The Senate Committee on Privatisation at the weekend disclosed that the decision of federal government to sell 11 power distribution companies and six generation firms, contrary to its informed advice ,compounded the prevailing epileptic power supply the country had been experiencing in the post-privatisation era.
The committee added that the private investors that bought the country’s power distribution and generation installations lacked financial capacity and wherewithal to transform the sector as speedily as possible and guarantee stable power supply within a period of 24 months specified in the memorandum of understanding (MoU).
The Chairman of the committee, Sen. Gbenga Obadara disclosed this during an interview with THISDAY in Lagos, pointing that Nigeria might not achieve stable power supply as quickly as possible due to the fact that the country’s power equipment “has become moribund and obsolete. The power investors are starting afresh.”
Obadara, who is currently representing Ogun Central in the Senate, explained how he personally persuaded President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo, who chairs the National Council of Privatisation (NCP) not to sell all the power installations in the country at once to no avail.
He explained that the Federal Executive Council also constituted part of the problems, which he said, worsened the power supply in the country, pointing out that the Senate Committee on Privatisation advised the federal government “to privatise power, infrastructure should be sold in three phases to avoid unforeseen situations.
“We told them not to sell the 11 distribution installation in one day. We advised them against selling the six generation infrastructure in one day. We advised them to sell the power installations gradually. If the installations were sold gradually, we will not have possibly got to this situation. I spoke with President Goodluck Jonathan.
“I had meetings with President Goodluck Jonathan on the need to sell the power installations in three phases. I spoke with Vice President Namadi Sambo, the Chairman of National Council of Privatisation (NCP). I advised them not to sell the entire power installations in one day. But the Executive went ahead without listening good advice…”
He lamented that the federal government “has made monumental mistakes,” explaining that most of the investors that bought the power distribution and generation installations lack finances “to overhaul the companies.”
He said the committee could not really look into the investors before they purchased the installations because it did not have power “to look at their books. It is the duty of the executive to look at the books of the investors and determine whether they financial wherewithal to transform the country’s power sector within specified time.”
Obadara explained that most of the power installations “are completely obsolete. That is why the government cannot continue. It has to be private sector-driven. It is like the investors are starting all over again because they have shut a lot of things down and bring a lot of things in.
These are not things they can purchase and start using.
“It takes times to get it done. It takes a lot of investments the investors are putting into the power sector. The investors have their plan, which indicates that the power sector will witness monumental development within a period of 18 months or 24 months. Do not forget that these people are not Father Christmas.”
The lawmaker, also, explained a lifeline of N213 billion the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had approved for the investors as the power intervention funds, which he said, was catalyzed by worsening power supply in the country.
According to him, all things are lip service. I can tell you that none of these power investors has accessed the funds. If they provided the funds and the investors cannot access, what sense does that make to us? They have been paying lip service to the provision of N213 billion to assist the power investors in the country.
Before the electioneering took off effectively, Obadara acknowledged that the committee and its members “have been going across the country to see these power generating and distribution companies. We have asked specific questions, especially as regards the business plan of the power investors and what they have invested with verification.
“In the last two months, we have been engaged in primaries. Elections are just one month away. But as long as elections are over, these issues will come to the front burner again. We have promised our constituents good oversight. This is not negotiable. We have to do that for the best interest of the people we are serving.
“We cannot do anything until we are able to verify the claims and everything we have requested from the power investors. The power to withdraw the power installations does not lie with me anyway. It lies with every persons concerned.
“As legislators, we can make recommendations to the NCP with verifiable evidence. It is left for the NCP to carry out the recommendation of the National Assembly. And where they refuse to carry that out, definitely you know what is going on in the country.”