Interview: Nigerians Will Access Improved Electricity, Roads In 2018 – Fashola
Mr. Babatunde Fashola is the Nigerian Minister of Power, Works, and Housing. In this interview, he outlined the milestones made by his ministry and efforts its making to meet the expectations of Nigerians. Excerpts:
How would you access electricity supply, particularly under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari?
This administration has achieved some milestones. Our generated power had gone up to 7000 MegaWatts in 2017 from 3,000 MW in May 2015; transmission Capacity at 6900MW in 2017 from about 5,000 MW in May 2015, and Peak Distribution now averaging 5,000 MW in 2017 from 2,690MW in 2015. I will like to thank all Nigerians for their contributions towards these milestones. A significant number of people told me that their consumption of diesel and petrol to run generators for power has reduced and the hours they run their generators has gradually reduced.
They also told me that they are now monitoring how they use power and are turning off appliances that are not needed. Although this is meant to save costs, it also conserves energy, reduces waste and supports incremental power. In the last three months, we have increased the supply of power in the dry weather, and people’s experience with power was better.
Contrary to the arguments that electricity supply improves during raining season, your ministry was able to boost electricity supply in the last quarter of 2017. What could be responsible?
We must thank the Ministry of Petroleum Resources for the increase in gas supply. The cynics who used to say that it is only during the rains that power improves now see that what we have done is no fluke. Apart from Gas other stakeholders are also taking commendable steps.
A few months ago the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission formally presented the Mini Grid Regulations, and its impact is beginning to manifest. In December 2017, in Abuja, Nigeria through the Rural Electrification Agency hosted a Mini Grids Summit that is the largest ever attended in Africa with 600 participants from about 40 Countries. The word is spreading around the world as mini-grids will help us connect more people and boost incremental power.
Are you working on any policy to boost distribution?
We are putting together a policy position to help expand the distribution network of the DisCos and use this to distribute the 2000MW that is currently available but cannot be distributed. I also use the opportunity to call out to Manufacturers to let us know where they are, how much power they need, and how we can connect you because we have 2000 MW of undistributed power.
What are your plans for 2018?
We should work harder to increase our people’s access to meters and reduce the incidents of estimated billing as NERC concludes the Meter Regulations that will open up the meters supply and installation business.
But Nigerians suffered what appeared like a total blackout in the first few days of 2018. What was responsible for that?
The setback was caused by damage to the gas supply network around Okada. First, I want to repeat that gas is the fuel that most of the generation companies use to produce electricity and all of us have a stake in ensuring that they are not damaged.
I am happy to inform Nigerians that as at last night the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation informed us that repairs had been completed. We thank and commend them for their response. Thirdly, what remains is to test the lines and restore pressure and supply to the generation companies.
Lack of access to pre-paid meters has been frustrating lots of Nigerians, making them victims of estimated bills, which creates holes in their pockets. How would you address this in 2018?
The government will address metering more vigorously this year with regulations, which will open up business in metering to more investors. This will reduce the pressure on DISCOs so that they can concentrate more on their core business.
We will open up the business to other people who want to play in the sector once the meter regulations are completed this year. We have seen Nigeria’s meter journey from 1950 to date, meters from Greece, Japan, Britain, and China. This has shown that how our industry totally depends on meters from foreign countries.
But now, we are beginning to see meters from local manufacturers like Mojec and Moman; that is a good place to be. At present, we have over 100 million telephone subscribers in Nigeria, but how many telephones are made in Nigeria? We spend millions of naira to buy telephone from China and still, we will go back and borrow money from China. We want to change that in the meter industry; we are happy that some Nigerians are manufacturing meter in Nigeria and we promise to support them.
How would the National Meter Test, under Nigerian Electricity Management Service Agency help consumers?
NEMSA was to test the accuracy of meters before installation. The accuracy tests are in two steps so that the DISCOs will not cheat consumers and consumers do not cheat DISCOs. The government has plans to roll out meters to Nigerian consumers soon. We plan to roll out meters, and we must.
Critics argue that the Federal Road Safety Corps lacks technical capacity among other needs. What is your view on this?
The FRSC’s needs are in the nature of equipment, tools, infrastructure and financial resources necessary to give them a visible and responsive presence on all Federal Highways in Nigeria.
The Corps Marshal has submitted an inventory of needs like bikes, patrol vehicles, and medical equipment that can help save lives. This is in the region of N16 billion in the first instance, and I have directed our Ministry to send this to the office of the Secretary to the Government, who supervises the FRSC on behalf of the Presidency, to whom FRSC reports.
I made a case for support for this funding to the Senate Committee on FERMA when I appeared before them recently, and not only are they well-disposed to the idea of appropriately resourcing FRSC, they expressly committed to taking action to sensitize their colleagues to the necessity.
How would this aid security and safety on the roads?
It would boost security and safety of lives and property as it is a most important duty, agencies like FRSC, who are our first responders at scenes of road accidents must be well-equipped to respond within the Medical Golden Hour, to ensure that accidents, when they inevitably occur, do not result in loss of life.
Not only must FRSC, therefore, have the necessary complement of vehicles and bikes to track down over-speeding drivers and bring them within control, they must have Mobile Intensive Care Units on wheels (not mere ambulances), with doctors, nurses, paramedics and other medical personnel at strategic points nationwide, to administer First Aid, and other life-saving measures until victims are successfully moved to proper hospitals.
Really and truly, investing in at least one helicopter with medical evacuation capacity and well-trained staff for FRSC in each geo-political zone, if it is just to save one Nigerian life (which may be anybody), is consistent with one of the three pillars of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, which is to invest in our people.
How safe are Nigerian roads?
I will classify the roads into three broad categories. Those that have outlived their design life; those that are within their design life, and those that are just being built.
For those that have outlived their design life, they should have been replaced and rebuilt, but they have not. Roads like the Calabar-Itu-Odukpani fall into this category. They were built in the 1970s, and not only have they outlived their design life, they have had to deal with tonnage and capacities well beyond what their designers intended. Can such a road be truly expected to stay intact and deliver a pleasant motoring experience? Put differently, can anyone of us today wear the same clothes we wore as teenagers and expect it to fit and not rip apart?
These type of roads are now receiving attention under President Buhari, as the Calabar-Itu-Odukpani, Gombe-Biu, Ilorin-Jebba and other roads that fall within this category are being awarded for reconstruction, along with the third class of roads which are just being built (like Oyo-Ogbomosho Bye pass, Loko-Oweto Bridge, 2nd Niger Bridge, Kaduna Bye pass, Kano Bye pass), where contractors have returned to site, after demobilizing for non-payment for up to 3 years.
As for the second category of roads, which are within their design life, they have been victims of overloading, right of way abuse, and lack of maintenance as depreciation sets in. Members of the public must know that roads are depreciating assets. They do not last forever and require regular maintenance and, with time, replacement, if they are to serve their intended purpose.
Do these factors of abuse and lack of maintenance connote that most of our roads are bad?
No, all our roads are not bad. We have good parts, and bad parts caused by abuse and lack of maintenance. Can you sleep in your office suit and shirts, refuse to wash and iron them, and really expect them to look good on you?