By Etuka Sunday
Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED) said at the weekend that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola is not the problem of Nigerian power sector as erroneously believed.
The Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, ANED, Barr. Sunday Oduntan while discussing the current issues in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) on Channels TV flagship programme ‘State of the Nation’ said, Fashola is the best person the power sector has ever had, therefore, the recent Senate resolution calling for his removal from the Ministry was unfair.
Barr. Oduntan said, Fashola is not a magician to fix Nigeria’s power challenges all alone, saying that the adversity of the power sector cannot be tackled without the support of government in terms of resources.
He said: “The man is very hard working, he means well, the problem with the sector is not about the comparing of that ministry with other ministries. It is not about it being too much for the man. The truth of the matter actually is that till date he is still one of the best that we have ever had in that ministry.
“ What we need to understand is that:
The power ministry has always been difficult and that difficulty is not about the fact that you cannot correct the adversities of the power sector without the requisite support and resources. You cannot expect him to come up with any magic; he is not a magician and he is still one of the best.
“You can try and make your own check, the situation has improved now more than it was few years ago but that is not to say that we are there, we are not there at all and the fact that we are not there is not down to the minister as a person. It is more to do with the system that we are running; we are a very funny country.
“You cannot have a system whereby you have electricity and you fail to recognise that electricity is a product and a product comes at a cost. You cannot be buying a product for 68 naira and you are only allowed by law to sell it for 31 naira 58 kobo and then you expect magic. There won’t be meters, there won’t be transformers, there won’t be anything. There won’t be light until we do the right thing,” he said.
Speaking further on the recent money released by the Federal Government to settle the debts of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) he she: “We don’t have that money in our purse but let me start by saying this. That amount of money is a debt and it is even part payment, the verified part payment, some are still outstanding but we thank the federal government for even approving that amount (26 billion) but it will interest you to know that the honourable minister himself on behalf of the federal government told us clearly that the money is not coming to us.
“What they have done in their own wisdom is that they are using that money to pay our own creditors NBET and so if you are talking about it, people should not think the discos now have money; sorry no money, nothing is coming to us. That money is from government to government; to another government agency NBET.
“Of course we are owing the market but the bottom line is that we are owing the market because we are buying a product at 68 naira and these same regulators, people in charge are forcing us to sell for 31 naira 58 kobo and that is the point I am making and the minister is one of the few people who sympathise with this situation but he can’t do anything about it. We have a system that is very very bad,” he said.
Speaking on those calling for privatisation reversal, he said: “First of all, the privatisation process itself, the generation companies and the discos, the investors invested 2.4 billion dollars, that is the total money invested in that system. If you invest such amount of money, you will expect a sort of cost recovery along the line expectation.
“The bottom line is this, those who are talking about reversal, for us it is a distraction because I can assure you, if you bring an angel or a malika from heaven to come and invest in this sector, that angel will fail because the basic things have not been done.
“Number one, the last government when they privatised at the point of privatisation, there was an agreement that they signed with the coming investors. The basic foundation, the basic thing is the appropriate pricing of the product so they promised them what they call cost reflective tariff which simply means appropriate price of the product. If I’m buying it at 68 naira I shouldn’t be selling it for anything less than that amount, it should be slightly more but as at today, we are buying for 68 naira and we are selling for 31 naira 58 kobo,” he said.