Senate President Bukola Saraki on Tuesday criticised how the power sector was privatised, saying it was sold to individuals who had no idea about how to run it.
He said the mistakes of past governments “borne out of ignorance, selfish interests and fraud”, brought Nigeria to this point.
Saraki said this at a workshop on power sector organised by the national assembly in Abuja.
He lamented that the sector, in spite of the enormous resources committed to it for the last 14 years, had remained in a perilous state.
“Today, we are on the verge of a total systemic breakdown and I see this as an opportunity to stop this train from derailing completely,” he said.
“We sold the discos to individuals and parties who had no idea about running a proper power distribution business. Licenses were issues based on cronyism rather than capital adequacy, market experience and capacity to deliver. Agreements were faulty and transaction integrity hardly imperative.
“This is the opportunity for both the legislature and executive to come together to forge a solution to this perennial problem. We cannot afford to waste the opportunity we have now. We owe it to the people who have entrusted us with the privilege of working out solutions to their problems by electing us to our various offices that we are hard on our heels to bring them solutions not complaints.
“We cannot shy away from the fact that inexcusable mistakes have been made in the past that brought us to this point and we must be willing to face up to them and clearly delineate them in order to ensure that we do not return to the mistakes of the past.
“Clearly some of these where innocent mistakes, others were rather the product of selfish interests, some fraudulent, some borne out of ignorance and others glaring lack of capacity apparent from day one. All of these combined has brought us to the mess we now have to face up to.”
Emphasising that the problems in the sector were the country’s own making, the senate president said sacrifice must be made to overcome the challenges.
“Where we are is not an accident. We walked our way into the landmine we are facing with the decisions we made in the past. While privatisation is a right policy recipe to pursue in order to put in place a power sector that can galvanise our economy, we forgot that the participation of the private sector is not an end in itself,” he said.
“We neglected that unless this is done, observing transparency, competition, transaction integrity we might end up with a sector worse than the past. The BPE did things that were inexcusable. To imagine that even the sale proceeds of about $4bn was solely spent towards the payment of pensions and staff. Not one single kobo was expended towards catalysing the sector back to life.
“GENCOS bought generating units without a clear assurance of source of gas to fire plants and government had no active roadmap for delivery of a gas market infrastructure to make this happen. Yet gas companies and the IOCs were exporting our gas out of our shores to create gas markets elsewhere in Europe and Asia while we languished in darkness as a result of incessant, persistent and erratic power outages. In the face of all these our people continued to be called upon to bear inexplicable bills estimated beyond rationale service value.”