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X-raying Power, Works And Housing two years after

“Revamping of the nation’s decaying infrastructure in every area including Power, Works and Housing was part of the campaign promises of the current administration. MUYIWA OYINLOLA in this report examines how the Federal Government has fared in these key areas two years after”- Leadership

The last Presidential election was one of the most keenly contested in recent times. The then outgoing government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was struggling to retain its hold on power while the opposition was hell bent on taking over, hence the latter’s ‘Change’ slogan.

Soon after it got to power in May 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari set machinery in motion to ensure things really change. With the appointment of ministers in November, the stage was set for a new way of doing things.

Considering his landmark achievements as Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), a leading light in the ‘Change Revolution’ was allocated three ministries newly merged into one, Power, Works and Housing.

Power, otherwise referred to as electricity had become a conduit pipe through which successive governments milked and fooled Nigerians. A whooping sum of N2.74trilion had been allocated to that sector with nothing to show for it in 16 years, yet the masses have continued to groan under ‘gross’ darkness and in some cases epileptic power supply. Little wonder, the cynosure was beamed on the intellectual-cum-politician, to see what magic wand he has to revamp the sector which privatization could not heal.

With the privatization of National       Electric Power Authority (NEPA), and invariably the power sector in 2013, the ministry is now largely a policymaker, and regulator through Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and is now only directly responsible for expansion and maintenance of the transmission line through TCN and completion of projects started before the privatization which were uncompleted.

Investigations revealed that the administration inherited over 100 transmission projects for which contractors were not paid for about three years. This not only resulted in stoppage of work, laying off of workers, but left projects uncompleted. Consequently, it resulted in contractors abandoning over 800 containers, which contained transformers, switches, panels and other equipment needed as materials to complete transmission projects because they could not pay for them.

While speaking on the development, the minister, during the time he was giving his stewardship of his first year in office last November disclosed that to compound the situation, there was no provision in the budget of 2015 to pay them as only N5 Billion was budgeted for the Ministry of Power. “All this has changed. The ministry has N24 Billion for 2016 and has started paying contractors and getting the necessary approvals for them to return to work”, he said.

They include those in Sokoto, Maiduguri, Okada, Alagbon, Damboa, Nasarawa, Gurara, Osogbo, Kashimbilla, Kumbotso, Ikot Ekpene, etc. This according  to the minister “puts a lie to the narrative that the transmission grid is static at 5000 MW and is not expanding because these projects add to the capacity”.

In addition to transmission, the ministry also embarked on comp letion of uncompleted power generation projects to deliver on the incremental power programme of its roadmap of incremental, steady and uninterrupted power.

Meanwhile, the nation achieved a record high 5,074 megawatts power generation last year February, but it later dropped to 4,586 megawatts, a reduction of 488,7MW. However, the nation’s peak power demand remains 12,8000 MW. One of the challenges the ministry faces is system collapse which resulted in the fall in power generation by 1,000MW last September when four plants were down in addition to the six that were not working, with a resultant total darkness in many parts of the country.

Howbeit, some of the projects that are expected to start coming to conclusion this year include the 215 MW Kaduna Power, 40 MW Kashimbilla Power (Hydro), 40 MW Gurara I Power (Hydro), 29 MW Dadin Kowa Power (Hydro), 10 MW Katsina Power (Wind) 1,125 MW (14 Solar projects) and the 240 MW Emergency Power Project for Afam (Gas).

It was also gathered that the ministry is working with some generation companies to increase their power generation capacity through repairs and maintenance. Investigations revealed that  Egbin has restored all its turbines even though it has suffered a gas outage as a result of vandalization. Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro have also increased the number of functional turbines, so they are producing 300 MW extra power during this year’s rainy season, more than they did at the beginning of this administration.

In the area of distribution, the ministry has continued to work with the DisCos, which according to the minister is to improve their customer service and in particular meters supply. In fact, some of the local meter manufacturing companies attest to improvement in orders to supply of meters.

“All told, while there is still work to do, and there is the big problem of liquidity to overcome, the promise ahead looks good, the plans are clear and our resolve to implement is unwavering”, he stressed.

According to the minister, how well the nation achieves incremental power, steady and ultimately uninterrupted will depend on how the populace resolves issues like vandalization, electricity theft, electricity conservation, invocation of court powers in utility regulation and of course strikes.

The situation in Works ministry was not any better under successive administrations. The roads were dilapidated, bridges were either non-existent or abandoned where available, there were instances where states would fix federal roads and would not be reimbursed. Lives were lost due to the bad nature of the roads, many were impassible while man-hour were lost on some.

The rich, who were in position to fix them did not care what the masses suffer because they fly in aircraft. It was a bad time for the masses, hence so many people looked unto Fashola and the the government of Change for a change of story.

Not oblivious of the responsibility at hand and people’s expectation, Fashola hit the ground running.

According to available statistics, the minister inherited about 206 road projects already contracted out; with outstanding completion costs in the region of N1.5 trillion. Although the works ministry share of the 2016 appropriation was N260 Billion, which was a lot more than the 2015 budget of only N18 Billion that the last administration left, it is a drop in the ocean against the liabilities that were outstanding to contractors

It was gathered that many of the contractors had also not been paid for an average of two to three years before this administration resumed, and this explained the stoppage of works, by the contractors, the layoff of workers, and consequently poor condition of many roads

The minister sated that “With limited resources against liabilities, with debts already owed, we had to make difficult choices of deciding which of the 206 roads under contract we should start with, and how many.

