Members of Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) on Tuesday blocked the entrance of the Ministry of Power and Abuja headquarters of Transmission Company Of Nigeria (TCN), in protest.
The workers are protesting over alleged non-implementation of agreements reached with its union and are calling for the sack of the Managing Director of the TCN, Usman Mohammed.
The workers also accused Mohammed of taking sides with the government.
The protest started when the workers sealed up all entrances to the TCN building, which also hosts the Federal Ministry of Power Works and Housing, leaving workers unable to gain access into their offices.
The protesting workers are also demanding the immediate implementation of the reviewed 2016 salary structure and promotion of members who are due to be promoted.
The Senate Committee on Power, has condemned plans by the Rural Electrification Agency, a parastatal in the Ministry of Power to spend N10 billion on solar power projects in nine universities in the six geo-political zone of the country.
Committee members raised concerns over the project at a 2018 budget defense session on Thursday with the Managing Director of the agency, Mrs Damilola Ogunbiyi.
Examining the documents presented by the agency, the lawmakers argued that the funds should instead be channeled into electrification projects in villages and communities which urgently need rural electrification.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Enyinaya Abaribe also expressed his dissatisfaction with the development.
He accused the Minister of Power, Works and Housing Mr Babatunde Fashola for failing to prepare adequately to defend the 2018 budget of the Ministry of Power.
The Federal Government has successfully completed a 100-unit housing estate in Imo State under the Ministerial Pilot Housing Project of the Ministry of Power, Works and Hosing.
The project was built through the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria to provide low cost housing for public workers across Nigeria.
The Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing, Mustapha Shehuri, said the Federal Government through the ministry would continue to strive to ensure that the challenge of housing deficit in Nigeria was surmounted.
He added that it was government’s plan to build mass housing units across the country for public workers over the next three years through a Public-Private Partnership arrangement.
The minister was speaking in company of the Imo State Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere, who represented Governor Rochas Okorocha at the commissioning of the housing unit at Naze industrial layout in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
He explained that national housing models have been designed and approved for each geo-political zone, to ensure the use of standard building materials.
“This housing unit is a Private-Public Partnership (PPP) arrangement which will be affordable to Nigerians, especially public servants.
“The Federal Government through the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has signed a two billion Naira MoU with Shelter Afri (an African shelter company), to build affordable houses for Nigerians.
“So I want to call on workers in Imo State to take advantage of this scheme,” Shehuri said.
Hope To Middle Class Earners
Commending the Federal Government for the project, Mr Madumere said the project would go a long way to complement the policies of the State Government in providing affordable housing units for workers in the state.
He disclosed that the State Government was already in talks with the labour union in Imo State on the matter.
“This housing scheme is apt and what the state needs at this critical time; Imo residents need roofs over their heads. This is giving hope to the middle class earners.
“For us, it is a commendable effort. My leader and Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, is ever ready to continue to partner with the Federal Government in such programmes and projects, since it is geared towards making life better for the people of Imo State,” the Deputy Governor said.
In his address, the Managing Director of the mortgage bank, Mr Richard Esin, said the bank and the project have become effective vehicles through which the Federal Government actualises its policy for the provision of affordable housing for Nigerians.
He added that with the consistent contributions of the National Housing Fund Scheme, Nigerian workers would become eligible for mortgage loans at concessionary interest rates of 6% per annum.
“Through this scheme, over 2200 houses have been built for public workers by the Federal Government in all the six geo-political zones of the country. This in turn will surely address the housing deficit in the country,” Mr Esin said.
Climax of the occasion was the launch and cutting of the tape of the housing estate as the dignitaries were taken on a tour round the facility.
The 100-unit housing estate comprises of 48 units of 3-bedroom fully detached bungalows, 40 units of 2-bedroom semi-detached bungalows and 12 units of 1-bedroom terrace.
As disclosed by the mortgage bank, the sum of 592.3 million Naira was invested for the development of the 100-unit housing estate.
The Minister of Power, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) has attributed the drop in electricity supply from 5000 MW to 2000MW since February 2016, to incessant attacks on gas pipelines by vandals.
He said this while delivering a key note address he delivered at the second edition of the National Council on Power (NCP) Stakeholders meeting in Kaduna State.
Speaking on how to address the current poor electricity supply across the country, Mr Fashola advocated alternative power sources such as solar, wind energy, coal to complement existing hydro and gas.
On his part, the host governor, Mr Nasir El-Rufai asked the Federal government to retain the transmission sector and privatise the DISCOs and GENCOs.
The governor also advocated the restructuring of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in order to make it more proactive and effective.
In doing this, he stated that competent and experienced experts should be engaged to man the regulatory agency.
He specifically urged the Ministry of Power and other stakeholders to consider solar energy since it is cheaper and efficient, adding that Nigeria is blessed with abundant sun which could transformed into solar energy.
The 2nd edition of the National Council on Power stakeholders meeting had the theme “Achieving Incremental, Then Uninterrupted Power” was organized by the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
The NCP stakeholders meeting provides a platform for the ministry to interact with all stakeholders in the power sector in order to provide a road map to address the challenges in the sector.
The Japanese government has advised Nigeria to adopt renewable energy for the provision of electricity in the country.
The leader of a Japanese delegation to Nigeria, Mr Shinichi Kitaoka, gave the advice in relation to the continuous militant activities which is disrupting gas supply for the generation of electricity.
