Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, has noted that the increase in electricity tariffs is the first major policy the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is coming up with, describing same as “a painful pill,” which consumers have to “swallow.”
Fashola disclosed this Monday on the sidelines of the second monthly sectoral meeting with stakeholders in the power sector in Lagos, where he also inspected some projects at the Alagbon Transmission and Distribution Complex.
Fashola’s comments came at a time Nigerian workers under the aegis of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress, TUC, joined by Civil Society Organizations embarked on peaceful protests against the policy which has grounded commercial activities in several cities in the country.
According to him, “Importantly, I understand that people who have been disappointed over a long time will feel a sense of concern that again tariffs have gone up. But the truth is that these tariffs ought to have been there from day one. I don’t know why the government of yesterday was not courageous enough to tell us this was the price.
“It is a painful pill that I must appeal that we swallow. It is like quinine and malaria. It’s painful; it’s not sweet, I know that, but I do it because we are not left with many choices. This is the first major decision in power that this administration has taken. There are other problems.
“I can only appeal for some understanding and some trust that we do this in the best interest of our country. It is a hard decision, but I think down the line, we will have cause to look…”
The minister, who faulted the way the privatisation of the power sector carried out by the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan, said the sector was being plagued by several problems including gas supply shortfall and transmission issue.
It would be recalled that the Jonathan administration had in November 2013 privatised the successor generation and distribution companies carved out of the defunct government-owned Power Holding Company of Nigeria, leaving out the transmission segment of the value chain.
Fashola, while responding to a question on what the problems in the sector were, said, “The problem is everywhere. The problem is with us. The problem is with gas. The problem is with transmission. The problem is with the way the privatisation exercise itself was conducted.
“But as I have said before, I am not going to lament what has happened in the past. I am going to move on with it. So, the first move we have made when we accessed the situation, nobody was happy with it when we took over.
“This is a problem that has been here for 16 years, if we put it mildly. It is a problem that has been here 100 years ago, if we put it really extremely. I have been here for less than a 100 days, and I think we can solve this problem if you give us the tools that we need to do it. I think that this problem can be solved, and the day that we feel that it cannot be solved, I will gladly come and tell you that I don’t think it will work,” he stated.