Nigerian Ministers Meet Broadcasters, Blame Economic Challenges On Corruption

BON, CorruptionThe Federal Government has blamed the poor state of the economy on corruption and the falling price of crude oil.

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, expressed the view while speaking at a meeting with members of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON).

As the administration marks its first year in office, five federal ministers held a meeting with members of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria.

The Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah were part of the ministerial delegation.

Media executives listened to the ministers as they took time to explain their achievements and challenges over the past one year. The most challenging for the new administration has been the economy.

The Information Minister said that Nigeria was passing through a very a difficult time and that the road to economic prosperity would be rough. He said that if the present administration had not been elected, the country’s economy would have collapsed.

“Our economy, or whatever is left of it after years of serial mismanagement and massive corruption is in a very bad state. Throw into the mix, the huge fall in oil price and you have nothing but a disaster of an economy.

“But this government is aware that it was not elected to make excuses but to put the nation back to work,” he said.

The ministers promised that the administration would focus on tackling insecurity and fighting corruption as these are the major ways of revamping the economy.

They, however, noted that there was a backlog of issues to be sorted out, like the huge debt owed contractors, which the Power Minister explained.

“We must not allow yesterday’s misfortunes to recur again. It starts from the gradual process of failing to do simple maintenance; failing to paint or failing to clean.

“The impact of what we see today clearly didn’t start today. So if we have paid contractors, we clearly won’t have the kinds of roads that we have today.

“My meeting with contractors in Power and in Works over the last 10 days, the common thread is that they haven’t received payment for an average of three years.”

Nevertheless, the minsters reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to embarking on infrastructural development across the country.

The ministers also gave the assurance that the government would fulfil its election campaign promises to Nigerians.

Nnaji’s resignation: It’s hard to be a good man in Nigeria – Sam Omatseye

The Chairman of the editorial board of the Nation newspapers, Sam Omatseye Thursday said with the ‘sack’ of the former Minister of Power, Barth Nnaji it is difficult to be a good man in Nigeria.

Mr Omatseye, who was speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, said President Goodluck Jonathan as well as the Security agencies that cleared Mr Nnaji before his appointment as a minister already knew that he (Nnaji) owns a company that is interested in the power sector.

Nnaji says he resigned voluntarily

Former Minister of Power, Bart Nnaji, on Wednesday said that he voluntarily resigned his appointment to retain his integrity which he claimed has come under attacks.

Mr Nnaji made this known in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media, Ogbuagu Anikwe.

The statement said that Mr Nnaji “had to voluntarily resign the office of Minister to retain his integrity which has in recent days come under attacks by powerful vested interests that were hell bent on messing up the integrity and reputation that he has painstakingly built over the years.”

“This resignation is also to ensure that there is no spill over of these attacks to the president who is working very hard to transform the nation.”

He said that he stepped aside from all his private involvement before joining the federal government.

“I would like to reiterate that before I accepted to serve as Minister, I resigned my directorship of all companies that I had interest in and put my shares in those companies in a blind trust; this means that I was not privy to the day-to-day business decisions of those who ran this trust” he said.

According to the statement, the former Minister publicly declared the participation in the privatization process of a foreign company that did business with a company that he had interest in.

He explained that the fact came to his knowledge only during the course of evaluating the consortia that were bidding for PHCN successor companies, and that consequently, he also voluntarily recused himself from participating in the selection process. ”

Mr Nnaji said his resignation gives him the opportunity to go back to his integrated power projects which have been designed to accelerate the development of the nation.

He expressed his gratitude to President Goodluck Jonathan and to millions of Nigerians who supported him in his effort to improve the situation of public power supply in Nigeria in past 14 months when he served as minister of power.

Resignation brings credibility

Meanwhile, the Federal Government said the resignation of Mr Nnaji as the minister for power will give credibility to the privatisation programme going on in the power sector.

Briefing State House correspondents after this week’s  Federal Executive Council  meeting in Abuja, the Minister for Information, Labaran Maku said that investors all over the world will now be reassured that the federal government is serious with the process and will not allow issues of conflict of interest to undermine the process.

Mr Maku said that rather than discourage the administration and the investors the development will reinforce confidence of all in the process.


Why Nnaji resigned as Power Minister

After a protracted face-off with the electricity workers union, the Minister of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji, on Monday, resigned his appointment as the nation’s power helmsman over conflict of interest in the on-going privatisation of the Power Holding Companies of Nigeria (PHCN).

Although the former Minister is yet to make any comment on his resignation, there are reports linking Prof Nnaji to two of the companies that were initially cleared to participate in the forthcoming bidding process for some of the nation’s power generation and distribution companies on September 25.

The National Council on Privatization (NCP) has since cancelled the technical bid and evaluation process conducted for the two companies at the heart of the alleged controversy; Afam Generation Company LTD and Enugu Distribution Company Limited.

It is gathered that Prof Nnaji who was also a member of the NCP, had in the past notified the council of his interest in the privatization process, while disclosing that he had resigned from the board of Geometric power, a company he founded that is bidding for the takeover of the Afam Generation Company.

The former Minister who was recently the guest on our weekend program ‘Sunrise’ made it clear that there’s no alternative to privatising the nation’s power sector. He also denied any pre-knowledge of the companies that bid for the PHCN’s take-over.

President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday accepted Professor Nnaji’s resignation with immediate effect.

In a statement, the president thanked him for his services to the nation under the present administration and wished him well in his future endeavour.

Before his resignation, Professor Nnaji had never minced words over the issue of privatizing the PHCN and he has been at loggerheads with electricity unions over the on-going reforms in the power sector and the privitisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

A major source of that conflict has been the issue of the severance benefits to be paid to the staff of the PHCN after the sale of the 18 companies produced by the unbundling of the company.

Since his appointment as the Minister of Power, Prof Nnaji, a graduate of Physics at St John’s University had canvassed for major reforms in the Nigeria comatose power sector.

As part of his reforms programme, the Minister has embarked on a scheme to privatise Nigeria’s power generation plants as well as the country’s transmission company.

This move have pitched Prof Nnaji against the electricity workers, who felt threatened that the private companies would sack them if they assume management of privatised companies.

The Minister on Sunrise explained the controversy over PHCN’s salary structure and superannuation.

Prof Nnaji is the director and a founder of the Automation and Robotics Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He was made a Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in 1992.

He is also the founder of the first indigenous owned power generating company in Nigeria and was also a former minister for Science and Technology in the country.

He ran in the 2007 Nigerian presidential election as the candidate for the Better Nigeria Party.