He addressed the issue during his visit to a solar power plant built by the Japanese government to ease water supply in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Mr Kitaoka, after a tour of the facility with his team, explained that investing in renewable energy to provide stable electricity supply will help encourage industrialisation in the country.
The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, immediately took up the challenge and promised to embark on similar projects to ensure increase in electricity supply across the country.
The Director of Renewable and Rural Power Access at the Ministry of Power, Mr Abayomi Adebisi, assured the Japanese delegation that the Nigerian government would explore the idea.
The solar power project, when completed, would provide electricity for the lower Usman dam which supplies water around the Federal Capital Territory.
The Executive Director of the FCT Water Board, Mr Hudu Bello expressed happiness that the project would help save cost and eliminate challenges of poor power supply which the agency has grappled with over the years.
The House of Representatives has called for a halt to plans by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company to raise a secured bond of 309 billion Naira.
The lawmakers queried the borrowing in view of the 213 billion Naira intervention by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2015.
A joint committee has however been mandated by the lawmakers to investigate the matter.
President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration will give possible attention to boosting power supply.
Speaking after being briefed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Godknows Igali, on Wednesday, the President said his administration has already identified the critical problems in Nigeria’s power sector and was taking appropriate actions to address them.
President Buhari said that his administration had also prioritized certain measures in its action plan to boost electricity supply.
“The problems besetting our power sector are not difficult to identify. Therefore, priorities can be easily set in order to tackle them.
“The problems are more with transmission than generation and we equally need to secure the power infrastructure round the country”, he said.
He, however, said that he is convinced that steady electricity would launch the country into faster socio-economic development.
Mr Igali had told the President that power generation in the country was 1,750 MW in 1999 and now peaked at 4,600 MW.
He added that gas was available to take power generation to 5,500 MW in a short time but the country needs to expand its electricity infrastructure to accommodate additional power generation.
The Federal Government of Nigeria has attributed the drop in electricity supply across the country to the destruction of gas pipelines and the current strike by Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers Union, NUPENG and Petroleum and Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Power, Mr Godknows Igali, told journalists at the Presidential Villa that the effect of the strike is that power supply, which was picking up at the beginning of the week after the repairs of some vandalised gas pipelines, has fallen to an unprecedented low of 1,327 as at 1PM on Friday.
Mr Igali said he hoped that the ongoing negotiation between the government and the striking oil workers would end soon so that the oil workers will help restore the supply of gas to power plants.
The Federal Government had said it will soon commence the distribution of one million smart meters to consumers across the country.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Dr Godknows Boladei Igali, made this known at a forum to proffer solutions to effective billing System in Lagos.
Dr Godknows said at the forum that the Federal Government was also seeking other ways at reducing technical and commercial losses in a view to satisfy the electricity needs of its people and boosting power supply.
Prior to this, the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, had said that the private sector owners of the electricity distribution companies inherited a lot of customers who had no meters.
This was in response to the complaints of power consumers across the country.
Prof. Chinedu said, “The private sector inherited a customer base in which 50 per cent do not have meters. Nigeria has the highest per capital electricity theft in the world.
“That is why we are now doing smart meters and we are moving to a place where the meters will be mounted on poles, because something has got to be done fast.
“As a result of the burden on the DISCOs due to meter issues, the President has provided funding to give over one million meters to Nigerians to reduce the gap and then allow the DISCOs ensure that all customers are given meters.”
On when Nigerians would start getting the meters, Nebo said, “The fact is that the funding has been approved by Mr. President and the funds would be released very soon.
“These meters are being procured and I do think that in the next couple of months, you will begin to see them because the mechanism still needs to be developed on how they would be shared to the Distribution Companies.
“They (DISCOs) will distribute and install these meters and these are all being worked out. Some people may not be happy to give you meters, but we think we should continue to insist that every consumer must be given a meter because the only way to stop estimated billing is to provide these meters.”
The Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, has flagged off the disbursement of the 220billion Naira Micro, Small And Medium Enterprises Development Fund designed to address the challenges of limited access to finance and poor infrastructure in the country.
Addressing the 8th annual MSME Finance Conference and Entrepreneurship Award before flagging off the disbursement, the President expressed optimism that with what has been put in place by the CBN, the Ministry of Petroleum, Ministry of Power and the National Electricity Regulation Agency, Nigeria’s power generation capacity would soon increase to 5,000 megawatts.
He observed that inadequate infrastructure increases the cost of production and promised that his administration would continue to invest heavily in infrastructure development to stem the challenges.
The seed capital of 220billion Naira is being injected by the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, explained that 60% of this has been set aside for women to access. State governments and economically active persons with disabilities would also access the fund.
Participating financial institutions, state governments as well as Nigerians who are engaged in micro, small and medium enterprises converged on the Federal Capital Territory for the event, during which they decried a situation where a sector recognized as the engine of economic development has not been allowed to play this role effectively.
However, the Federal Government expressed optimism that many of the entrepreneurs would join the trend, access the fund and get the opportunity to be among those who would live a better and productive life.
A major highlight of the event was the presentation of awards to some state governments that are outstandingly supporting the development of SMEs in their states, Best National Farmer of the Year, Best Performing Bankers of the Year, and Best SMEs of the Year.