The Senate yesterday advised the federal government to stop playing the ostrich over the failing power sector seven years after its privatisation.
It also disclosed that N4 .4 trillion was injected generally into the sector as intervention funds in the last 21 years, while N1.7trillion was specifically injected into the sector within the last five years, without corresponding improvement in power supply.
Lawan lamented that Nigeria loses about $29 billion yearly to irregular and poor power supply.
This is just as the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, reeled out recovery plans being made by the federal government in the power sector.
These were fallouts from a three-day investigative public hearing on “the power sector recovery plan and impact of COVID-19 pandemic “, being organised by the Senate Committee on Power which began at Senate Committee Room 231 yesterday.
The President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, while declaring open 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 and therefore 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.
“The purpose of privatisation, just to remind us, is not for government to wash away his hand, to run away from responsibilities. When you have privatisation, 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 giving free money. N1.8 trillion has been given to Discos maybe in their books. The actual money might have been given to the Gencos. N1.8 trillion 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 privatised enterprises. We expect that by now, our level of generation, transmission and distribution would have been far better.”
Lawan, 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 privatisation 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 financial 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 per cent, let it divest so that we don’t hold this sector unnecessarily stagnant,” he said
In his remarks, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Power, Senator Gabriel Suswam disclosed that between 1999 to 2015, the federal government expended the sum of N2.74 trillion by way of interventions in the sector while from 2015 to 2020, additional N1.7 trillion was injected into the sector as intervention fund totalling N4.4 trillion.
According to him, “despite the trillions of Naira and billions of dollars interventions, over the years, the nation’s power generation output from 1999 till date, stands at about 3,500mega watts as against the nation’s installed capacity of about 13, 000MW” .
On her part, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ahmed at the session, however, said the picture was not as gloomy as being painted since the federal government has embarked on series of recovery plans for the power 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.