Power transmission is set to improve in the country as the federal government has approved the purchase of three new 150MVA transformers at Shiroro, Ondo and Oshogbo sub-stations.
The government also approved the resuscitation of the National Council on Hydrocarbon
The hydrocarbon council is an ombudsman council that meets once a year, in extraordinary times, to review policies in the oil and gas sector.
The decisions were reached at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, explained that the three new transformers would reinforce, expand and maintain the existing transmission capacity.
He explained that the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), which is the manager of the transition system, is the transporter of electricity as it provides service to the generation companies, from whom they evacuate power and to the distribution companies, to whom they deliver power, adding that the TCN needed the transformers to boost its capacity.
“We presented that memo to council and it was approved. The purpose is to continue to reinforce, to expand and to maintain the existing transmission capacity so that as the progress of our incremental power initiative expands and achieves its purpose, the Transmission Company is able to competently deliver the power,” Fashola stated.
The minister also explained why the federal government had labeled some roads critical, pointing out that lack of funds is hindering the government from embarking on construction of new roads.
He also blamed successive administrations for the poor state of some roads in the country.
“When we set out last year on assumption of office, I made it very clear what the liabilities that we had were, we had to deal with contracts valued in the region of about N2 trillion or N2.2 trillion that had been awarded before we came. There were debts owed to those contractors, there were liabilities to complete them in the region of about N1.5 trillion.
“Now, the budget that we have for the three ministries that I superintend is in the region of N400 billion and over N200 billion is dedicated to roads across the country. So that is the deficit that we have to deal with and in making those choices, we then have to deal not with roads that necessarily bother us but roads that carry the heaviest traffic.
“We have provided a three-year plan to begin to address the roads but they are subject to the appropriation we receive and once a road is not appropriated for, you can’t spend money on it, it is a violation of the laws of this country and you will be penalised for it and I won’t breach the law. So I am limited by what I am authorised to do when appropriation comes,” he stated.
Fashola further stated: “Let me reiterate the fact that these roads did not go bad yesterday, they deteriorated progressively over the years, at a period when we had resources and did not address the problem.
“What we have done was first to say that we would not award any new road contract, we would deal with the over 206 roads that have been awarded but not funded for over three years.
“Again in making those choices, what you need to understand is that most federal roads are very long roads, they stretch over hundreds of kilometers. Therefore, the inherited practice was to break them into sections and award to different contractors.”
For his part, Minister of Interior, Gen Abdulraman Dambazzau, disclosed that the council approved the procurement of 320 operational vehicles for the prison service at the cost of N3.5 billion to strengthen the criminal justice system.
He said as part of efforts to strengthen the criminal justice system and to also contribute towards decongesting the system, a memo for the procurement of 320 operational vehicles for the prison service at the cost of N3.5 billion was presented to FEC.
“This procurement is from local manufacturers, assemblies and vendors within Nigeria and the effort is to follow through government policy to ensure that most of the procurement of the equipment and such vehicles are done locally. That will also provide opportunity for job creation and things like that,” Dambazau stated.
The interior minister stressed that government is making efforts to improve the prisons, being one of the legs of the criminal justice system, in terms of conveying prison inmates to courts in particular, so that their chances of getting justice are not jeopardised.
“And this has been happening because for a very long time, the prison system has suffered lack of operational vehicles and as such, quite a number of prisoners remain in prisons longer than necessary, because they do not have the opportunity to be conveyed to the courts. So that is the essence of this,” he added.
Dambazau pointed out that the prison population as at today stands at about 65,000 prisoners, out of which about 70 per cent are awaiting trail and part of the problem is lack of logistics, because there are 5,022 courts and the prison service has to transport prisoners on a daily basis to attend to their cases.
“There are other issues that have to do with other two legs of the tripod, that is the police and the courts. One of the problems of the courts is adjournment of cases, which is also tied to the issue of conveying prisoners to court. This is in addition to the fact that some of those delays are caused by the lawyers. The third part of the issue is how to strengthen the police in terms of investigations because if the cases are not properly investigated, that too can cause delay in the trials.”
Elaborating on the hydrocarbon council, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, said: “It should be a gathering of people from the business, oil sector, oil communities and ministries that are directly or indirectly affected by the policies we roll out in the ministry.”
He further stated that the council had been in existence but in the last couple of years, went into oblivion but had now been revived with the council’s approval.
“The criticality is that as we continue the dialogue we have been having with militants, creating such a fora enables anybody who has an interest in the area to converge and develop the thinking process that will guide policies in this sector,” he added.
On the China road show the government embarked on in July, where Nigeria signed a $75.6 billion Memorandum of Understanding in investments in the oil sector, Kachikwu said it was already yielding expected results as Nigeria was expecting a loan facility of close to $4 billion from China.
According to him, a 40-man Chinese investment team was scheduled to arrive the country at the end of the month, as part of long-term strategic collaborations between the two countries.
“That is still work in progress; we are having a team of over 40 Chinese in Nigeria by the end of this month. We are also setting up a full inter-ministerial panel that will be deliberating with them for each of those sectoral investments.
“I will say that the target we had while going to China was to raise $40 billion, which is the total cost of our infrastructural gap for the oil industry. We raised about $75.6 billion, $69 billion of which was NNPC and government-related potential investments and loans, and the rest directly related to the private sector. If we get even 20 per cent of that, it will be a major achievement for us.
“I will say we have one-year period to work on this. We expect that some will come earlier; there are some facility lines that are almost readily available — close to about $3 or $4 billion — but the investment packages will take us time. This is different from the pledges that were made when the president visited China, which was an all African type front basis; this is completely separate,” Kachikwu stated.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has accused western powers of being a stumbling block to Nigeria’s effort to improve its electricity output through the use of coal.
The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, made the allegation on Wednesday, in Washington, USA, during a discussion on the importance of addressing infrastructure gaps in developing countries at the World Bank, International Monetary Fund General Meetings.
She said improving power supply was the cornerstone of the Buhari administration, towards economic development, but said Nigeria was not getting support from western nations.
“We want to build a coal power plant because we are a country blessed with coal, yet we have power problem. So it doesn’t take a genius to work out that it will make sense to build a coal power plant,” she said.
“However, we are being blocked from doing so, because it is not green. This is not fair because they have an entire western industrialisation that was built on coal-fired energy.
“This is the competitive advantage that was used to develop Europe, yet now that Nigeria wants to do it, they say it’s not green, so we cannot.
“They suggest that we use solar and wind, which is the more expensive. So yes, Africa must invest in its infrastructure, but we must also make sure that the playing field is level,” she said.
By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Abuja