President Muhammadu Buhari must decide how he plans to deal with Nigeria’s agents of darkness – past leaders who mismanaged trillions of Naira while claiming to be attempting to solve the nation’s power problem. With the on-going anti-corruption war, Mr. President would need to pay more attention to revelations from the Senate probe while at the same time not sparing those who would be indicted.August 25, 1985, Lagos, South West, Nigeria
Buhari-OBJ-GEJ (1)In the wee hours of August 25, 1985, a young man was dragged to Dodan Barracks and beaten mercilessly.
His name is Muba, a station officer of the then National Electric Power Authority, NEPA.
He was a victim of the coup that had just deposed then General Muhammadu Buhari. Citizen Muba’s only offence was that he was in the Ikoyi office of NEPA when a power surge from Kainji Power Station in the North Central go-political zone, occurred and caused a sudden power outage at the Barracks which was Nigeria’s seat of power at that time.
Misconstrued to be part of a deliberate sub-plot meant to scuttle the coup, the power outage incensed some military personnel within the precincts of the Barracks; they headed straight for the NEPA office in Ikoyi, sacked the station, forcibly hauled Citizen Muba into their military van and straight to their office. He was then given the beaten of his life – he was released days later, after it was ascertained that the power outage was not part of a planned counter offensive. That he did not die afterwards remains a miracle to Muba and members of his family. But that did not mean successive administrations since 1985 focused on maintaining, not to talk of even improving, the nation’s power infrastructure. Not that funds were not allocated but the typically Nigerian mentality of wanton waste crept in causing monumental mismanagement.
August 2007, National Assembly, Abuja
Nigerians were treated to a daily surfeit of hilarious dramatisation of who awarded what contract, who got what mobilisation fee, who under-supplied and who refused to supply turbines or transformers, during the House of Representatives investigation into the Olusegun Obasanjo administration’s expenditure for his Independent Power Projects, IPPs.
While the investigations were on and while many Nigerians were sub-consciously laughing at their own folly, many of the imported components for some power projects scattered across the country were rotting away at some of the nation’s ports. Some were stolen while others were never even bought or some of the funds out rightly stolen.
Also, while the public show lasted, work stopped at some of the IPPs’ sites across the country. In fact, the system-collapse that the nation witnessed a few years ago which turned Nigeria into one very big darkroom was as a result of the non-maintenance of the nation’s power infrastructure.
2012, North West, Nigeria
The PHCN regional manager and some staff were horsewhipped to a pulp.
He and his colleagues had been accused of sabotage by the governor of one of the states in Nigeria’s North West geo-political zone. The state governor allegedly superintended the corporal punishment meted to the officials of Nigeria’s state owned power company because the former suspected that the frequent power outages at the seat of power in the state may have been deliberate and meant to embarrass the state government.
This story is not new but is very true. Although the state governor continued to deny the incident, insisting that he merely handed over the officials to the Police for investigation, it is merely an instance in the serial misplaced aggression in the cesspit of impunity that Nigeria has been turned into.
Mismanagement of state funds
A total of N2.74 trillion was reportedly invested in the country’s power sector from 1999 to date – with, might we add, nothing to show for it in substantial terms.
Interestingly, of this amount, only N948 billion was released to the Ministry of Power.
Regarding the monumental fraud that allegedly attended the Excess Crude Account, ECA,
$8.23 billion which is a total of N1.64 trillion, was removed and purportedly used for the power sector.
Whereas funds were being earmarked, only a percentage of same was ever released.
Worse, because the funds were never made available as and when due, the inconsistency of the investments in that sector did not yield the required outcomes. The annual net funding release gap deficit ranged from 22 percent to 67 percent.
N1.5 trillion was appropriated for the period of 16 years, but N959,195,372,089 billion was released.
This may have been deliberate.
A breakdown of the appropriation and money released from 1999 to 2015, are: In 1999, N11,205,842,051 was appropriated, but N6,697,964,119 was released; in 2000, N59,064,381,817 was appropriated, N49,784,641,521 was released; in 2001, N103, 397,000,000 was appropriated, with NN70,927,000,000 released; in 2002, N54,647,252,061 was appropriated, N41,196,117,172 was released; in 2003, N55,583,099,000 was appropriated and N5,207,500,000 was released; in 2004, N54,647, 252,061 was appropriated, N54, 647,252,061 released; in 2005, N90,282,833,404 was appropriated, N71,888,606,274 was released; in 2006, N74,308,240, 085 was appropriated, N74. 3 billion released; in 2007, N100 billion was appropriated, N99.8 billion released; in 2008, N156 billion appropriated, N112 billion released and in 2009, N89. 5 was appropriated and N87 released.
In 2010, N172 billion was appropriated and N70 billion was released; in 2011, N125 billion was appropriated, N61 billion was released; in 2012, N197. 9 was appropriated and N53. 5 was released; in 2013, N146 billion was appropriated and N49 billion was released; in 2014, N69.8 billion was appropriated and N48 billion was released and in 2015, N5, 240,000,000 was appropriated with no money released.
These were just some of the revelations at the probe of investments in the power sector since 1999 being carried out by the Senate Committee chaired by Senator Abubakar Kyari, APC, Borno North.
It was at that same public hearing that it was revealed that before 1999, there was no recruitment of an engineer for the nation’s power company.
All these and a seemingly irredeemably irresponsible leadership in the country conspired to do the power sector in.
Therefore, in The Economist’s issue of June 20th, 2015, Nigeria’s acute power problem was put in catastrophic perspectives. “A large brewer”, the magazine said, “explains that energy accounts for about 5% of his total costs ten times as much as at similar outfits in other countries. At banks, where each branch needs its own generator, fuel accounts for about 6% of total costs; and at mobile-telephone companies, which have to provide power to each of their cellphone masts, it can be 10% of total costs…. Nigeria ought to be able to generate about 5.5MW of electricity, but because of breakdowns, gas shortages and decrepit transmission lines, it struggles to churn out anything” meaningful.
Although the state power company has gone through transitions, taken apart into generating, distributing and transmitting companies, the reckless inconsistency in funding continues to pour cold water on all the efforts.
The anti-corruption crusade
No doubt Nigeria has been serially raped by successive administrations without a clear-headed policy on power which takes cognizance of consistent funding and progressive policy frameworks that could have positively stabilized the sector.
Yet, the past military leaders, Obasanjo’s staccato eight years and Jonathan’s bumbling six years, with the attendant wastefulness need looking into.
Rather than provide power, each of those past leaders has been an agent of darkness – as if working with the dark forces to keep Nigeria permanently in the dark – even literally speaking.
So, how would President Buhari handle this?
For a President who promised to kill corruption before corruption kills everybody, there is an urgent and compelling need for him to pay more than a passing attention to the revelations coming out from the Senate probe.
For the agents of darkness in Nigeria, they are the past leaders who did not understand or were made not to understand that electric power supply is the only means to the end of prosperity which every nation seeks, a prosperity which even the constitution of the country purports to guarantee every citizen.
That is why citizens, in the hope that they are surrendering their sovereignty to an individual expected to hold that sovereignty more in loco parentis for the general good in a democracy, look up to the leader to guide, guard and shape their path to future prosperity. That is the lure of goodness electric power possesses when it is made available.
Buhari would need to deal with Nigeria’s agents of darkness no matter how highly placed and no matter who they are.
Why would leaders choose to keep their citizens in darkness?
Perhaps, to enable them steal as much as possible because stealing and corruption or corruption and stealing (whichever you choose) have almost always been a dark-market affair.
But with the coming of Buhari – that is if he confronts the agents of darkness – all that may be about to cease.