How infrastructure terrorism is crippling power supply
Minister of State for Power was the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003 and is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Following a recent tour of his native Borno State, the minister, in an interview, responded to questions on the insurgency led by the Boko Haram sect, the administration’s power reform agenda and the moves to consolidate the PDP in Borno State. Excerpts:
What were your impressions from your tour?
I will say positive. Borno is passing through very difficult moments. In our thousands of years of civilisation, our people have never witnessed this level of suffering. It is nothing but man’s inhumanity to man. Imagine the continued abduction of innocent people, particularly the school girls in Chibok and killing of innocent civilians.
This is the height of insensitivity and inhumanity. The pain cannot be described in words. But these trials have not cowed my people. Despite the very difficult situation, our people are making the best out of the situation. I commend the resilience of leaders and people of Borno State. Borno has not and will not surrender to terrorists.
Let me also say this – the security agencies are doing their best to restore peace . I met the security chiefs in the state. I was at Maimalari barracks. I met our troops and their commander. Our service personnel are committed. I think they need our support rather than condemnation. The civilian JTF are also fantastic. So I am optimistic that this trial shall come to pass.
The Shehu raised some issues bordering on security, Chad Basin.
Yes, I took full notes of what our royal father told me. I assured His Majesty that the president is personally committed to combating this insurgency. Of course, I explained the many ongoing federal projects in the state despite the insurgency. The visit afforded me the opportunity to officially list the many initiatives of the Federal Government. I will take the messages of my people to Mr. President in Abuja.
How challenging was it for you to enter the insurgents’ stronghold?
Nothing unusual. You know this is my state. These are my people. I visited the inner parts of Maiduguri. I met top leaders. I feel fulfilled as the visit allowed me to know the extent of devastation done to the city and what the state is passing through. I also know what to look for to help my people in line with the president’s agenda for peace and security.
At the hospital, I wept at the many injured victims of Boko Haram. From the General to the Specialist hospitals, we saw the real victims of the insurgency- women, kids. The situation is pathetic.
So what is the way out of the conflict?
Dialogue, development and unity and these are what Mr. President is pursuing. But we must agree that security is everybody’s business. It’s no longer about Federal Government as many commentators often say. The anti terror campaign is about states, religious institutions, royal fathers, civil society, professional groups alongside the security agencies. It will be unfair to blame President Jonathan for the insurgency or for the lingering conflict.
The Federal Government with support of other stakeholders has curtailed the insurgency to a large extent. Within Borno, the insurgents are no longer able to attack hard targets; they now kill defenceless citizens.
One fact is also clear-terrorism is a global issue. We have a trans- national conflict at hand. Like I said earlier, Nigeria will overcome but we must all rally round Mr. President in this fight.
What was your impression following your meeting with the security chiefs?
I may not want to disclose details of my meetings with the security chiefs. But as to the state of readiness of our security agencies, I believe they are prepared and ready. You are fighting a guerrilla war, it’s a totally new form of combat. You are facing unknown, unseen enemies. So we should learn to be supportive of our servicemen.
Whatever shortcoming, we may notice in the anti-terror war, we should stand by our troops. We should criticize them constructively and avoid utterances and actions capable of thwarting their gallant effort.
Nigerians are worried about poor power supply after privatisation. What exactly is the problem?
I will answer your question by appealing to Nigerians to be patient with the administration. We are passing through a transition from public to private sector based electricity system.
We are undergoing a fundamental structural transformation of the energy sector. We cannot pass this stage without hiccups here and there. I plead with Nigerians to remember what happened in the telecom sector. It started roughly but today we have made great advances.
The power supply situation is facing challenges because of some transitional issues. We have to supply adequate gas to fire the power plants. Efforts are on in that direction. We have issues with vandalism of gas and transmission lines. You remember I called it infrastructure terrorism.
Government has also moved to secure our critical national infrastructures. For us in the power sector, plans are underway to secure electricity infrastructures nationwide through certain initiatives. This will soon be unfolded.
Some observers believe Borno PDP is dead. How will you react to this?
That viewpoint is wrong and unfounded . Pdp in the state is alife and kicking. We have issues no doubt. But it is an exaggeration to say pdp is dead in Borno. Issues we had before had to do with focus and leadership.
State of the party
Those problem are off now,the PDP is experiencing great revival. let me give you an example. During the North East rally held in Bauchi,Borno overtook many other states in term of mobilization. Despite insurgency,Borno PDP was acknowledged by many leaders.
Before the rally ,we had a meeting to review the state of the party and plan ahead. Also you witnessed the stakeholders meeting held . Leaders from across the 27 local governments attended. So tell those who think pdp is dead that we are alife and ready to win future elections.
But there are reports of mass defections?
In politics, people are free to move if they feel like. We also know political prostitutes who move around for economic reasons. But the fact is real PDP members don’t move around. They are forever loyal to the party. So in Borno, real PDP members are on ground. For those who defect, we will welcome them when they return. So to answer your question, reports of mass defection is false. We have one or two here and there. Even those ones are pleading to return to the party now.
So what are you doing to rebuild the party in the state?
Well, I am leading other leaders to give direction to the party. First is to ensure strong leadership. Second is to pursue reconciliation. Three is to rebuild the party structures. We are doing all the above.