FG hands over licences to new owners of power plants

The Federal Government Monday in Abuja handed over share certificates and licences to new core owners of 15 of the 18 PHCN successor companies.

The ceremony, held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, was presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan with the Vice-President and Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation, Namadi Sambo, in attendance.

Jonathan assured of better days for electricity users in the country with improved economy and employment generations.

“To the Nigerian people who have demonstrated such great patience and confidence, putting up often with darkness, noisy power-generating sets, the related pollution and daily disruptions in their lives, I say better days are coming.

“We do not expect the sector to be revitalised overnight, but we can all look forward to a better time very soon as we have seen in the telecommunication and banking sectors.

“I am confident that the power sector will promise no less, knowing the caliber of those who are taking over.

“Today, we embark on a journey, a journey that will usher us to a destination of enduring gain and fulfillment,’’ he said.

Jonathan said the ceremony was a milestone in the nation’s journey from a public-owned and -operated electricity sector to an industry driven by private sector.

He commended the efforts of all stakeholders in the privatisation process for the transparent, fair and well-organised way they handled the process.

He urged the affected PHCN workers not to nurse a feeling of displacement, but to dwell on the tremendous possibilities that the revitalisation of the sector hold for the future.

Speaking in the same vein, Sambo said the event marked another major landmark in the transformation agenda of Jonathan’s administration.

He noted that at the inception of the programme, pessimists believed that the feat could not be accomplished.

The vice-president gave the assurance that the electricity market would be regulated in a manner that would promote growth and competitiveness.

“Electricity consumers are assured that their interests will be protected from over-pricing and poor service.

“It is important to stress that the role of regulation in a private sector-led electricity power sector cannot be overemphasised,’’ he said.

Sambo commended international development partners such as USAID, DFID, the World Bank Group and AfDB for keeping faith with the process.

He assured the investors that the Federal Government would protect their investments and create an enabling environment for a private sector-driven electricity market to flourish.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the privatised generating companies are Geregu Power Plc, Ughelli Power Plc, Egbin Power Plc, Kainji Hydro Electric Plc and and Shiroro Hydro Electric Power Plc.

The 10 privatised distribution companies (Disco) are located in Abuja, Benin, Eko, Ibadan, Ikeja, Jos, Kano, Port-Harcourt, Yola and Enugu.

The three PHCN successor companies that have yet to be handed over because of outstanding issues are located in Afam, Kaduna, and Sapele. (NAN)

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Jonathan Says Nigeria not Bankrupt, Governors Disagree

Despite the inability of the Federal Government to pay three months allocations owed the 36 states of the federation, President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday denied suggestions that the country is bankrupt, saying those who have been making the insinuation have only been playing politics with an important national matter.

Huhuonline.com findings reveals that the Jonathan administration has continued to fail in its fiscal obligation to state governments. Some state chief executives who did not want their names in print told our correspondent that they last received their state monthly allocation in June 2013.

“We have not received allocation for July, August and September; the fact that we are able to pay salaries is a miracle,” one noted.

In spite of the president’s stance, several financial analysts familiar with Nigeria’s current financial doldrums and who monitored Sunday’s media chat, insist that the president is being economical with words.

“If the country is not broke, why has Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala not been able to  disburse funds to the states for the past three months?” one said.

 Speaking during a presidential media chat ahead of the country’s 53rd Independence anniversary on Tuesday, the president urged politicians to always place the country’s interest above inter-party politics.

 “Sometimes, people just play politics with serious issues. Or how can anyone just wake up from sleep to say Nigeria is bankrupt?” Jonathan queried.

 “Anybody who talks about Nigeria being broke is just playing politics out of ignorance. In July, due to excess vandalism of pipeline, crude oil sales dropped significantly, and it affected the revenues of the country, so states didn’t get their usual allocation. That was the issue.

 “So, it is not that we have never had enough money. It is not that the government did not generate enough revenue. So, if Nigeria is broke, a senior citizen who comes out to say that must come out to give the parameters. And that is why no matter your political interest, you must mind what you say, especially about your own country. This is not about whether you like the president’s face or not.”

 Jonathan also commented on the ongoing industrial action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, offering not the slightest hope that the government would bend over backward to get the youths back to school.

 “Crises in developing countries will continue, either at the primary secondary or tertiary level. There was a time during Jerry Rawlings’s tenure when Ghana closed down all universities. I am not saying that is what we will do but it happened somewhere else,” the president said.

