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DISCOS and the Case for an Encore for Fashola

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Power

By Segun Odunuyi

Way back in the 60’s and 70’s in Lagos, Discos – short for Discotheques- were the places to be on Friday nights when the weekend spell of fun and entertainment took off  in earnest. At the Disco parties and clubs, you really let off steam, gyrating wildly to the heavy bass and percussive beats of recorded pop music.

Fast forward to here and now in Lagos. The word “Discos”, to the average Lagos resident, now evokes anything but fun. Rather, it evokes the terrifying image of the bogeyman from the Power Distribution Companies (DisCos), who arrives at your homes monthly with his package of “double jeopardy” in the forms of electricity bills for energy you have most probably not used – called estimated billing – and an unending reluctance or incapacity to provide you with meters -or “pre-paid meters” in popular parlance- which, at least, enables consumers to pay for the quantum of energy consumed.

Clearly, drawing from the drift of the national conversation on the performance of the power sector, the Discos have been and remain the weakest link in the power value chain. In a recent interview, Usman Mohammed, the Managing Director/Chief Executive of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) declared that “we cannot have a stable grid (electricity) unless we have an adequate investment on the distribution side and that is why TCN has been calling on the Discos to be recapitalized.” The TCN, like the Discos, is a creation of the unbundling of the former Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in 2011 under the 2005 Electric Sector Power Reform Act, which privatized the nation’s power assets.

When he emerged on the power scene in November 2015 as the Minister of the three-in-one Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, which constituted about 80 percent of the basic physical infrastructure on which hopes for the revival of the then comatose economy rested, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola was still basking in the public adulation of his exceptional performance as Executive Governor of Lagos State. His appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari to oversee such a “super-portfolio” elicited vehement protests from some quarters but Mr President knew that he had hit on the man to oversee the revival of physical infrastructure to drive the resuscitation of the economy..

From the 2005 Act and the subsequent unbundling also emerged entities like the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the all-powerful regulator and licensor, and the Power Generation Companies (Gencos) who buys gas from the gas companies to produce power and sells to the Discos who rely on the TCN to get the power to their substations and distribute to homes and factories in their allocated distribution areas.

The “sin” of the Discos, then and now, is that they have never been able to fully evacuate the power load generated by the Gencos. The result is that there is a perpetual gap between power demand and supply and hence the power outages. The irony is that, contrary to popular impression in the media and among energy consumers, Fashola does not supervise the Discos. They were not licensed by his ministry but by the NERC which does not report to the Minister. So, Fashola, cannot, for example, withdraw the licence of a non-performing Disco or alter the terms or scope of operations of such licensee. That apparent absurdity in supervision was a product of privatization. Still, the minister had to navigate his way around such limitations and others to deliver on his agenda for profound and enduring change in the sector.

And, going by the incredible strides and achievements he has demonstrably notched up in just there and a half years to fast-track infrastructural development in Nigeria, Fashola’s performance has been top-drawer. But as he has stated often, the journey he had patriotically and passionately embarked upon was a “marathon and not a sprint”. Clearly, there is still a lot to do and accomplish if the Buhari government must equal or even surpass the spirited and enduring physical infrastructure development feats of the General Yakubu Gowon regime in the late 60s and 70s. Fashola undoubtedly deserves an encore on the second term Cabinet of the Buhari Administration, to reach a greater distance in the “marathon” especially in the power and works sectors.

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It had not been easy, though, for the man once dubbed “the Actualizer” when he was at the helm of affairs in Lagos State. Indeed, Fashola must have been jolted by what he inherited in the power, works and housing sectors: structural rigidities, convoluted supervisory arrangements and crippling underfunding amidst huge liabilities to contractors, amongst the many unenviable legacies of the long and mindless neglect of the country’s primary and secondary infrastructures. But he also had a free hand from Mr President as well as his own his vision and rare capacity to understand, dissect and proffer solutions to knotty issues; his legendary fervor for long and hard work and, of course, a number of able lieutenants. He was not about to fail on his set deliverables.

