THEWILL EDITORIAL: Saving Nigeria’s Power Sector From Total Collapse And An Incompetent Minister

SAN FRANCISCO, June 29, (THEWILL) – The power sector in Nigeria is on the brink of total collapse. The free fall that has been witnessed in the last two years is about to bring the sector to ground zero. A sector that is supposed to be the pillar of the nation’s economic development has turned into a big disappointment.

The modest achievements and gains made so far by the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration in that sector are just about to be frittered away on the altar of incompetence, inept leadership, gross abuse of office, sheer greed, avarice and an apparent lack of a good understanding of what it really takes to make the sector work.

All these are coming as Nigerians prepare for another hike in electricity tariff come July 1, as they would be expected to pay more for services that are far below acceptable global standards.

The electricity price hike is also coming at a time the World Bank has just released a whopping $750 million to the Federal Government for the development of the power sector because of its strategic importance as the engine of development. Yet, the services and output from the sector do not, in any way, reflect the humongous amount of money that has been pumped into the sector so far by the Buhari Administration and the country’s development partners.

Minister for Power, Sale Mamman

The industry stakeholders are, however, worried, just as other concerned Nigerians, on the current development in the sector. They have described the Minister for Power, Sale Mamman, who assumed office last year, as the most incompetent the sector has seen in the last two decades. Minister Mamman has not also helped the matter in any way. From his disappointing performance at the Senate screening, when he was nominated as a Minister to replace Babatunde Fashola, to his current display of intellectual deficit at public outings, sheer incompetence and inept leadership, the sector has never had it so low.

Only recently, the Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees, in a petition, called on President Buhari to intervene in the crisis in the power sector by prevailing on the Minister to, among others, give consideration to the interest and welfare of the staff of the Transmission Company of Nigeria in the ongoing plan to relocate TCN headquarters to a permanent place.

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The petition signed by Joe Ajaero, NUEE General Secretary and sighted by THEWILL, pleaded with Buhari not to ignore the concerns raised in order not to derail the modest gains made in the sector in the last few years.

The electricity workers listed their concerns to include the N14 billion office accommodation scandal and the alleged role of the Minister in connivance with some aides of the President.

Mamman, they said, is also presently fast tracking the purchase of a N14 billion office complex in Abuja for the TCN, which the management and staff of the agency have unanimously declared unsuitable for their operations.

They also described the sack of the former TCN Managing Director, Usman Gur Mohammed, by the Minister as a major setback for the industry even as they considered the Minister’s ‘Sole Administrator’s mindset as a sabotage to President Buhari’s sincere objectives of making the sector work.

The Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies has also raised the alarm, alleging that Mamman, who has apparently sidelined the Minister of State for Power, Jeddy Agba, is corruption-personified whose only interest in the sector are procurement, contracts and fund administration.

The Association faulted the Minister in sacking Gur Mohammed from TCN, Marilyn Amobi from Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company and Lola Ogunbiyi, Managing Director of Rural Electrification Agency, months after she had voluntarily resigned to take up a United Nation’s appointment. The Association also condemned the appointment of Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz, an Assistant General Manager, to replace Gur Mohammed at TCN, over and above his seniors, who are substantive General Managers and Directors.

But the Minister continues to justify his actions even as he acknowledged the challenges in the sector in a virtual meeting with the African Development Bank recently in Abuja.

“Unfortunately, the first phase privatisation has not delivered the benefits envisaged as the sector is struggling with a number of challenges namely,’’ Mamman was quoted as saying, adding, “This led to the articulation of my roadmap that specified five key areas of focus in order to take corrective steps and reposition the sector on a path of sustained growth.’’

However, the Minister is simply blind to the reality on ground so as to realise that the ‘roadmap,’ he was flaunting at the meeting, is nothing but a blueprint for catastrophe in the sector.

There is no doubt, therefore, that the situation at hand now in the sector has completely gone out of hand with Mamman in control. This is totally unacceptable.

THEWILL calls for a drastic step to be taken, and urgently too, to save the sector from total and irredeemable collapse.

We condemn the shameless and inept leadership, coupled with the arrogant display of avarice and greed by those saddled with the responsibility of steering the affairs of the supervising Ministry. The low level they have descended to, in pursuit of selfish gains, is not only an insult to Nigerians but also a great injustice to the country and Nigerians as a whole.

The ongoing developments at the Ministry of Power, with Mamman as Minister, should therefore be of great concern not only to well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians but the Federal Government as well. The Ministry, despite its prime importance to President Buhari Administration’s roadmap for the country’s development, appears to have been hijacked by a clique, which unfortunately, is close to the President.

The international community is watching with keen interest and the attention of the world is focused on the much-flaunted power sector reforms in the country.

The bubble is already bust and it’s only a matter of time before the proverbial masquerade would start dancing naked in the market. The time for President Buhari to act is now as further delay could lead to shame and ridicule not only for his Administration but the country.