Sunday, March 16, 2008

When Yar'Adua became President last year, he committed himself to deciphering Nigeria's power mess. Earlier this year, Nigeria's Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan's meeting was interrupted by 'power holding' on the part of PHCN (NEPA's new and improved name). This incident was closely followed by another embarrassing moment when on the 3rd of March, President Yar'Adua's speech was brought to a screeching halt when there was a power outage in Kaduna. Yar'Adua issued an 18 month ultimatum on power.

It is amazing how embarrassment can motivate people. In this case, make it an entire government. These embarrassing power cuts, constant media reports about future reductions in power supply, and Yardy's declared 'Vision 2020'* plan have 'put pepper' on the backside of legislators and the National Assembly is now having hearings into the true nature of Nigeria's failed power sector. This scandal is, unfortunately, a reflection of Nigeria in its malaise -inability breeding inability. Deficient 'leaders' in positions of power failing to produce the results that are expected over and over again.

A special Committee on Power and Steel began probing whether or not $10 billion or $16 billion had been 'spent' by the former administration on addressing electricity issues. These hearings, which are being played out on national television, have revealed that six power stations that have been fully paid for are yet to be completed. Additionally, a South African company, Pivot, paid to maintain the Mambila power station has not even taken the first steps towards operating the station. Further inquiries have also illustrated that the former President Olusegun Obasanjo gave out power contracts left and right without following legal requirements. He apparently overrode the authority of the Ministry of Energy and personally picked and chose who got contracts in the power sector.

We must commend the House of Representative's Committee on holding these hearings and exposing for the nation, and the world, the deep rot of corruption that plagues Nigeria's ability to generate sufficient electricity. This is democracy at work. Nigerians are able to watch their televisions, listen to their radios, read newspapers and discuss with their friends the serious issues raised by this scandal.

Some of the revelations from the probe are startling and the Committee has called Yardy to appear and answer questions. The Committee is considering whether or not to require Obasanjo to appear for questioning, despite revelations that he benefited from many of the contracts doled out in the power sector. I can only wonder whether or not Nigerians will still sit with their hands on their chin in wonderment, or if they will actually demand action i.e. that OBJ appear before the House of Representative's Committee and answer questions, that Yardy keep his promise to tackle the power crisis faced by millions and that any individual or corporate entity regardless of their wealth, power or access to the powerful elite actually face the wheels of justice if they have a direct link to the nation's failed power sector. Only time will tell whether Nigerians will demand better treatment from those charged with serving the people's needs.

Why are we going through all this? Why have we paid companies, foreign and domestic, to provide the means necessary for power generation when there were very capable companies that could have done the job? I posit that this scandal simply highlights corruption and the need to "chop" that is pervasive in Nigeria. Obasanjo and friends shared the power/electricity cake amongst themselves and kept out companies that could have actually done a good job at moving Nigeria several steps further in the trek towards development via adequate power supply. Imagine, Nigerians rely on generators to power their fridges but not their televisions, or power their computers and not their microwaves. The majority of Nigerians do not even have powerlines to dream of having any electricity and/or do not have the money to purchase generators and the diesel needed to power them.

In case you are wondering what companies could have handled this situation, may I present Income Electrix Limited, a Nigerian controlled power company that has successfully completed the first phase of a 36 megawatts Independent Power Plant (IPP) in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone's Minister of Energy commended Income Electrix for their competency and their ability to complete this phase of the project with only 10 weeks. Income Electrix Limited is currently working with PHCN to institute pre-paid metres for electricity users.

We are, quite simply, our own worst enemies.

I've said this before and will say this again, OBJ did some good things for Nigeria, but his legacy will staunchly reflect his failures to observe basic rules that were already in place. For instance, when he brought Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to run the Ministry of Finance? Her salary contract caused consternation because it denominated her pay in U.S. dollars and not Naira, Nigeria's currency. That was in direct conflict with laws already in place that required all Nigerian officials to be paid in Naira. Additionally, Obasanjo's decision to elevate Ribadu to Assistant Inspector General as a means to keep him in office after the transition to Yar'Adua's administration plays a key role in the current confusion that Nigerians are experiencing.

Nevertheless, unlike the Okonjo-Iweala and Ribadu case were the laws were unclear, there were clear laws in place to regulate how and when contracts were given to companies, OBJ apparently usurped the entire process and possibly turned it into a financial boom for himself and his associates. This attitude of OBJ's - that people in power can do what he wants -seems to be a recurring theme now that the country is reviewing many of the actions of the former administration. No wonder Yardy came into office and made 'Rule of Law' his mantra. In retrospect, the rule of law was categorically lacking in the previous administration and although the jury is still out on Yar'Adua, one can at least commend his administration for creating an environment where the failures of former elected officials can be reviewed and analyzed. For the Fela fanatics, all one has to say is 'Authority Stealing' to put this story and its fallout into context.

So, like my fellow Nigerians, I sit in earnest to see whether Yardy and the legislature will go one step further than mere probes and solve Nigeria's power crisis by creating a reliable power grid, solving the Niger Delta crisis to fuel thermal powered power stations, and provide an opportunity for Nigeria's poor and middle class to advance.