Take the power sector. Fashola knew he had to, literarily, “crack the DNA” of the seemingly intractable power sector, which is the livewire of industry, by introducing fresh ideas. He did not take long to arrive at his  eureka moment, and he set out to deliver to the following goals: increasing power generation from the 4,000 MW the administration met at inception, to a peak of 7,000 mw, in order to achieve “Incremental Power” -as the first visible and practical results of new initiatives; ending  the mind-budgetary under-provisioning in order to get abandoned projects back on track and to execute new power projects , and improved interface with power stakeholders and consumers to secure the critical buy-in for the ministry’s road map . After three and half years in office, Fashola and his ministry have delivered satisfactorily on all these power sector goals.

Under Fashola’s watch, the initiatives which have driven the “Incremental Power” phase of his ministry’s road map include the promotion of off-grid connections and licensing of private Meter Asset Providers (MAP). The result is that, nine universities in the country will have 24-hour supply by the end of the year while major markets across the country, including Ariaria, Sabon Gari, Sura, Iponri and a couple of others in Ondo and Ibadan now have reliable power supply from the off-grid model. Twelve private meter providers have also been licensed to roll out from May 1, 2019 nationwide in a move that will help assuage vociferous and unending consumer protests against the present regime of estimated billing by the Discos.

Budgetary allocations from 2015 till date have also reflected the administration’s success in breaking from the mold of the past, when promises to bridge the nation’s gaping infrastructure deficits were mere political statements totally unmatched by financial provisions and commitments. In 2015 the total budget for the Power ministry was a N9.06 billion with about 50 percent or N4.47 billion earmarked for salaries and other recurrent expenses, leaving a paltry N5.13 billion left for capital expenditure. That sum could barely fund 22 out of the 142 outstanding transmission projects valued at N40 billion which Fashola met on ground.

Such budget under-provisioning was, indeed, the fate of the ministries saddled with infrastructure development, a recipe for abandoned projects and worsening of the infrastructure deficit. The Muhammadu Buhari administration halted the trend. From its very first budget in 2016, the government raised the pathetic N93.66 billion for Power, Works, Aviation, Transport and the Federal Capital Territory in 2015 to a healthy N433.4 billion the next year for Fashola’s Works Power and Housing ministry alone. Indeed, by 2018, the government, even in the face of other pressing obligations and dwindling earnings, had spent a whopping N2.7 trillion on infrastructure in three years, an unprecedented record.

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And, unlike the past when the nation has had little to show for the billions of naira expended on infrastructure, demonstrable and visible results have emerged under Fasola’s watch. Yes, power outages still subsist, no thanks to the Discos who lack the capacity to evacuate power load generated by the Gencos.  The difference now, however, is that today with Fashola’s “Incremental Power”, the consumer knows he does not need to wait endlessly for power to be restored. Now, unless there is a major transmission fault in his locality, power is back soon for the consumer’s use after an outage. So, consumers now run generators for shorter periods and spend less money on fuel to power their generators. This is a far cry from the situation up till 2015. Under Fashola’s watch, power generation has increased from 4,000 MW to 7,000 MW and distribution from 2690 MW to 5222 MW as at November 2018.

Meanwhile Fashola has initiated and led a bold effort to help out the problematic Discos by proposing and securing a N72 billion funding from the federal government, which owns 40 percent states in the Discos, for the distribution companies to invest in their equipment and operations in order to evacuate excess power. With this, the gains from the “Incremental Power” phase of  the ministry’s road map  will improve significantly since power outages should be fewer.

On the works front, Fashola got contractors back on site at hundreds of abandoned road projects. Indeed, by the beginning of 2017, work was going on simultaneously on at least two roads in each of the 36 states of the federation.  The roads, including the seemingly jinxed Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, were mainly strategic arterial roads connecting states and major cities, with significant socio-economic benefits in the nation’s six geo-political zones. Construction and rehabilitation of roads involving 565 contracts are currently on-going across the nation under Fashola’s watch.

