- Turns back Fashola for alleged unpreparedness
By Christiana Ekpa
The Senate committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy yesterday rejected the N10 billion solar power projects for nine universities.
This was just the committee turned back Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, for his alleged “unpreparedness to face the committee for his 2018 budget defence.”
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe expressed worries that the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) planned to spending a whopping N10 billion to provide solar street light for nine universities.
The REA Managing Director, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi had in her defence of 2018 budget of the agency listed “Rural Electrification Access Progamme in Federal Universities” with a cost profile of N10,148,146,829.00, as one of the projects of the agency for 2018 fiscal year.
The purpose for the over N10 billion expenditure did not go down well with members of the committee especially when the power sector has been privatized.
The REA boss told the committee that they are working in nine federal universities to upgrade electricity supply in the institutions.
A member of the committee, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi demanded the list of universities involved in the projects.
Senator Abaribe also recalled that the committee requested for the list of the benefiting institutions.
Ogunbiyi named University of Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Usman Dan Fodio University, Abubakar Tafawa Bella University, Bauchi, Bayero University, Kano as some of the federal institutions to benefit from solar power installation.
Vice Chairman of the committee, Senator Buka Mustapher insisted that the details of the power solution projects in universities must be disclosed as well as details of “who is paying for the installations when the power sector had been privatized.”
The REA boss said that it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to provide power in the rural areas.
She added that most of the universities are located in rural areas. She however did not define “rural areas” as demanded by the committee.
Another member of the committee, Senator Mohammed Hassan said that the committee could not understand why the agency is spending huge amount of money to provide solar power in universities when rural communities for which the agency was created are left in darkness.
Abaribe disclosed that if the agency has N10 billion to play around there should have been a better way to manage the fund.
He said that the committee should be told who is paying for the project in disregard of the privatization of the power sector.
The members of committee also demanded to know why the agency’s completed p rojects appeared to be lopsided.
They particularly said that the South South geo-political zone had over 30 completed projects while other zones had far below 30 completed projects.
Ogunbiyi explained that it depended on the nature, cost and variation of the projects.
She said that contractors handling projects in the northern part of the country refused to go back to their projects until variation of the contracts was carried out.
Senator Hunkuyi wanted to know who appointed the contractors.
Senator came to the rescue of the REA boss by informing his colleagues that even the South West geo-political zone where the MD hails from has a low number of completed projects.
On the turning back of Fashola, Abaribe said that the minister told the committee that he was not ready to face members.
He said that the minister did not come with necessary documentation to present to members.
He said that the committee should have been furnished with necessary documentations to enable members peruse over them.
Abaribe said that Fashola had communicated that he was prepared to appear before the committee and would be accommodated on Monday.