- Patrick Obahiagbon - My Favorite Parliamentarian?
- Nigeria: Arithmetic Problems in High Places (


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15 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

wellsbaba said...

KAI! im first! truth is we havent had a leadership that truly has the people at heart....they say,"where there is a will,there is a way".....that means even if the power problem of nigeria is "impossible" to solve,with the goverment willing,they would have found a solution......we are simply without power because the leadership is not willing(they dont have the population at heart,they jst see the position has a lucrative biz) n this is also affectin all other sectors of the economy
we need a leadership that cares bout us,then they would think of ways to really help us n they would find n take actions!

Naija Vixen said...

Beautiful, couldnt possible agree more...It's so easy for people to think they can change situations better than others have done previously. I bet you Yardy had lofty ideas when leadership was thrust on him(ha!) but then he got there and prob'ly realised the mess was MUCH greater than he thought. What needs to be done is to tackle a problem at a time, instead of having so many projects going on at the same time...hopefully, the power problem is solved first.

Dojaa said...

I have been watching this enquiry everyday on AIT, it makes for interesting viewing.
We seem to have contracted all kinds of retards to do the job hence the problem with power supply.

Jinta said...

the whole story's exposed when we dont even know whether we spent $10b or $16b

TheAfroBeat said...

"Nigerians are able to watch their televisions, listen to their radios, read newspapers and discuss with their friends the serious issues raised by this scandal."

I thought you were being sarcastic here, blame the cynic in me, but I know my family's too busy pumping water, cooking and ironing clothes when we're lucky enough to have power supply ;)

I couldn't have phrased a better thesis on OBJ's legacy - you've said it all: Thanks for all the good deeds Baba, but it's time to answer to all the misdeeds you oversaw during your 8 years in "power" (not "office").

rethots said...

Eventually, after passing through...posterity's left to judge the duration and what we did while passing through (of which, we are not in a position to determine what aspect of our works it judges).

"Obasanjo's decision to elevate Ribadu to Assistant Inspector General as a means to keep him in office after the transition ..."
A wrong cannot simply be sustained, if so, the very reason he was elevated is the very reason he's been sent on a course (to equip him for the new rank). Oh, that men would take time to think deep.

Nice one, Nigerian Curiosity

Waffarian said...

My sister, wrote about the same "embarassing" thing last week, na dat one vex me pass!

I do not not think that OBJ will answer for any of his crimes. I always thought the whole privatization scheme was just a name for "mass chopping". Now, everything is coming to light, and once again, let us pretend to be surprised.

Anonymous said...

I hope you and your readers are monitoring the conversations on this subject as it unfold at the National Assembly.

As expected the past ministers in charge (Imoke & Agagu) did very well as they spurn the issue by quoting conflicting figures and statements that provoked several emetic reactions as I read through.

Check Vanguard: OBJ didn't waste money on power — Agagu, Imoke. This statement made by Imoke is troubling:
NIPP (Integrated Power Project) was conceptualized in 2004 when it was observed that a power plant had been constructed near gas source but it could not make use of the gas because all the gas is being committed by the powerful oil companies to their future contracts. So, there is no gas for us to meet our domestic needs. They make more money selling it abroad. Even if you put the plant on top of gas, you will find out that there is still no gas.

Agagu too referred to the fact that the required gas lines weren't constructed for several of the power plants built during their tenure.

I still struggle to comprehend fully what Imoke and Agagu meant by those statements.

The most incredible fact was that S6.2b was paid to contractors that have no record of registration at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) under the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) programme (Guardian).

Yet, this was at a time "Due Process was at peak season". If the tears would come, I would have cried for Nigeria. This is the most unkind cut of all!


@ Imnakoya: Thanks for the heads up on this. I am behind on my reading this week and all I've caught was the semi-grilling that Imoke got. The man was telling people 'things take time'. I almost broke my tv screen. That coupled with the way all the committee members kept calling him 'older brother' or something like that. Just when I begin to get hope, my spirits get dashed again.

Thanks nonetheless!

guerreiranigeriana said...

*throws up hands in exasperation...on second thought, decides to act surprised*...

...when we have those in power who are truly vested in improving/developing the nation and the people, we shall see change...otherwise, it's selfish interests which dictate what happens...

guerreiranigeriana said...

i meant to also say that this piece was well-written indeed...will you forward it to yardy and company?...

For the love of me said...

In a piece by Etim Etim(yesterday's gaurdian) on the issue of the governor whose aids assaulted a woman for not leaving the road for the convoy, he asked these governors where they were when he and sevral Nigerians gathered at Tejuosho,Onikan stadium,etc, risking their lives demanding for democracy.And this is what we get? leaders who do not give two hoots about the citizens. I, too remember university, when students carried coffins of Abacha even before he died,calling for an end to his rule. I remember several protests and trigger happy policemen throwing bullets and teargas about. Is this the democracy we fought for?
The issue with power saddens me but I have no more tears to shed for Nigeria.

Kiibaati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kiibaati said...

The day EFCC, ICPC or even Nigerian Police arrests OBJ, I'll begin to take this anti-graft war seriously but for now, nothing new

Beauty said...

The legacy of ignorance is all history will have on OBJ. He ruled twice and despite the few good people he had to help him, the ultimate decision was his alone.

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