Hence, they re-mobilized contractors back to work on roads across the six geo-political zones Some roads in this category are: The Port Harcourt- Aba Road; Sokoto – Tambuwal – Makera-Kontagara Road (Sokoto-Kebbi-Niger States), Ilorin-Jebba Road (Kwara State), Loko-Oweto Bridge ( Nasarawa/Benue States), Shagamu- Ibadan (Oyo-Ogun State) and  Shagamu – Lagos, – (Lagos-Ogun State). Others included Ogbomosho-Oko-Ilogbo-Osogbo (Oyo-Osun State), Funtua-Katsina (Katsina State), Wukari-Akwana (Taraba State), and Abriba –Arochukwu – Ohafia , – (Abia State).

The list also includes Abuja – Lokoja – Airport (FCT/ Kogi State), Oji-Achi-Obeagu-Mmaku-Awgu-Ndeaboh-Mpu-Okpanku (Enugu State), Ajase Ipo – Offa – Erinle – Osun State Boundary (Kwara  State), and Ikot Ekpene Border- Aba – Owerri Dualisation (Akwa Ibom/Abia and Imo States).

In the process, investigations revealed that consultants who are supervising these roads and had been denied payment for two to three years were paid. This, according to further investigations  has helped to recover lost jobs, and put some money back in circulation, as part of government strategy to build out of this recession.

To enhance efficiency, the minister then prioritized the job on short, medium and long-term basis. The short-term objectives are to complete uncompleted road contracts, restore motorability back to as many roads as possible, improve journey times and reduce the cost of travel for commuters.

This has clearly started on the  aforementioned roads and the results are being accrued as progress on the works improve over time and the roads are completed.

The minister noted that “going forward in 2017, we have developed proposals for the budget to intervene in critical roads in the six geo-political zones that lead to and from major food producing states based on information supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture

“We plan to do the same for states that produce minerals from mining activity, and for states where we have strategic fuel depots For decades, we have paid almost no attention to bridges built across the country as though they are indestructible”, he said, stressing that “We have nonetheless developed a three year plan to cover 42 bridges that will require about N277 Billion authorization by Parliament over the period.

“I must also point out that we received representation from parliamentarians about roads in their constituencies and from the monthly FRSC reports all of which have been factored into our next three-year plan. How far we go, how much we get and how much we can do, now depends on how much money the country can get, and how much she gets approval to spend.”

The last ministry, Housing, has usually been silent because government is not known to be building for the populace although there are a few cases, they are infinitesimal compared to the housing needs of the masses. Individuals struggle on the own, and in some cases estate developers build houses for sale. Mortgage system is yet to come of age in Nigeria.

In his first term report last November, the minister disclosed that “we have not yet started constructing houses. But tenders have been considered and over 500 contracts are now ready to be issued for work to start in earnest. However, we have received land from 27 states as at 24th October and more are still responding.”

While the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has recorded a milestone in less than two years of operation, Nigerians are looking forward to the completion of all ongoing projects even as they enjoin the minister to put in place measures to maintain them.

“We have completed simple designs of one, two and three-bedroom bungalows for the northern states to respond to the cultural, climatic and land use peculiarities. We have completed simple designs of one, two and three bedroom blocks of Flats for Southern states also in response to similar peculiarities.

For this year, Fashola noted that “we plan to build more houses first to stimulate jobs. Thereafter, we plan to assess the affordability and the acceptability of our designs.

Thereafter, we plan to industrialize the production of the most affordable and acceptable designs.

“We will then increase supply using private sector as developers while government will then concentrate on strengthening institutions like the Federal Mortgage Bank to deliver on its core mandate of providing mortgages to working class people to own their homes.

“It is my belief that if we can achieve this, the size of our housing deficit will not appear that daunting again, because it will be a system that can respond every year, instead of once in a while, to repeat housing construction, delivery and acquisition.

While speaking last month in a Town Hall meeting held in Abuja, Fashola stated that “ I can confidently say that things have changed for the better in the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.

“From a combined budget of N57.91 BILLION in 2015 for the three ministries, we have improved the budget to N467.6 BILLION in 2016. (An increase of over 700%)

From abandoned Roads, Power and stagnated housing projects before Buhari, we are now witnessing a resurgence in construction works on the roads, construction work on power projects and construction works at housing project sites.

Media tour by road to 34 states to visit Road projects, driving for a minimum of 12 hours per day also showed that a great feat has been achieved it this direction. “Jobs are returning but we need to do more. Roads are improving as testified to by those who use them and we need to finish”, the minister said during one of such facility tours.

“Artisans are back to work at construction sites and we need to do more to improve on the number of those who benefit. Power is still not enough but policies and actions, and the enthusiasm from the stakeholders reinforces my belief that we can get there soon enough”, Fashola said.

He stressed that “542 local contractors were empowered in the course of implementing 2016 budget. Most importantly, I can tell you that we now have gained momentum and it is impacting positively on the implementation of the economic recovery and growth plan, launched by Mr. President.

“The consequence is that the macro indices that were negative, such as inflation and exchange rate, are turning back into the right direction. This is the result of road, power, and housing projects and the micro impact of jobs, increasing money in the economy and growing purchasing power.

Source: Leadership

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