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Govt cautions Buhari against reversing power sector privatisation

By The Citizen
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The Federal Government on Wednesday advised the incoming Muhammadu Buhari administration against   reversing the privatisation of the power sector.

Minister of Power, Chinedu Nebo, told State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, that the poor power supply being witnessed across the country was caused by demon- possessed people who derived pleasure in vandalising gas pipelines.

Nebo,who lamented that he had never in his life seen anything 'frustrating as what we are experiencing today,'   said that any call for the reversal of the power sector's privatisation would be ill-advice.

The minister said any attempt to do that would translate to setting the nation back for many decades.

He said, 'I think the incoming government will be ill-advised to reverse the privatisation and liberalisation of power generation, transmission and distribution because any attempt to do that would be to set Nigeria back many decades.

'The gains of privatisation are very obvious. If we can solve the problem of gas like we are talking about energy mix, we will go far. At the moment, we are not just going by gas, we are doing hydros.

'It was this same administration that began Zungeru hydro power plants for 750MW and it is in the bid to start the Mambilla 3,050MW. Shiroro has been improved;   Kanji has been improved and the same goes for Jebba.

'There is a lot of work being done by this government; however to turn back on privatisation would mean stopping all of these companies and then reversing the massive inflow of investments coming into the power sector.

'Nigeria's power consumption per capita is one of the lowest in the world and that is why this government is doing its best to reverse that. So, I don't think it is in the best interest of the country to reverse privatisation.'

Nebo lamented that government's efforts were being sabotaged through vandalism   of gas pipelines   by people possessed by demons.

He said, 'I have never in my life seen anything as frustrating as what we are experiencing today. Every month, the Nigerian gas company spends a minimum of N120m fixing vandalised gas pipelines.

'Every two weeks, the western axis pipelines are vandalised and that is pure sabotage; the eastern axis pipelines are vandalised and that is oil theft.

'At the end of the day, the gas that is supposed to go to the turbines don't get to the turbines to generate electricity.

'As I speak to you today, if we have gas right now, we will produce 5,500MW.

'But when the pipelines are in the state of disarray as they are now, in fact, the recent thing they are doing is testing the integrity of the entire system. And when you have broken something over and over again, you have to really look at the entire spectrum to make sure that the rest of the pipeline has   integrity to bear gas.

'Four major joints they are working on are going to cost them N1.5bn. Is that the way to give light to the country?

Nebo said the situation underpinned the problem of planning and putting all the nation's eggs in one basket which this outgoing administration had done everything to reverse.

He said so long as the nation continued to depend on gas which is vulnerable and susceptible to attacks on a regular basis, the situation would persist.

The minister said there were days he felt like crying because of vandalism.

'There are days I feel like just crying. You finish the repairs that took two weeks,   within 36 hours they are burst again. As you finish the repairs again, in two weeks they burst it again at various points,' he lamented.

Nebo admitted that the past three weeks had been horrible because the gas that is available is too small.

He explained that most of the turbines are idle while many of the power companies are operating at about 30 per cent capacity.

The minister   regretted that the country was down to between 2,000 and 3,000MW because of the pipelines' repairs.

On whether he still stood by his earlier claim that evil forces were   responsible for the country's power problem, the minister said, 'Yes. These evil forces inhabit human beings. Can a sane human being go and burst pipelines that are bringing gas to power stations and stop the industries from working?

'Manufacturers cannot work; governments cannot work. Even hospitals cannot work. Can a sane person do it without demon possession?

'These people are possessed. What level of depravity will lead people to punish their country the way these hoodlums are doing?'

Nebo however said he was aware that some vandals had been jailed.

He said, 'People are being arrested; some even said how much they were paid to burst the gas pipelines.

'Some of them   even   find people that   fix the pipelines damaged by them.''

A former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, had recently at the 36th Kaduna International Trade Fair   advised Buhari to   reverse the privatisation   of the power sector.

Atiku, a key member of the All Progressives Congress, was reported to have said the failure experienced in the power sector   was due to   successive governments' poor approach to tackling the problem in the sector.