fianancial muzzle, please let’s admit that we should look for partners who will come in with more funds.
“If government cannot fulfill its obligations because it holds 40 percent, let it divest so that we don’t hold this sector unnecessarily stagnant,” he said.
Earlier in his own opening remarks, chairman of the committee, Gabriel Suswam (PDP Benue North East), said between 1999 to 2015, the federal government expended the sum of N2.74 trillion by way of interventions in the sector and between 2015 to 2020, additional N1.7 trillion injected into the sector as intervention fund , totalling N4.4 trillion.
He said “despite the trillions of Naira and billions of dollars interventions, over the years, the nation’s power generation output from 1999 till date, remained at about 3,500mega watts as against the Nation’s installed capacity of about 13, 000mw.”
However the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, at the session , said the the picture was not as gloomy as being painted since the federal has embarked on series of recovery plans for the sector.
According to her, part of the recovery plans for the sector , was the N1.3trillion already facilitated for the sector from the world bank and other international creditors as payment assurance facility.
“Work on revamping the power sector is in progress and will start bearing fruits in no distant time,” she assured.
The Power holding Company of Nigeria was in 2013 unbundled to pave way for the emergence of six Generating Companies, GENCOs, 11 Distribution Companies, DISCOs and one Transmission Companies of Nigeria, TCN. Both the GENCOs and DISCOs are fully privatised outfits.
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