I am very delighted that we are gathered together today to seek a solution to one of, if not the most significant challenge to our quest for economic development; the issue of providing adequate power for our economy.
The Nigerian power sector in spite of the enormous resources committed to it within the last 14 years has remained in a perilous state, delivering very disappointing results. 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.
Opportunities for both the Legislature and Executive to come together to forge a solution to this perennial problem have been wasted in the past. 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.
However, 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.
To get out however, sacrifice has to be made and borne by all. We must agree to put Nigeria first and our contributions to this must be genuine. Yes, some will lose money, jobs may be lost, investment gestation may extend but government must as well be sincerely committed to providing the right environment and fulfill its part of the deal without equivocation. Unless all players speak frankly, open-mindedly and honestly we will not get the right solutions. I am going to lead the way in being blunt and specific in my contribution starting with these remarks and hopefully that will set the tune for not-so-politically-correct deliberations here.
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 privatization is a right policy recipe to pursue in order to put in place a power sector that can galvanize our economy, we forgot that the participation of the private sector is not an end in itself. We neglected that unless this is done, observing transparency, competition, transaction integrity we might end up with a sector worse than the past. 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.
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 catalyzing 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.
While we are at the problem, the implications all of these have created has continued to mount on all fronts with stagnating growth statistics, loss of SME jobs in a country with a large and rapidly growing population, factories shutting down in growing numbers, dwindling family investable income and opportunities mostly due to the high cost imposed by inadequate electricity supply. Indeed, the link between electricity supply and economic development is such that the health of the industry is a matter of deep and personal concern to all citizens.
Finally, let me reiterate the urgency of this gathering in human terms. Wherever you go in the country nothing represents the failure of government and leadership in the mind of Nigerian like the epileptic power situation in the country. Fixing it is at the highest priority list of our people. In other words, our people are demanding that we do all that is in our power to reverse this long and unenviable power sector blight. We must get it right. The first step is this forum.
This National Assembly is fully ready to support and drive every actionable initiative that is expected out of this interactive session to boost the power sector significantly. We will be relying heavily on your wisdom and input, to craft the right legislative initiatives that will help us deliver a new and more reliable Nigerian power sector for the Nigerian economy.
Thank you for coming.
Senator (Dr.) Abubakar Bukola Saraki CON
President of the Senate, and Chairman National Assembly