Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Senate Halts FG’s N309bn Power Sector Financing Plan

The federal government’s efforts to raise funds to improve power supply in the country suffered a setback yesterday, as the Senate suspended a plan by the federal government to raise a secured bond of N309 billion to finance the shortfall in the Nigerian electricity market.

The Senate urged the government to put the plan on hold pending the outcome of an investigation to be carried out on the proposal by its joint committees on power and privatisation.

The resolution was sequel to the adoption of a motion tagged: “Urgent need to stop the plan to raise a federal government-secured bond of N309 billion to finance the shortfall in the Nigerian electricity market” sponsored by Senator Mustapha Bukar (APC, Katsina) at plenary yesterday.

The Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing at that time, revealed that it had concluded plans to use the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company to raise the bond.

At plenary yesterday, the Senate specifically called on the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to immediately halt the raising of the bonds by Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET).

The Senate also resolved and mandated its committees on power and privatisation to investigate the post-privatisation performance of all players in the power sector in line with their performance agreements, including the management and disbursement of any loans or bonds of the agencies in the sector.

While moving the motion, Senator Bukar said that the planned borrowing was being muted, despite series of interventions such as the bailout by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in March 2015 to the tune of N213 billion through the Nigeria Electricity Sector Intervention (NESI).

He argued that the issuance of bonds would amount to not only spoon-feeding the operators in spite of their inefficiency, but would be at great cost to Nigerians as the risk of default would cause the crystallisation of the federal government sovereign guarantee and lead to national energy crisis in the future.

Bukar further noted that the shortfall has continued to escalate at the rate of about N15 billion per month which is equivalent to N500 million daily. He said the total shortfall as at December 31, 2015, stood at N400 billion.

“Continued incidence of market shortfall is a disincentive for new investors to venture the Nigerian electricity market. This implies that the projected generating capacity is an illusion. As a matter of fact, any increment in generating capacity would further aggravate and escalate the market shortfall,” he added.

Also yesterday, the Senate condemned what it called “midnight invasion”, arrest and detention of some judges in parts of the country last weekend.

Consequently, it mandated its standing committee on judiciary and legal matters to review the existing laws on security and anti-corruption agencies and get back to the House in four weeks’ time and also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call all security agencies to order and direct the full observance of the rule of law in the discharge of their duties.

The red chamber pointed out that while it supports the ongoing anti-corruption fight of the President Buhari-led administration, particularly efforts to sanitise the judiciary, it must be carried out within the confines of the nation’s laws and respect for the principle of separation of powers.

The resolutions followed the adoption of a motion on a matter of urgent national importance moved by Senator Joshua Lidani (PDP, Gombe) at plenary yesterday.

Recall that the DSS had in the wee hours of Saturday, October 8, 2016, stormed the residences of Justices John Okoro and Sylvester Nguta of the Supreme Court; Justices Namdi Dimgba and Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja; Justice Kabiru Auta of a Kano State High Court; Justice Muazu Pindiga of Gombe State High Court; and a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Innocent Umezulike.

Debating the motion, Senators spoke in support of the motion, acknowledging the need to purge the judicial arm of government of corruption, even as they chided the DSS for acting outside its constitutional powers.

Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi) and Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi (APC, Kaduna) described the secret police’s action against the judges as a “misnomer” and illegal.

For his part, the chairman, Senate committee on anti-corruption and financial crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu), said the development was “uncalled for” and condemnable, describing it as tyranny of the highest order, which should not have happened even under a military regime.

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