‘Every promise I made, I kept’ – Top 10 power quotes by power minister Prof Barth Nnaji

by Stanley Azuakola

Nigeria’s minister of Power, Prof Barth Nnaji granted a lengthy interview to Thisday newspaper. We had to read it, so you won’t have to bother. Here are the Top 10 quotes from that interview and what we think about them.

1. “I didn’t realise that we have been offering so many excuses. I thought we were telling you what the situation is.”

That was what the minister had to say when he was asked why the nation has been bedevilled more with mega-excuses rather than the promised megawatts of power. So now you know – when Prof Nnaji promises and doesn’t deliver, it isn’t called an excuse; it’s just what the situation is. Understand?

2. “If you are going to build a brand new 1000MW station, it will cost you $1 billion. You will find some others that cost more, so the money isn’t just there floating for us to do the massive recovery that is needed to turn the sector around. That is why the privatisation of the sector is essential.”

The minister is right on this. Privatisation should have happened since yesterday. The power sector is very capital intensive and our population is ever increasing; it surely would be impossible for government to shoulder the burden alone. That’s why it always feels sad when one remembers how much (in billions of dollars) of scarce resources the government has sunk into the sector with very little to show for it.

3. “The problem of power supply in the recent past has been lack of coordination; we have not coordinated in such a way that we have enough gas for electricity production.”

And still there’s no sign that the government is serious about changing this quickly. For instance, the PIB, a piece of legislation which would have facilitated any such coordination, has been pending since 2008. Of course, this isn’t Prof Nnaji’s fault.

4. “The first thing that made sense was a quick fix and right now this approach has yielded 1000MW extra, with an additional 1000MW expected this year which should bring total available capacity to 5400MW. By next year, we will have available capacity of close to 9000MW from the NIPPs coming on stream. The projection for 2015 is that by its end, we would have installed capacity of 18000MW.”

Considering that ministerial appointments in Nigeria have short life spans (unless you are Ojo Maduekwe or Hassan Lawal,) it’s unlikely that Prof Nnaji would be around to implement all of these. But just in case he survives and these targets aren’t met, would his reasons for failure be called excuses or just “what the situation is”.

5. “Based on what is currently on the ground, starting from next month, you will begin to see an improvement similar to the December/January (last year) scenario when the improvement was felt by all.”

Another promise, noted.

6. “There is no need for emergency in power really because we have tackled the main problem that will deliver power, I can tell you that.”

Really, Minister, really? There’s no problem in not declaring an emergency in the power sector, because there’s never been an emergency that worked in Nigeria. But I doubt strongly that the main problem as related to power has been “tackled”.

7. “I must admit that we are dealing with one of the most corrupt, if not the most corrupt sector of the economy, that is where we have found ourselves, and what we are doing is to cut off the head of the snake through privatisation — transfer the distribution companies to the private sector, so this way, the owners will now be chasing after you instead of you chasing after them.”

This is not a revelation. And yes, Prof Nnaji is right that privatisation would help tackle to a large extent, the problem of corruption in the sector.

8. “The experience I got from that project [bringing a private power outfit, Geometric Power] is what is helping me to solve the problems I am facing now. And talking of challenges, I know where the dead bodies are buried and so because of that I can solve the power problems much better and we have gone very far in resolving these problems.”

Although we haven’t really seen these ‘advantages’ the minister brings to the job shine through in the discharge of his duties, we’re ready to give him the benefit of doubt.

9. “We said that by October of this year, privatisation will be concluded and it is a certainty.”

Another promise! At least no one can accuse Prof Nnaji of being vague or evasive. He publicly declares the target and puts a time limit on it as well, which is a very good thing, if only he could deliver.

10. “Every promise I made, I have kept and I don’t make a promise I cannot keep.”

Dear Prof Nnaji, please read that line again. Read it once more sir. No more excuses or “just the way things are”. Yeah, thanks.

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