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120 million Nigerians still in darkness, FG

By The Citizen
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The Federal Government on Wednesday regretted that despite the various efforts being put into stabilising the power sector; about 120 million Nigerians were still in darkness.

The Minister of State for Power, Mrs. Zaynab Kuchi, disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan.

She was joined at the briefing by the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku; Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godsday Orubebe; and Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Ishyaku Dahiru

The ministries of Power and Niger Delta Affairs had earlier presented their achievements and challenges for 2012 to the FEC.

Kuchi said for the entire 160 million Nigerians to enjoy stable electricity supply, Nigeria must look in the direction of Independent Power Projects.

She said the future of power generation and supply in the country rested with the IPPs and Public-Private Partnership.

The minister said the government was already looking in that direction.

She said, 'Privatisation is at its conclusive stage come July. What we need to focus on is the commercialisation of the power sector, considering where we are and the fact that we are only giving power to only 40 million Nigerians.

'We have 160 million Nigerians now and we are only giving power to 40 million of that population. What it means is that there are about 120 million Nigerians that are without power and wish to buy power.

'We are looking into the energy mix; what we are looking at are ways that will bring in so many other options and the only way we can power Nigeria is to look forward to IPPs.

'We keep on saying we shouldn't allow imperialism; yes, we want foreign direct investments, but we also want Nigerians to take ownership. If power sells on the street, power can sell better because everybody wants power 24/7. We need to deliver power to Nigerians and the only way to do this is by serious commercialisation.'

Nebo, on his part, described the decline being recorded in power supply in the last few weeks in the country as a nightmare for the government, saying the nation had not witnessed such a magnitude of system collapse for a long time.

He attributed the situation to natural occurrences such as storms that characterised raining season.

Nebo made specific reference to Bayelsa and Birnin Kebbi, where storms destroyed transmission lines, as well as Abuja where youths had allegedly vandalised power projects nearing completion three times.

The minister also described poor funding as one of the nightmares of the power sector, saying no fund was provided for routine maintenance of the generation and distribution companies this year.

He said the government worked on the assumption that the power privatisation exercise would have been completed in 2012.

Nebo said, 'On the decline in power in the past three weeks, I used the word nightmare to describe that just a couple of days ago and there are reasons for that.

'Number one is that for a long time, we have not had the kind of system collapse like the one we had recently. System collapses occur because of various reasons. When the raining season is about to take off robustly, there is a lot of storm. The state of Bayelsa was knocked off for almost three weeks, because a huge tree fell on the transmission tower, shattered it up to the foundation, and if we hadn't taken charge immediately and looked for alternative power source for Bayelsa, it would have been in darkness till the end of June.

'But because of the measures we have taken so far, it took about 10 to 12 days to restore power, using an alternative mechanism, which is only short lived. The full correction would have been concluded by the end of the month.'

Orubebe said his ministry had succeeded in training of 701 non-militant youths in the areas of agriculture, oil and gas as well as maritime.

He added that the ministry had been regularly engaging stakeholders to sustain the peace currently being experienced in the region.