Power sector argument continues in Nigeria

Feb 07, 2008 01:00 AM

Contrary to the revelation by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua that $ 10 bn was expended on the power sector between 2000 and 2007, speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, has said over $ 16 bn was actually spent in the sector by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
This is just as the House Committee on Power and Steel is set to summon Governors Segun Agagu of Ondo, Liyel Imoke of Cross River, Gabriel Suswam of Benue and Danjuma Goje of Gombe State to testify in the investigation of the $ 10 bn invested in the sector in the last dispensation.

Agagu, Imoke and Goje all served as ministers of power and steel during the Obasanjo Administration, while Suswam was a one-time chairman of the House Committee on Power and Steel.
Bankole, who made the disclosure while addressing a delegation led by the corps marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr Osita Chidoka, said the over $ 6 bn addition to the figure represents extra-budgetary spending on the sector during the period. The speaker said latest findings have shown that $ 16 bn was sunk into the power sector without much to show for it, attributing the colossal waste on the poor budget planning and lack of proper oversight by the relevant bodies.

He said: "The problem we have is that of system breakdown over the years where people were not doing the right thing and oversight was minimal," adding that the House was not adopting the approach of input-output and outcomes in ensuring transparency, accountability and good governance.
The speaker tasked the FRSC boss to come out with a medium-term plan to give years that will fit into the 20-year 2020 plan for the house to assess it.
"Only if we plan like this and monitor output periodically would we be able to prevent a situation where $ 16 bn was spent on power reforms with negative results," he said.

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Power and Steel is to begin the investigation into the $ 10 bn expended on the power sector by the Obasanjo Administration from February 21, 2008 to unearth the facts and figures and report back to the House. Chairman of the committee, Hon. Ndudi Godwin Elumelu, said all ministers of finance and power and steel who served between 1999 to 2007 would be invited to make presentations at the public investigation.
Also expected to appear before the probe committee, according to Elumelu, are all attorney-generals of the federation, all accountants general of the federation, all auditors-general of the federation and all governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria who served during the last dispensation. Others to be summoned are all special assistants to ministers of power between 1999 and 2007, former inspector-general of police who served under Obasanjo and all secretaries to the government of the federation as well as former Senate and chairman of House on Power who served within the same period.

Elumelu reiterated that the house was determined to get to the root of the rot in the power sector in order tobring sanity to the country.
"Our objective is to unravel the classic mystery in Nigerian development whereby the more you spend on power, the less electric power you get. We believe that any major scheme of planned social and technological change, such as is expected in the power sector in Nigeria, particularly where it involves millions of people and stupendous sums of money, must of necessity be based on ascertained facts and unbiased assessment of relevant issues."

It would be recalled that President Yar'Adua while receiving the World Bank vice president for Africa, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili recently revealed that $ 10 bn (N 1.2 tn) invested in the power sector between 2000 to 2007 has not translated into power generation, transmission and distribution.
Following this, the house in its plenary of January 31, 2008 mandated the committee on power and steel to investigate the issue. The committee is to carry out a comprehensive and thorough investigation and conduct a public hearing into how the huge sums of money was expended on power generation, transmission and distribution without any commensurate result and report back to the house.

Source / Leadership
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