 “So for ASUU to go on strike and say that government must spend so and so amount is unfair. This administration is the first ever to conduct and inventory of infrastructure lacking all over government tertiary institutions. If we didn’t have it in mind, we would not have taken the inventory. We have started with N100bn. But all these changes cannot happen overnight. So we expect ASUU to come and work with us.

“This particular issue is beyond 2009. We cannot change this thing overnight. We told them, go back and we are releasing N100 billion. This is the first time we are looking into it with serious commitment. Just like the roads. The members of ASUU should look at the commitment of government. We are very sincere. You can’t get it overnight. But to say we must close down the other arms of government is not possible,” he said wondering why lecturers from state universities would take part in the strike despite knowing that they do not owe any allegiance to the Federal Government. He said it was time for the government to look at the labour laws in the country.

Jonathan lamented the duration of the strike, and urged ASUU to suspend it in the interest of students.

 “It is very unfortunate that ASUU strike has lasted for this long. I want to use this opportunity to call on ASUU to call of the strike,” he said. “They are asking for an allowance of ninety-something billion; and these allowances are supposed to be paid from the internally generated revenues of these universities. Until we get to a point where universities that claim to be autonomous are also autonomous in terms of funding, I don’t think all these will stop, because autonomy without responsibility will eventually lead to crisis; and this is what we are experiencing.

 Asked why the government would not just acceded to the demands of the 2009 Agreement with ASUU, which it signed, Jonathan said: “Those who negotiated that agreement didn’t know the implications of certain things they agreed to.

“For example, how can you say assets of the government should be transferred to the government, and universities do not have asset management companies. There are certain things that they themselves know cannot be implemented. How can they say we should transfer assets of government to the universities? What happens to the Armed Forces?

On his contentious re-election ambition, the president maintained a reticent stance, saying his decision or otherwise to run should not be allowed to define the 2015 elections.

 “It is not yet time. In a normal society, whether I am contesting or not should not be an issue,” he said.

 “If anybody wants to contest, Jonathan’s decision to contest or not should not be a factor. If you want to be president, you can begin your preparations towards achieving it, whether or not I will contest. Anyone who says Jonathan must tell us whether he will contest or or anyone who says Jonathan must step down before he can decide to contest is not serious about the Presidency.”

 Jonathan, who spoke on a wide-ranging number of national issues, also refuted claims that the recent sack of ministers was connected to loyalties to the G-7 governors or sympathies for the breakaway faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He explained that the sack was borne out of the need to inject people with fresh ideas to meet his electoral promises to the people of the country.

Illustrating his action with a football team and the coach, he said all that concerns the coach is scoring goals and when that is not happening, he changes his players. He also recalled that he had sacked some cabinet members in the past.

 “It had nothing to do with G-7 governors. I dropped the minister of defence before. What of the minister that was recommended by Godswil Akpabio or the minister of environment, who is from my vice president’s state?

“Some of the dropped ministers are from states where the governors are considered to be favourable to me. I always says it is Nigerians first. We are building institutions and not individuals. People should be interested in how government works and not who does the work. From when Obasanjo entered, have there been issues with sack of ministers? Why should Jonathan’s own be an issue?”

Denies  Signing One Term Agreement

Jonathan also denied ever signing any agreement with anybody to serve for one-term as President of the country, urging those claiming he signed the pact to produce the document.

“I never signed agreement with anybody. If I signed agreement with anybody, they would have shown you,” he said adding that the only thing he remembers is his suggestion for a single term of seven years.

“I was at Addis Ababa and that was where I suggested the single-term. To be more productive, a president should have seven years. But to say I have signed agreement, they should show you the agreement.”

Concerning the current ranting of Asari Dokubo that there would be war if the president is not allowed a second term in office. An evasive Jonathan said he could not speak for anybody, adding that those commenting could continue to say what they like.

On the challenges of electricity in the country and the wisdom behind the privatisation of the power distribution companies, he said generating thousands of megawatts without adequate distribution would be foolhardy. He said currently, his government is not keen about generating more megawatts, since with the distribution, the issue of megawatts increase would be successfully handled.

He also noted that the number of aides of political officers in the country is not the reason for the huge cost of governance, but the bloated civil service.

“If you are a minister, you need people that are competent to help you. This is how it is all over the world. Whenever I travel, people complain that I travel with a lot of people, but I travel with the least number of people compared to some other presidents. For you to function as a president, you need a number of people.

“There are some countries where, even if the president is sick, the system still runs. All these aides of governors and presidents are not the problem of the country but the parastatals that have a lot of overheads. If you decide to retrench now, they would say there are some countries where citizens do not go to work and earn money.”

