Earlier this month, Yar'Adua confessed that Nigeria will not get regular power supply until 2011. I might not understand his comment, but even my favorite National Assembly member, Patrick Obahiagbon reacted by saying,
"There is no gainsaying the fact that the good people of Nigeria are righteously indignant of the epileptic state of power supply in the country and from that pedestal, it becomes germane for them to expect some kind of urgent solutions to this incubus and I am in perfect agreement with my countrymen."Now although some, Obahiagbon included, might be put off by Yar'Adua's declaration, I, for one, appreciate it greatly. Nigerians now have a clear deadline with which they can hold the Yar'Adua administration and all public officials accountable. Despite my 'positive' perspective on this issue, Yar'Adua's plans to achieve this '2011 power mission' is drawing significant negative press, especially because of the plans to tap into the excess crude account.
The excess crude account was created to save profits made from the sale of oil to be used by Nigeria's 36 states, many local governments and the federal government. A spokesperson for the administration specified that the government will use $5.37 billion from the account to finance projects in the power sector, while $4.8 billion will be shared amongst the various states. This will not be the first time that the administration has tapped into the fund. The first time was last year when $1 billion was shared amongst state governors who had complained that their coffers were empty.
Although Yar'Adua declared a state of emergency due to Nigeria's failed power sector, the announced plans to use the excess crude funds is raising some key issues and the ire of some. Firstly, there is the obvious inflation risk. A sharp increase in domestic spending, while beneficial to national development, could, if unchecked, cause fiscal problems which would derail the economy from the much needed stability it currently has.
Secondly, there is an ongoing debate amongst some about whether or not the excess crude fund is a legal entity to begin with. This debate is predominant in the Senate and Senators like Ahmed Lawan have publicly expressed their concerns about the legality of the account. Many have gone as far as to push for the dissolution of the account all together.
Thirdly, the announcement that the federal government will work in partnership with the Africa Finance Corporation to develop the power sector with private funds has prompted probes in the National Assembly and media attacks on those who support the venture.
WILL YARDY'S 'MISSION' BE ACCOMPLISHED?
Unfortunately, this optimistic approach alone will not help Yar'Adua meet the 2011 deadline. He will have to do a serious political dance to achieve the objective. That might include dealing with individuals who are directly tied to the predicament the power sector, and Nigerians, currently face. But, one key thing Nigeria's President will have to do is overcome the public impression that he is not strong or powerful enough to deal with the various 'principalities' that are major players in the country. If we are to assume that his objective is truly to advance Nigeria by improving the power sector then, Yar'Adua will have to twist the arms and maybe even ears of those who are not interested in national progress or simply do not agree with his plan and get them to fall in line so as to achieve the stated objective.
Can he do it? I will leave it to readers and others to come to their own conclusion. Nevertheless, Nigerians had better pray and/or make the necessary sacrifices to whatever God/gods they serve for Yar'Adua to accomplish his goal of regular power supply, or some semblance of it, by 2011.
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