- Power Sector Privatisation Faulty, Says Saraki
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has described the privatisation process in the power sector as faulty and hindering the achievement of positive results.
Saraki, in his message at the opening session of the Senate on Tuesday following its resumption from the Christmas and New Year recess, said, “Before we left for the break, myself, a select few of us and stakeholders in the power sector met to get an understanding of why no progress has been made thus far despite the best intention; and the revelations were mind-boggling.
“There had been errors in the privatisation process and the model by which the power sector is being operated, whether at generation or distribution levels, will never take us where we need to be. It has failed and nobody appears willing to tackle the issue head-on towards a permanent resolution.
“I have mandated the Senate Committee on Power to continue the consultation with the relevant parties to forge a path to solving our crippling power deficit. After all, if we are going to drive Nigerian industries, we need to resolve this and fast.”
The Senate President, who noted that the petroleum industry continued to be critical to the health of the nation’s economy, said the Senate was urging the executive to take positive steps to begin a “meaningful dialogue” with those aggrieved in the Niger Delta.
“The proposed engagement, we suggest, must be sincere, constructive, open and confidence-building. This Senate is willing to assist and play whatever role is necessary to facilitate a successful agreement that would help us see to the end of the lingering conflict,” he said.
He stated that it had become necessary that the lawmakers immediately began work on the 2017-2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper to ensure its passage by the end of the week.
He explained, “In this way, consideration and debate on the 2017 budget will immediately follow in the three sitting days of next week. It is our hope that we will, with this budget, begin the implementation of the report of the Committee on Budget Reforms, which has since been submitted.
“This will enable more Nigerians participate in the budget consideration process, deepen the review and create the necessary efficiencies we expect from our budget implementation.”
Saraki noted that as long as Nigeria’s economy remained in recession, “our work is not done because our people are still being laid off.”
He added, “So long as factories are closing shop, for as the hardship in the land continues to bite harder, investment continues to dwindle and the foreign exchange market remains fragmented, I will be demanding even much more from us to get all our economic reform bills passed.
“Ideally, we would like to see them pass together with the 2017 budget. Let me, therefore, urge all our committees involved with our priority bills to double efforts to ensure that by the end of the first quarter of this year, we will have these bills ready.”
While reiterating the importance of making the 2017 budget “the most successful budget we have ever passed,” Saraki said it was equally important to emphasise the need to have the budget back on the desk of the executive on time for implementation.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is to deviate from the practice of merely passing recommendations on budget proposals by considering every detail of the 2017 budget in its plenary.
The Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, announced this in Abuja on Tuesday as lawmakers reconvened in Abuja after a 26-day break.
The practice over the years was to refer the budget to the Committee on Appropriation to work on the details after the debate on the general principles had been concluded.
The committee will thereafter report its recommendations on the details to the House, where members will simply pass the figures on the various sub-heads.
The fallout in some cases was that lawmakers voted to pass certain sub-heads without really knowing how the money would be distributed down the chain.
Such developments led to the controversial N40bn budget padding allegation raised against four principal officers last year by a former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin.
Addressing lawmakers as they resumed on Tuesday, Dogara said the old practice would be jettisoned in respect of the 2017 budget so that members would have the opportunity to consider every detail of the budget proposal in the plenary.