President Jonathan also criticised Nigerians for heaping every problem in the country on corruption. According to him, corruption is not even the major problem bedevilling the country.

“If everybody continues to say the problem of Nigeria is corruption, then the feeling is that corruption is our major problem. There are different parameters that define why we are not where we are, but even when you ask the civil society group, they would say it is corruption that is the first.”

He admitted that although corruption is as old as the society and almost everywhere, it is the third of the factors militating against doing business in the country and not the first as people are wont to make it seem.

He also said one of the ways his government had been fighting corruption could be seen from the distribution of fertilisers. He also said the country has an independent judicial system devoid of interference by the president.

“I have also set up a committee including myself, the Chief Justice, Appeal Court President, the Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the anti-graft agencies to see how we can tackle the issue of corruption. You say the corruption perception is so high, yet people are rushing to Nigeria.”

However, the president agreed that the country has various challenges summing into insecurity. He identified the Boko Haram as the greatest threat to the country, saying tits activities have affected the country in various ways.

 

“We have issues in all parts of the country, but the particular issue with the Boko Haram is the use of terrorism and suicide bombers. People said we must dialogue with the Boko Haram and we set up a committee and up till now, they are still in dialogue. Boko haram started since 2009, but the excesses started with the bombing of mami-market, the UN building and the police headquarters in Abuja.”

Jonathan justified the killing of about seven people in an uncompleted building in the Apo area of Abuja, the country’s capital, revealing that there was a security report that the Al-Qaeda group was going to launch attacks on cities across the world in commemoration of the September 11 attack on America.

According to him, Nigeria’s security outfits became pro-active, arrested some people who made useful confessional statements and led the security to where their weapons were hidden. In the course getting to the place, the security agents met a confrontation from the sect members, which led to the deaths. He, however, agreed that innocent people could have been part of those killed in the cross-fire.

He agreed that the activities of the group had recently increased again, promising that his government would do everything to curb the sect activities as he is personally pained by the death every citizen.

He justified his earlier statement that members of the sect had infiltrated his government, recalling that a judge from Kano State had to be retired and a senator was recently being prosecuted for their relationship with the sect, but said he had no knowledge of the existence of the sect leader, Abubakar Shekau, who is believed to have resurfaced in a video after being declared dead by the Joint Task Force.

“I don’t know whether he is dead or alive. I am telling you that I, the president, don’t know if he is dead or alive.”

On the massive oil theft going on in the country, President Jonathan said top Nigerians are involved in the criminal activity since poor men cannot export such amount of stolen crude.

“The oil theft started on a small scale and if government had acted at that time, it would have been easy for us. Just like Boko Haram, it didn’t start last year. I was the vice president when Yusuf was killed and because it was not well handled, it became like a cancer. But I assure Nigerians that we are working seriously on it.

“Crude oil theft is not done by poor people. Most refineries abroad do not take crude oil from everybody and anybody. That is why we are pleading with presidents in other countries to reject crude oil from unknown sources. You see small boys, but those that are seriously involved are the big people.

Those who export the crude oil are not poor people,” said the president, who was evasive on the questions raised about the Ministry of Petroleum.

He also denied that the Federal Executive Council had become a massive contract-awarding outfit, saying there are other things the council deals with it apart from the award of contracts.

The president ended the media chat by congratulating Nigerians on the 53rd Independence anniversary and promising to honour past and present heroes of the country, including Taiwo Akinkunmi, the man who designed the Nigerian national flag.

National Assembly is Nigeria’s problem.

A civil society group, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, has said the National Assembly is the main problem of Nigeria and not the leaders of the country since independence.

CACOL was reacting to a resolution by the Senate that the nation’s leadership, since the return to full democratic rule 14 years ago, had taken no serious step to tackle corruption, unemployment, rot in the education sector, decayed infrastructure and nepotism.

Members of the Senate had unanimously submitted that the nation’s leaders, apart from those who fought for its independence 53 years ago, had failed to provide the required leadership that could make the country socio-economically independent.

In a statement by the Media Officer, CACOL, Abimbola Adegoke, the Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran, said the National Assembly had been the major problem with the country.

He said, “It is crass irresponsibility for the senators to lament the plight of the Nigerian masses, when, as a matter of fact, they are part of the political brigandage that has been holding the growth of the nation down through their jumbo salaries and high level of corruption going on in the National Assembly.”

Adeniran queried the legislature on how many masses-friendly laws they had passed since 1999. He alleged that the lawmakers had been fixing allowances and emoluments for themselves at the expense of the poor civil servants.

He further said their legislative business was not favourable to the masses, lamenting that despite the large number of poor people, the legislators were the highest paid in the whole world.

Adeniran said, “Is it not a height of thoughtlessness for them to live big in the midst of poor masses that are merely eking out a living? Who are the leaders they are referring to?

“As a matter of fact, if the oversight functions are done properly, corruption would have been reduced in the MDAs. Do they think Nigerians will fall for their rhetoric? And now that they have woken up from their slumber, what are they going to do to alleviate the plight of the Nigerian masses?”

While noting that revolution was the only solution to the problem of the country, he said many leaders had shown that they didn’t have the interest of the people at heart.

“The only way out of the current problem is through a peaceful revolution, which can only come about by calling the conference of the people,” he added.

Lawyers in Edo to boycott courts over kidnapped judge.

The Benin branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) says its members may boycott courts in Edo following the abduction of a High Court Judge, Justice Daniel Okungbowa.

The planned boycott is contained in a statement issued by the Benin NBA Chairman, Oriane Akere, on Friday in Benin.

The statement urged the state government and security agencies to live up to their responsibilities.

It also urged for proactive measures toward checking crime and criminal activities in the state.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Okungbowa was abducted by armed men on Sept. 23 at Ekpoma in Esan West Local Council area.

Meanwhile, judges in the state have boycotted court sittings to protest the abduction. (NAN)

FG explains delay in payment of disengaged PHCN staff.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Godknows Igali, Thursday, explained that the delay in payment of the entitlements of disengaged staff of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, was to ensure that no mistakes were made.

In an interview with newsmen after a meeting with Vice President Namadi Sambo at the Presidential Villa, Igali said the delay not withstanding, remarkable progress has been achieved in the privatisation of the disbundled PHCN.

According to him, all issues relating to labour and others would be resolved before the handover and takeover, adding that “There is progress in the handing over of the 10 distribution companies and four generating companies, we are in the last stages. A formal ceremony will take place to hand over the documents to the new owners.

“There will be no physical handover until the end of this year. We are starting with handing over of the documents, the protocol ceremony for Mr. President to preside over after which, we have one month to undertake cropping issues, for example labour.

“We are making very good progress to ensure that all workers are paid. When you are dealing with paying accounts of workers, about 40,000 people, you have to be careful because it is not something you rush into.

“So, we think that when the hand over of the documents is done, we still have another one month to ensure that we look into claims and so on before the final physical take off.”

Igali said the meeting with Sambo was a periodic review of progress on work on the power plants and the need to deal with issues pertaining to ensuring that when the project eventually comes on stream, there would be supply of gas.

He said the implementation of the present administration’s power masterplan was encouraging, adding that Nigerians should be optimistic.

“All things are going on very well. Let’s be optimistic. The other sectors that the private sector took over, there is an exponential change in the sector. We saw it in telecommunication. You all were here when it takes a day before you make a call before private sector took over. But today, Nigerians have access to telephones.

“In the banking sector, when you go to banks, you queue up for almost a whole day taking a tally to wait. Today, you can stay in your office and perform your banking transactions because the private sector took over.

“In the power sector, the government has gone to the private sector and they have shown strong and robust commitment to this country. Despite the fact that we still have power outages, the private sector have shown robust commitment that they are committed to working together with the government.”

“Everybody around the world said that it will not work, that in Nigeria nobody buy assets. But there are Nigerian businessmen, bankers teamed up with people to buy these assets and they want to bring in the dynamism, the effectiveness of the private sector.

“Let’s give them a chance and see how they are going to transform the power sector, let us be optimistic and hopeful. So far we have done well with the process, We have been transparent and now we are in the last point of handing over to the private sector.”

“In the short term, there will be appreciable result and when we get to the medium, the country will be better for it,” the permanent secretary added.

FG inaugurates boards of five parastatals.

The Federal Government on Thursday inaugurated the board of five parastatals.

The parastatals are the Consumer Protection Council; National Automotive Council; Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency; the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission; and Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority.

The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Samuel Ortom, who inaugurated the boards, urged the members to discharge their duties with the greatest sense of responsibility.

He expressed optimism that their appointments would further enhance the overall mandate of the ministry in implementing the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.