The minister’s strategy on housing growth strategy was hinged on the pilot of a National Housing Programme in 34 of the 36 states and FCT that had provided land for the scheme. Ongoing construction of different models of houses across the nation with at least 1,000 people – artisans, vendors, craftsmen and suppliers – engaged in each of the sites. Characteristically, Fashola has also sought the buy-in of the private sector by creating a better enabling environment for their participation in housing construction and development. Equity contributions for prospective home owners seeking mortgage loans from the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) and the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) have been slashed drastically to provide easier access to housing. The institutions, which are parastatals under Fashola’s ministry now require zero percent (from 5 percent) contribution from those seeking mortgage loans up to N5 million and 10 percent (down from 15 percent) from those who want loans of over N5 million.

Even with the prodigious achievements he has notched up  in the first term of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Mr Babatunde Fashola , the Honourable  Minister of Power, Works and Housing, still has quite some distance to cover to reach the finish line of the “marathon“ which his ministry’s infrastructure road map has been. An encore for him on the next Federal Cabinet is what the nation deserves. Never mind the Discos.

Segun Odunuyi is a Lagos-based public commentator

 

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Opinion

The Travails Of A First Lady Defending A Drowning Democratic System In Nigeria

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By Olalekan Abdullahi
Nigeria’s First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari is certainly facing an existential battle, despite being the wife of the President of the most populous black country in the world.
Her travails are not actually from her husband, President Muhammadu Buhari, but from those that surround him, who she strongly believes are trying to make life difficult for her and her children, and she appears to be helpless as her husband does not seem perturbed by what she has been complaining about right in Aso Rock, the seat of Nigeria’s government where the first family resides.
Hajia Aisha Buhari has never failed to express her views on issues concerning the running of the government and matters that have to do with her family and her husband’s administration generally.
Aisha comes across as a very strong woman and what most Nigerians appreciate about her, is the fact that she speaks her mind.
The First Lady has voiced out the truth on many occasions damning whatever consequences that may arise.
She once spoke up fiercely against the “cabal” frustrating her husband’s government. An act many people, especially first ladies, have notably shied away from.
The First Lady is noted to be active on Facebook, twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms where she objectively criticizes the policies of the government and even offers suggestions when and where necessary to the surprise of many Nigerians.
In October 2016, Aisha Buhari during an interview with BBC, openly criticized the President suggesting that she might not support his 2019 re-election bid.
Aisha Buhari also claimed that some people had hijacked Buhari’s government.
“The president does not know 45 out of 50, of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years.
“Some people are sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position”.
“…If things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again,” she said.
Mrs. Buhari also alleged that a ‘powerful caucus’ is behind the presidential appointments.
In response to APC party’s mishandling of 2019 elections party primaries, Aisha publicly said: “It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard-earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously yet found their names omitted on election day, these forms were bought at exorbitant prices.”
The Nigeria’s first lady also accused the APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole of condoning impunity and threatened to dissociate herself from the party if it continued.
Flashback to July 10, 2017, when the media was awash with the outbursts of the First Lady during a visit to her husband in the United Kingdom, where he was receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment.
Apparently frustrated Aisha had described some people around her husband as Hyenas and Jackals and wrote a piece entitled; “Hyenas, jackals will soon be sent out of my husband’s kingdom.” This was in response to Senator Shehu Sani’s (representing Kaduna Central District) post which read: “Prayer for the absent Lion King has waned; until he’s back then they will fall over each other to be on the front row of the palace temple. Now the hyenas and the jackals are scheming and talking to each other in whispered; still doubting whether the Lion King will be back or not…”
There, Aisha Buhari gave an insight into the power play at the Nigerian seat of power in the wake of a sickness that had kept her husband out of the country for two months then.
Responding to Mr. Sani’s comment also proverbially, Mrs. Buhari said: “God has answered the prayers of the weaker Animals. The Hyenas and the jackals will soon be sent out of the kingdom. We strongly believe in the prayers and support of the weaker animals”.
Mrs. Aisha’s comment attracted many comments from her followers on Facebook, wishing her husband quick recovery.
Upon her return to Nigeria back then, the President’s wife had said he was recovering well and that he expressed appreciation to Nigerians praying for him.
