AS THE PRESIDENT CONTEMPLATES THE NEXT CABINET: CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE COMBINED MINISTRIES OF POWER, WORKS, AND HOUSING
Following the re-election of President Muhammdu Buhari into the office for the next four years, one cannot help but re-examine strategic sectors of the economy in the continuing-administration that has been challenged to live up to its billing during the past four years and what they must do to improve critical sectors of the economy.
Nigeria’s age-long problem has been that of the inadequate power supply, any government that is serious about taking Nigeria to greater heights and turning her into a force to reckon with must take the power sector very seriously. Therein - steady power supply - lies the key to rapid development and stability in the nation’s economy.
It came therefore as a surprise to many when the Ministry of Power was merged with two other equally important ministries (Works and Housing) and handed over to a single individual. These very sensitive portfolios, standing by themselves, would give any man sleepless nights, how can we expect optimum results by merging them and handing them over to a single Minister.
Nigerians are yet to see the impact of this decision on the power sector, as power supply has remained epileptic and total blackouts has remained recurrent.
There has been this argument that the current minister has successfully performed as the governor of Lagos. In fact, some say that the economy of Lagos state even prospered under his supervision. The point of contention is the fact that the challenges facing the power sector are by far more complex than managing a state where the political party and sometimes personal loyalties rule supreme.
Joggling between these three ministries may prove to be mission impossible for any Minister regardless of his capacity and experience. It will be impossible for a single minister to handle the three ministries with equal attention and level of competence, one or two may become overlooked and relegated, leaving them lying in the fallow ground.
The fear is that, if the three ministries remain as a unit, very little or nothing is likely to be achieved in the next four years as it has been in the previous four. The nation’s cry for constant power supply is so critical that the sector must be set alone and not joined with other sensitive ministries in order to pay the desired attention to the diehard problems of the sector. This strategy will erase distractions that have hindered the leadership of the sector from implementing progressive policies for the revival of the sector.
There are pertinent questions to ask to enable a dispassionate evaluation of how we have fared with this policy of combining ministries:
- Has any of the age-old problems posed by the DisCos, post this administration, been effectively resolved
- Has the level of power supply availability improved: third-party assessment, please!
- Are the DisCos now able to meet their market obligations (NBET invoices)?
- Has the issue of stranded generation been resolved?
- Has the issue of load rejection been resolved?
- Has the issue of estimated billing and lack of meters been solved? Each NERC regulatory regime comes up with a strategy of its own to solve the problem: from CAPMI to MAP now!!
- Have the issues of poor quality of power and customer service been addressed?
The list is endless!
Lingering issues such as estimated billing, prepaid meter availability, massive unutilized generated power, complaints concerning load rejection and many more will need specialized and undistracted hands to man the sector and solve these numerous challenges in the sector.
Adequate power supply is a major index for development, and the federal government will only be paying lip service to the economic development of this country if it fails to pay the required attention to the power sector. In fact, the power sector should be on the emergency/priority list of this administration, rather than treating it with disdain by way of combining with other causes as if it does not deserve prioritized attention. The reverse should be the case;
“We need a Minister for power that superintends three ministers of state: minister of state generation, Minister of state for power transmission, and minister of state for power distribution and rural electrification, and the regulator to play a central and coordinating role. This way we will be able to pay attention and stand a chance of solving the intractable problem of power supply in this country. We need to do things differently in the power sector.”
For the sector to yield results, technocrats must be appointed. Appointments must be based on merit rather than as compensation to certain political loyalists. The President must get capable, experienced and highly knowledgeable Nigerians involved in the daily workings of the power sector. Individuals with proven record both within the country and in the diaspora. We have many competent Nigerians who have done well in both the public and private sectors who can handle these ministries.
This opinion piece is not an attempt to cast an aspersion on the person or capacity of the current Minister for power, works, and housing. Instead, what needs to be done could be to direct his energy to power and bring the management genius that helped him succeed in Lagos state to bear solely in the power sector.
There is now an ample opportunity for the president to correct this anomaly when the new cabinet is put in place!!