Still stumbling from the retrogressive, anti-constitutional faux pas of his new party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) which deported 72 hapless Nigerians from Lagos to Onitsha bridge-head recently, Senator Chris Ngige has apparently found other distractions. Today, by curiously claiming credit for the widely reported three-week uninterrupted power supply in Awka, Anambra State, the diminutive lawmaker is gleefully seemingly telling Nigerians that he is now the minister of power.
For good measure and with a little imagination, the former medical doctor who doctored cornered and regurgitated Anambra State governorship almost a decade ago could also claim that this significant positive from the power sector was the upshot of APC policy in the power sector. He could further allege that criticism of his claiming credit for the Awka electricity record is unfair on account of his being the Vice Chairman of the esoteric Senate Committee on Power and Steel.
The Nigerian Senate is an important cog in the evolution of a stable progressive democracy comparable to the best in other parts of the world. It should not be an arena for clowns to strut their stuff. It is on this account that a pertinent analysis of changes in the all-important sector, like the Awka positive, should be properly contextualized and intelligently appreciated. Here is why.
First, it’s no secret that human civilizations are power-driven. Over time, the discovery and domestication of electricity, the most popular energy source on the planet for powering domestic, industrial and business processes has proven its indispensability to societal progress, overall human development and advancement of nation states. It’s then little wonder that back home in Nigeria, the sheer passion and debate which new policy positions by government on the electricity sector customarily provoke considerable debate.
Against this backdrop, the centrality of power sector reengineering to the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration can be best appreciated. A scientist himself, President Jonathan rode piggy-back to political power on the pledge of transforming Nigeria – the “Transformation Agenda”. After previous, successive glib promises of ‘revolutionary changes’ by both elected and unelected leaders over decades, Nigerians were understandably skittish about the latest promise.
In the power sector, the key focus of this analysis, the central government envisages that the total proposed investment in the power sector during the period (2011-2015) is about N1, 896 trillion. This will cover investments in the four critical arenas of power generation, transmission, distribution and alternative energy. This expenditure targets increasing generation and transmission capacity in order to provide adequate and sustainable power. It further targets the intensification of rural electrification efforts in a more efficient manner; and achieving optimal energy mix using the most appropriate technology.
The strategies to be adopted in achieving these include creating a deregulated and competitive electric power sector to attract foreign and local investments; ensuring a viable commercial framework for the electric power sector including a tariff regime that promotes transparency, guarantees security of investments and a reasonable rate of return on investments; ensuring the transmission capacity and providing redundancies in the transmission system so as to ensure a fully integrated network that minimises transmission losses while strengthening grid security.
It could be recalled that the sudden resignation of Minister of Power, Professor Bart Nnaji, almost put the painstaking process he scripted and was supervising – the privatization of the nation’s sick power sector – into a tail-spin. But providentially, with the coming on board of Professor Nebo as power minister, the bracing process was successfully concluded with winning bidders emerging. The stakes couldn’t have been higher. Of more than passing significance were the unique dimensions to the power sector’s successful privatization, following years of unseemly bickering.
It is against this critical backdrop that Ngige’s spurious claim that the three consecutive weeks of uninterrupted electricity supply recorded in Awka should be credited to the concerted efforts of the senate committee on power where he is vice chair should be summarily dismissed. Speaking with newsmen in Awka, Ngige, who represents Anambra Central senatorial district, also laughably claimed that the development was part of his developmental programme for the zone.
“I am happy to tell you that this is one of my constituency programmes for Anambra Central. Due to my position as Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Power and Steel, I was able to network major towns in Anambra State, including the Ala Oji power station in Abia State, and also towns like Onitsha-Ihiala Owerri- Oguta – Aba and Nnewi areas,” Ngige reportedly crowed for effect.
Political hot air is an acceptable part of politicking but it should have limits, especially when extremely important human arenas, like electric power, are discussed. Ngige’s governorship ambition come 2014 is a legitimate democratic aspiration. But it should also not be an excuse to trivialize compelling issues in a crucial sector like power or take credit away from the relevant ministers and policy visioners.
Although, Nigerians’ demand for stable power supply has not been completely met, there is no doubt that much has been achieved in the last two years. The Awka positive is a good indicator of where the country is headed in the power sector. The emerging consensus is that the extant sector reform will increase access to electricity, engender private sector investment, improve infrastructure, and generate employment for the growing population of graduates.
But unfortunately, a bitter political opposition unable to marshal an alternative vision finds a curious comfort zone in Jonathan bashing and claiming wrong credits, notwithstanding the enormity of the task and demonstrable commitment of the president to deliver the goods.
Maturity, constructive engagement, objective intellectual application and genuine appreciation of challenges impeding the changes we badly need will certainly be a more helpful footing than banal posturing and grandiose proclamations by the likes of Ngige who covet the propagandist approach to Anambra 2014!
· Ardo is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja