One week after national grid’s collapse: NEC admits power sector setback, N1.7trn spent in 3 years

The National Economic Council (NEC) Thursday said the entire country’s power sector is broken and needs intervention to avoid national disaster.

This position came barely one week after the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) announced the collapse of national grid, a development that put some parts of the country into darkness.

Addressing State House correspondents at the end of the monthly NEC meeting in Abuja, Governor Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai of Kaduna state said government had supported the power sector with N1.7 trillion in the last three years that cannot be sustained.

“Let me begin with the issue of electricity, I will plead that we don’t begin to pass judgement until we submit our final report. The problems in electricity are many, capacity is one perhaps.

“There are some that have shown lack of capacity, it is true, but there are many that are fantastic, so it is very difficult to pass quick judgement.

“There are other issues. The entire sector is broken, the tariff is an issue, the way the privatisation was done is an issue to many. So, there are many, many issues. What we have agreed on is that there are fundamental problem in the electronic supply industry.

“And that you cannot privatise an industry and then over three years since privatisation, you pump in N1.7 trillion of government into it that is not privatisation.

“The federal government has supported the electricity sector with N1.7 trillion in the last three years and this is not sustainable. So, solutions must be found, those solutions are not going to be nice, they may be painful but the only way to solve the structural problems in the industry is to take some very difficult decisions,” he said.

The governor also told journalists that about 80 million Nigerians lacked access to electricity, stressing that the government cannot continue like this.

“We can also look at other options and have cost and benefits attached to it for the consideration of the economic council of government.

“At the end of the day, we must have an honest conversation as Nigerians and know that unless we fix electricity we cannot make progress. And this electricity is required not only in the cities but in every home, every rural area. How do we fix the structural problem in the industry so that it doesn’t cost the government this much to cover the whole of the country,” he said.

The governor said government intended to borrow N2 trillion from the Contributory Pension Funds to fund key infrastructure like roads and power supply.

“On the question on pension funds, I think there is a bit of misunderstanding about this. First of all, it is not true that this money is the people’s money.

“The people contribute and the government also matches their contributions, so it’s part government money, is part workers’ contribution. Every month when you contribute, there is also employers’ contribution.

“So, the pension money will not be lost, in fact what is invested will be gotten back with interest. More than that, you get the public benefits of public of safe roads that will keep those pensioners contributing that money alive, provide jobs for their children and create economic opportunities overall for the country.

“By the time you invest these monies in improving highways, rail system that works,  better electricity, the economic impact will be totally unquantifiable. The benefits is for every Nigerian,” el-Rufai said.

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