If the new Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, is to make any headway as he tackles the perennially weak public power supply in the country, then he must, among others, focus on privatising the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), electricity distribution companies have said.
The DISCOs say the weakness of the grid and the power tussle within Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), especially the alleged meddling by the Ministry of Power officials, had further dimmed the hope of a vibrant transmission network for the country.
These were among the issues canvassed by the Director of Research and Advocacy for the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), Sunday Olurotimi Oduntan, in an interview with The Guardian.
“The power sector expects Fashola to sort out the problem in TCN,” he said.
He also called attention to the need for the Minister to lead the campaign for a cost reflective tariff and also for the Federal Government to allow the DISCOs access to funds from Sovereign Wealth Fund.
The funds, according to Oduntan, are necessary to enable the DISCOs step up action on massive procurement of meters and transformers, network renewals and expansion, and for other capital expenditure.
The Nigeria Sovereign Wealth Fund is considered the third-largest in sub-Saharan Africa, after Botswana’s $6.9 billion and Angola’s $5 billion.
The fund was set up by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan to safeguard oil revenues for future generations, provide a buffer against external shocks and spur infrastructure development.
Meanwhile, a civil society organisation, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to quickly unbundle Power, Works and Housing ministry currently under Fashola and appoint more ministers for them.
Lead Director of CSJ, Eze Onyekpere, in a statement in Abuja yesterday, said the idea of merging portfolios for the sake of saving funds does not hold water.
He explained: “The annual basic salary of a minister under the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Amendment) Act No.1 of 2008 is N2,026,400.
Adding the allowances and perks of office will not bring the yearly emoluments of minister beyond N30m. Forty ministers at this level of emoluments will still be about N1.2 billion which will not be above the affordability limit for the country.
“All that is required is to ensure that these ministers stick to their legal and legitimate remuneration and do not dip their hands into the public treasury through abuse of office.”
On the new cabinet, Onyekpere said: “CSJ welcomes the inauguration of the Federal Executive Council while we draw attention to some pertinent issues and concerns arising from two key ministries, namely: Budget and National Planning and the new super Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing.
“By merging these three ministries, the Federal Government has created a super ministry that may make or mar the administration.
The absence of power and adequate energy facilities has been recognised as holding back Nigeria’s economic growth and development. The challenges in that sector are enormous and could take a full time Minister and Minister of State.”