However, the First Lady kept making statements about issues that has to do with governance and she was able to endear herself to the hearts of numerous Nigerians, who felt she has been doing her best to protect the nation’s nascent democracy. She was dubbed the amazon of African democracy because her voice has been the loudest from any woman in the continent of Africa, fighting vigorously for the sustenance of democracy and preservation of the office of the president.
On Wednesday, 11, December, 2019, Mrs. Aisha Buhari came out in another form to tackle her husband’s spokesperson, the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Garba Shehu on issues affecting the country and how she is being undermined and doubted Shehu’s loyalty to the president. Trust the amazon, she poured her heart out through a piece she posted on her verified Instagram page and other platforms.
The piece is entitled; “Garba Shehu Has Gone Beyond His Boundaries.’
In the piece, the First Lady made it clear that Nigeria’s development is hinged on the ability of public officials to execute their mandates professionally, and to be shining examples in their various areas of endeavor.
“As spokesperson of the President, he has the onerous responsibility of managing the image of the President and all the good works that he is executing in the country.
“Rather than face this responsibility squarely, he has shifted his loyalty from the President to others who have no stake in the compact that the President signed with Nigerians on May 29, 2015 and 2019.
“To make matters worse, Mr. Shehu has presented himself to these people as a willing tool and executioner of their antics, from the corridors of power even to the level of interfering with the family affairs of the President. This should not be so.
“The blatant meddling in the affairs of a First Lady of a country is a continuation of the prodigal actions of those that he serves.
“We all remember that the chief proponent appropriated to himself and his family a part of the Presidential Villa, where he stayed for almost 4 years and when the time came for him to leave, he orchestrated and invaded my family’s privacy through a video circulated by Mamman’s Daughter, Fatima, the public was given the impression that on arrival into the country I was locked out of the villa by Mr. President,” the First Lady said.
The First Lady added that Garba Shehu, as Villa Spokesperson, knew the truth and had the responsibility to set the records straight, but that “because his allegiance is somewhere else and his loyalty misplaced, he deliberately refused to clear the air and speak for the President who appointed him in the first place.
Aisha Buhari stressed that Mr. Shehu was privy and part of the plan and it’s execution and that he was shocked when he realized that she had publicized her return to Nigeria on October 12, 2019 and cleared the air on the many rumors that took over social media, a job she said he was supposed to do but kept mute to cause more confusion and instability for his Principal and his family.
“Garba then, vented his anger on the National Television Authority (NTA) Management insisting that the media crew to my office must be sacked.
“He succeeded in getting them suspended for doing their job. I had to intervene to save the innocent staff from losing their means of livelihood by involving the Department of State Services (DSS) in order to ascertain roles played by key actors in the saga.
“It is at this late hour that I recall, sadly, that it was the same Garba Shehu who claimed that the government will not allow office of the First Lady to run.
“He was later to confirm to one of my aides that he was instructed to say so by Mamman Daura and not the President.
“This antic attracted the anger of Nigerian women. He didn’t realize the fact that First Lady’s office is a tradition which has become an institution.
“Today, even without a budget, I am able to run my humanitarian programmes.
In saner climes, Garba Shehu would have resigned immediately after going beyond his boundaries and powers,” she said.
Aisha added that the “latest of his antics was to wage a war on the first family through an orchestrated media campaign of calumny by sponsoring pseudo accounts to write and defame my children and myself.”
Several Nigerians however, wondered why the First Lady makes this kind of outburst, when her husband is not around, and if President Muhammadu Buhari would support his wife or Garba Shehu, when he returns to the country from Egypt on Friday, 13th December, 2019 or keep mute on the matter as he has done in the past.
With these, millions of Nigerians have applauded Aisha Buhari as a defender of democracy, who is never afraid to lend her voice to issues despite being the wife of the President.
The First Lady is seen as a rare breed and Africa’s First Lady with the loudest voice, when the need arises despite the fact that she comes from the northern part of the country, where women are not expected to speak loudly.
Aisha might be hated by those in power that are immensely benefiting from the system, but she is loved by women and the masses and they see her as the icon of democracy and hope that all is not lost after all despite the travails of the country under the present government.
Aisha is seen as a very dependable woman that has been with her husband all through the period he had been contesting elections right from 2003 until he eventually succeeded in 2015. She stood by the husband through thick and thin, keeping the family and raising beautiful children since she married Buhari 30 years ago.
The thinking of many in Nigeria and beyond is that the likes of Garba Shehu and Mamman Daura should let the first lady live in peace with her family and reap the fruits of her years of labour. But many believe despite the travails she has been going through, Hajia Aisha Buhari will hold her ground, and continue to fight for good governance and protection of democratic ethos in Nigeria. She is indeed an iconic amazon worthy of emulation by other wives of African leaders.
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Opinion

