The Minister of Power Babatunde Fashola, made a declaration while speaking at the Nextier Power Dialogue on Wednesday night in Abuja, told his listeners that there were problems in the power sector, but reminded them that it was not the Federal Government’s problem if citizens in the country do not have electricity, especially since the sector was privatized.
He said, “There are problems without a doubt and we must deal with them. But let me remind you, all of the assets that he Ministry of Power used to control power were sold by the last administration before I came. And so if you don’t have power, it is not the government’s problem. Let us be honest.
“The people (sic) who are operating the power sector, generation and distribution are now privately owned companies. I am here because I am concerned. If your telephone is not working, it is not the minister of communication that you go to. Let us be very clear.”
The minister added, “So, for those of you who want to weaponise electricity, face the businessmen who have taken it up. Let us be honest. If your bank over-charges you interest, is it the Minister of Finance you go to? So, let’s be clear. This is now a private business by an Act of Parliament 2005.
“My role is regulatory, oversight and policy, but I have a problem which is the fact that I can’t see a problem and turn my back; so I’m getting involved. So the people you should be talking to about transformers is not me, the ministry doesn’t supply transformers anymore.”
Responding to claims that he once said a serious government would fix power sector challenges within six months, Fashola challenged participants at the dialogue and members of the public to produce any video where he made such a comment.
“I have the video of what I said and where I said it and I think it was in 2014 in the run-up to the election and I was in Lekki, Lagos,” the minister said.
He explained that the comment was made during the inauguration of the Lekki Independent Power Project when he was the Governor of Lagos State, adding that his statement had to do with the connection of residents of Lekki to the IPP within six months if the state government had received the approval to do so.
But even as Fashola tried to absolve the Federal Government of any blame in the electricity crisis, the main opposition political party, the People’s Democratic Party and civil society organisations rejected the excuse given by the minister. While the PDP described the comment as arrogant, the Campaign for Democracy and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership said that Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari had failed to deliver on its promises on stable power to Nigerians.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, told one of our correspondents that majority of those serving in Buhari administration believed that they were wiser than other Nigerians.
He said, “Who then do we hold responsible if we don’t have light? Who has been bragging that power has allegedly improved? So, if power improves and there is light, they will want to take the glory. “But now that everywhere is in darkness, we should direct our complaints elsewhere? What arrogance! They have never believed that this administration will end one day and that people will call on them to explain what they have done with the mandate given them.”
On his part, the CD President, Usman Abdul, said, “It is laughable and unfortunate that such statement came from a high-profile minister in this government. When this present administration came in, there were lots of issues bothering the Nigerian citizens which they promised they were going to take care of. Till now, the government has not been able solve the power problem.
“How then can they tackle the economy? How can they rebuild the economic base of citizens and ensure a rise in our Gross Domestic Product? These distribution companies were paid money by the Federal Government to stabilise and perform well, but where did the money go to?”