Power Minister doubles effort to steady electricity

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The Nigerian government has appealed to the citizenry to exercise more patience as it doubles efforts to ensure the delivery of steady electricity to individual homes and businesses.

Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola made the appeal on Tuesday while making presentation at a two day public hearing on a Senate motion titled; “Electricity tariff hike in Nigeria.”

Mr. Fashola explained that the hike in electricity tariff which took effect from February 2016 was one of the decisions that Nigeria must take as part of measures to correct the mistakes of over six decades, which had plagued electricity supply in the country.

Commercial basis
He urged Nigerians to understand that government can only exercise collaborative pressure to get things done now, because it is a minority shareholder in the electricity sector where there are majority shareholders, which means that things must be done on commercial basis.

“As we move from the PHCN mentality to a more business like mentality, all of us should take interest in what happens in our communities. And therefore, I don’t control how power is distributed, I don’t control how power is generated as was possible to do in the past, except. They are now largely private businesses,” the Minister insisted.    

A representative of the NLC, who is also the President of Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees, Mr. Joe Ajaero said the minority share status of the government now makes it possible for the investors to take decisions on tariff against the interest of Nigerians.

“Honourable Minister should look at that when he said unfortunately they are minority shareholder, what is Nigeria’s base power? When you are privatising and you don’t have base power, what it means is that if investors conspire that tariff must one million Naira, it then means you have to succumb to their conspiracy,” Mr. Ajaero said.

To commensurate
Senate President Bukola Saraki, who declared the public hearing open, emphasised the need for tariff that is commensurate with the supply of electricity across the country.

He was represented by the deputy chief whip of the Senate, Senator Francis Alimekhena.

Most of the stakeholders in the electricity sector attended the public hearing, except the Distribution Companies (DISCOS) and the Generating Companies (GENCOS).

The public hearing is expected to end on Wednesday before the Senate would take a decision on the issue of the February 2016 electricity tariff hike.

South-east protest
In another development, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, on Tuesday condemned in strong terms, the reported killing of young men and women by security operatives in parts of the South-eastern part of the country, while quelling disturbances.

He made the condemnation at the plenary session of the Senate on Tuesday, when he came under Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rule, to draw the attention of the Upper Chamber to the bloodbath in the South-East region of the country on Monday.

The Deputy President of the Senate further noted that the country had recorded so much bloodshed in various parts of the country in past, as such security agencies must apply caution in quelling perceived disturbances in any part of country whatsoever, so as to prevent young men and women from being sent to their untimely graves.

 “Those of us who had the opportunity of looking at the papers this morning would know that most of the newspapers had front page stories of bloodbath in the South-East. Yesterday, I had a number of calls about the disturbing clash between youths in different parts of the South-East, South-South and security agencies, leading to the death of many people; both the young men and security personnel.

 I would like to use this opportunity under Order 43 to say that the security agencies must apply caution in trying to quell disturbances. We have had so much of bloodbath in this country under different circumstances and we cannot continue to lose our young men because the future of this country belongs to them,” Senator Ekweremadu said.

He further stated that, “It is important that we rise to condemn any act of killing in any part of this country, especially the ones that concern the major part of our future, which remains the young men and women of this country.”

“We are now in a democracy and people should be entitled to speak their minds; to assemble under responsible and lawful circumstances and the security agencies must also be responsible in dealing with those circumstances to ensure that lives are not lost unnecessarily.

 “I wish to bring this to the notice of the Senate for us to take note and possibly for the States involved to set up enquiries to find out what led to these clashes; the number of people lost and to ensure that this does not happen in the future.”