He said, “A careful look at the composition of the boards shows that most of the members are not only knowledgeable and highly experienced, but are also key players in their various fields in the public and private sectors of the economy.

nPDP Condemns Jonathan Over Dwindling Economy

Chairman of the breakaway faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje on Thursday condemned the rape of the country’s economy by the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, stating that despite claims to the contrary by the administration in a futile bid to deceive Nigerians, the overwhelming evidence is that the Nigerian economy has been run aground by the present administration and is now comatose. 

In a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Eze Chukuwemeka Eze, the faction argued that with the massive scale of officially induced oil theft, the dwindling returns from oil and massive looting going on at the federal level, Nigeria is surely on the brink of economic collapse.

“One manifestation of this is the Federal Government’s inability to pay states their share of the Federal Allocation since July. The last time that states were paid was for part of July. The arrears continue to mount by the day,” Eze wrote in the statement.

“As at today, the states are being owed N336bn, with N75bn being the balance of the July 2013 arrears, N121bn from June augmentation and over N90bn as July augmentation.

“The implication of this unfortunate development is that the 36 states have become impoverished and unable to meet up with basic obligations, including the payment of workers’ monthly salaries, which many of the states have been unable to do due to lack of funds. Most states have also as a result been unable to meet their obligation to contractors. This dangerous scenario is complemented by the growing rate of unemployment, which presently hovers around 80 per cent.

“Let us ponder this: If states cannot pay their contractors — not to talk of entering into new contracts — if states cannot pay their workers because there is no money to pay them, what could result is a huge social catastrophe that will add to the social, economic and political inferno already ravaging Nigeria today.

“All these portend very grave danger for our dear country as youth and labour restiveness appears imminent. Nigerians should expect further worsening of the unemployment situation and the loss of jobs, which is inevitable should the Federal Government continue with the present shoddy management of the economy which leaves much room for abuse.”

The ‘new’ PDP further argued that the masses have ironically been suffering while government officials continue to feed fat, using various guises to fritter away the people’s common patrimony.

“They continue to enjoy a life of opulence, which has blinded them to the realities of the monumental suffering to which the masses are being subjected on a daily basis.   

“The question to ask is: where has all the money gone? For an instance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had revealed that the country earned a total of N1.05trn in July, but surprisingly, the minister had not been able to pay states their due statutory allocations. Where are the billions of dollars accruable from daily crude oil sales? Where are the billions of naira accruable from multiple taxation, which is strangulating struggling businesses on a daily basis? And where are the billions of dollars, which the Jonathan administration claims to be saving from one so-called cost-saving measure or the other? Nigerians can no longer be deceived! The truth is that Nigeria is broke and it does that worse days are ahead under this inept and visionless Administration.

“PDP under the leadership of Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje strongly condemns this unfortunate situation which indicates that the managers of the nation’s economy may be at their wits end. It is unacceptable for Nigerians to be subjected to this grand level of suffering even when their country is one of the world’s leading oil producers.

“The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) under the able leadership of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi that includes the progressive G7 Governors of the authentic PDP recently raised the alarm, calling on the Finance Minister to resign in view of her shoddy running of the economy. As usual, the Minister, who is also the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, denied that the economy is running on troubled waters, but events have since proven her wrong. Since nobody has a monopoly of wisdom, we wish to advise President Jonathan to humbly consider the NGF Report on the nation’s economy and see what he can borrow from it to take the country’s economy out of the woods.

The faction urged the president to act fast in rescuing the situation, as there is a limit to which Nigerians can be pushed.

“Anything short of this is an invitation to anarchy. A word is enough for the wise!” it added. “In conclusion, not minding the abysmal failure of the defunct Tukur’s PDP to advise the Executive on how to run a PDP government based on the principles and vision of the founding fathers of the party, we sincerely thank Nigerians for their patience even in the face of poverty while in the midst of plenty bestowed on us by God as we have decided to keep this administration on its toes to ensure that dividends of democracy are rendered to Nigerians considering the massive votes that PDP received from them during the 2011 general elections.”

Secretary of the nPDP in Kaduna State, Pledge Allegiance to Bamanga Tukur

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the nPDP in Kaduna State, Gideon Morik and other members of the faction have defected to the faction led by Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.

The members recently signed newspaper advertorials as loyalists of the Baraje faction in the state but speaking during a solidarity visit to Governor of the state, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero at Government House Kaduna, Morin denied knowledge of the existence of any faction of the party in the state, saying the faction led by Tukur is the only one that exists.

Morik and co. also denied ever declaring support for the Baraje faction, claiming that those promoting the faction in the state published their names in the advertorials without their consent.