See How Lauretta Onochie Explained Sowore Rearrest In Court

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President Buhari’s aide on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie has a unique explanation of Omoyele Sowore’s rearrest in court on Friday, December 6.

According to her, the rearrest was staged by Sowore’s supporters.

Lauretta said this in a writeup posted on her Facebook page.

See what she wrote below:

(more…)

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Opinion

Why I Lost To Anthony Joshua–Ruiz Jr.

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Andy Ruiz Jr. has revealed what cost him the rematch against Anthony Joshua on Saturday, December 7.

Joshua and Ruiz Jnr. slogged it out in Saudi Arabia to confirm the holder of the heavyweight title won by Ruiz Jr from Joshua months earlier.

Speaking at the post match conference, Ruiz Jr. blamed months of partying and celebration leading to overweight, adding thst undertraining also made him lose the match to Joshua.

 “Three months of partying and celebrating affected me, what can I say?

“Being overweight, I wasn’t fluid enough, I wasn’t moving the way I wanted to move.

“I think if I’m lighter I’m going to let my hands go and be a completely different fighter.”

When asked what he would have done differently if granted a rematch against Anthony Joshua, he said;

 “Listen to my coach. Listen to my dad. And take it more seriously.

“I’m OK, I’m just a little disappointed. I should have listened to them.

“I tried to do the training on my own. I should have listened to them more.

“There’s no excuses…the partying and all that stuff got the best of me.

“For being out of shape I did pretty good, I took all his shots.”

Ruiz recognized that he lost a wide decision to Joshua but said he holds a victory too. He said the scores are tied with one win apiece and he wants a trilogy bout.

 “I know for the third one I’m going to be a lot better.”

He added: “There’s a lot of responsibility being a champion of the world. I think the partying and all that stuff got the best of me. Next time it’ll be a lot better.”

With the victory, British-Nigerian Joshua regains his IBF, WBA and WBO titles.

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The bout which lasted until 12 rounds was scored 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109 by the judges.

Speaking on his victory, Joshua said:  “I wanted to put on a boxing masterclass.”

“First of all, thanks to God. The first time was so nice, I had to do it twice,” he said. 

“I knew I could win this. This is about boxing, I’m used to knocking guys out.

“I gave the man his credit, I said I would correct myself, I respect Andy, But I wanted to put on a boxing masterclass.

“It’s the sweet science, it’s about hitting and not getting hit.

“No change in mentalist, stay hungry and stay humble. I’m going to remain humble in victory. Thanks to Ruiz and his family, thanks to Saudi, the fans and thanks to God and Eddie Hearn.”

See more photos from the fight below:

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See more photos from heavyweight boxing rematch as Anthony Joshua defeats Andy Ruiz to regain his titlesSee more photos from heavyweight boxing rematch as Anthony Joshua defeats Andy Ruiz to regain his titlesSee more photos from heavyweight boxing rematch as Anthony Joshua defeats Andy Ruiz to regain his titlesSee more photos from heavyweight boxing rematch as Anthony Joshua defeats Andy Ruiz to regain his titlesSee more photos from heavyweight boxing rematch as Anthony Joshua defeats Andy Ruiz to regain his titles

 

 

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