Senate queries minister of power over stalled rural electrification projects

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The Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy on Tuesday queried the Ministry of Power over its alleged failure to deploy the N16 billion approved for rural electrification projects.

The committee issued the query in Abuja at the meeting with the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo.

The Chairman of the committee, Sen. Philip Aduda, said that the amount was approved for the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) for the electrification of rural communities across the country.

Aduda threatened to recommend the sack of the REA Managing Director, Kenneth Achugbu, over the non-implementation of the rural electrification projects. The REA helmsman was absent at the meeting.

“We will not hesitate to begin calls for sack of the Managing Director of REA because he is foot dragging on the implementation of these critical projects.

“These projects are taking too long. Rural electrification is a critical factor for the transformation of our rural communities. We cannot afford to let these projects drag on for too long because our people’s expectations are very high,” he said.

The Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, told the committee that only N6.6 billion had so far been released to the REA, out of N16 billion appropriated for the projects.

Nebo said that the ministry intended to mobliise contractors to return to site by Dec. 15, as the balance was expected to be released soon.

He said the 1.7 billion dollars expected to be realised from the sale of National Integrated Power Plants (NIPP), would be used to enhance electricity transmission capacity in the country.

He added that although the ministry encountered some problems during the power sector privatisation, the process was transparent in line with best global practice.

Nebo said: “We have encountered some teething problems along the way and those problems are not unexpected but the exercise has been described as the largest in Africa.”

The committee had begun   investigations into the the N3.85 billion management contract entered between the Federal Government and Canadian firm, Manitoba Hydroelectric.

It would be recalled that Manitoba  was contracted to run the electricity Transmission Company of Nigeria, one of the successor companies of the unbundled Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

Aduda directed the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Manitoba Hydroelectric, Don Priestman, to provide it with a comprehensive list of Nigerian counterpart firms.

Aduda said: “We (Senate) need to know how you signed the agreement and what you signed.”

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