Recent happenings in the National Assembly and in the larger polity, especially among the members the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), do not give room to believe that the fact-finding committee will achieve the required result.
The Senate on August 13, constituted an ad- hoc committee to investigate the power sector and establish what has happened to the huge investment made in it since 1999 and why little or no result has been achieved.
Chaired by Alhaji Abubakar Kyari (Borno North), the 13-man commit was given the task of probing the management of funds allocated to the sector in the last 16 years as well as the unbundling of the erstwhile Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
By embarking on this exercise, the Senators are believed to have demonstrated the concern of Nigerians over the deplorable state of the power sector which, sadly, has defied all remedies. Much as the challenge of the sector dates beyond 1999, its worsening state became more worrisome with the return of democratic government 16 years ago as it remained the key factor militating against our national development despite huge resources committed to it.
It has been revealed that a total of N2.7 trillion has been spent on the power sector since 1999. This revelation was made by the permanent secretary, ministry of power, Godknows Igali, during his appearance before the committee some weeks ago.
A few days after the disclosure, Hon. Godwin Ndu- di Elumelu in a local television programme, disputed the figure. Elumelu, who played a key role a similar fact-finding exercise about seven years ago, argued that the figure could not be accurate. He noted that the N2.7 trillion should be for 1999 to 2007 only, insisting that Nigeria had spent more than N2.7 trillion on power
Elumelu chaired the House of Representatives ad- hoc panel instituted in 2008 to probe the power sector following the failure of the Independent Power Project (IPP) initiative under former president Olusegun Obasanjo. The Elumelu- led panel also had as its mandate — to determine the level of resources deployed to the power sector since 1999 and how they were managed.
Most disappointing, the committee turned out a national scandal of unequalled proportion as its members and the entire House of Representatives ended not understanding themselves.
The drama surrounding the recommendations of the panel took a bizarre twist when another committee set up by the same House to review the recommendations of the Elumelu-led rejected 84 of the 88 recommendations of panel. In the end, Nigeria benefitted little or nothing from the assignment despite huge resources committed.
Elumelu did not hide his skepticism over the current exercise and the ability of the lawmakers to do any meaningful job to justify the wisdom of the Senate in revisiting the notorious power sector narrative. Incidentally, this is the thinking of most Nigerians who do not believe that the ad-hoc committee could earn itself a reputation for doing a good job.
First, the fact-finding committee is seen as suspicious given its timing and antecedents. The exercise is perceived more as strategy for calculated arm-twisting designed to match the ongoing power play in the National Assembly. It is also being argued that the lawmakers want to stamp their feet of authority in a political arena of anger, mistrust and ‘audacity’ of the deprived.
Recent happenings in the National Assembly and in the larger polity, especially among the members the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), do not give room to believe that the fact-finding committee will achieve the required result. Little is being heard about a committee with the mandate of four weeks to conclude its assignment. It is over six weeks already.
Obviously, it will be a sad commentary on the image of the upper legislative chamber to fail in accomplishing a task it set for itself. This will lay credence to the perception among most Nigerians that the power sector is controlled by a powerful cabal that is both invisible and invincible, and capable of strengthening the generating capacity of the sector for darkness.
Beside the Elumelu-led committee, there had been the Bamidele Aturu panel set up to investigate the distribution and management of electricity metres in former PHCN. Report of the panel showed that the organization served as breeding ground for corruption over the years. This featured in the acquisition, distribution and reading of metres as well as exploitation of consumers through crazy bills for services virtually never rendered.
All these, among others, did not changed anything. Instead, the power sector turned out a national doom for which we are yet to recover; and might never recover for a long time to come. We therefore urge the Saraki-led Senate to prove its sincerity of purpose for setting up the ad-hoc committee to probe the power sector since 1999. It must demonstrate the courage to do what is right in the spirit of change.
The committee should revisit previous reports including recommendations of the Elumelu- led panel. It should also consult stakeholders and actors who played key roles in the elusive task of fixing the power sector which turned out a channel for draining public funds, and where ingenuity for endless exploitation of Nigerians became competitive and somewhat ‘legitimate’.