By Ignatius Okorocha
The Senate, Monday, foreclosed possibility of stable power supply in the country in the near future going by gross underfunding of the sector and apparent lack of seriousness being displayed by the Federal Government in getting it fixed.
This is as the Minister of Power, Engineer Mamman Saleh owned up to members of the Senate Committee on Power, that the much trumpeted $5.8 billion Mambilla Power Project is yet to take off.
The Committee was also amazed by the submission of the acting Managing Director of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) , Engineer Sule Abdulaziz that out of N165 billion required for capital project in 2020, N4 billion envelope was given, out of which only N3 billion was cash backed.
These lamentations dominated the budget defence session the Minister and the TCN MD, had with the Senate Committee on Power.
Taking up the Minister on the Mambilla Power Project, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Gabriel Suswam and other members like Senators Shaibu Lau, Danjuma Goje and James Manager wondered why no dime was allocated for the project in the 2021 budget.
Specifically, Senator Lau who hails from Taraba State told the Committee members that despite promises upon promises made on the project by the Federal government on yearly basis, no access road to the project site, no any indication of site clearance talk less of possible grand breaking.
“Nothing in the proposed 2021 budget that concerns Mambilla, showing that there is no commitment from government .
“The truth about the project going by glaring realities on ground over the last ten years , is that Mambilla will not see the light of the day”, he said.
The Minister in his response, admitted that the project is yet to take off but that he was still trying to convince Mr President on it.
According to him, special fund of $200 million targeted for the project is still in the office of the Chief of Staff while the N850 million expected from Nigeria as 15% of the contract sum is yet to be paid.
The 85% balance of the contract sum, he added, is to be financed by the Chinese NEXIM Bank.
The yet to commence project, he explained further, is a 3,050MW Hydroelectric power project which after completion will be the largest power generating installation in the country.
Irked by his submission, the Chairman of the Committee and other members said solution must be found to the Mambilla issue as part of solutions to epileptic power supply in the country.
Senator James Manager in particular said, going by the submission of the Minister, no seriousness from government on the project which according to him, is getting Nigerians frustrated.
Danjuma Goje in his own comments said “the hope of getting stable power supply in Nigeria in the nearest future is dashed going by gross underfunding of the sector and lack of required seriousness on those managing the sector to get it fixed up”.
However the TCN MD in his submissions before the Committee said the transmission capacity of the country, has increased from 5,000MW to 8,000MW.
“Inadequate funding by government on yearly basis, remains the major problem of the TCN and by extension, the power sector.
“In 2020 fiscal year, our projected money for capital expenditure was N165 billion but only given N4 billion budgetary envelope out of which N3 billion was cash backed”, he said.