Delegates to the National Conference resumed plenary Monday voting in favour of a Presidential deceleration of a state of emergency in the power sector, just as they agreed that the conference should demand the full implementation of electricity reform bill.
Voting on the recommendations of its Energy Committee and the amendments thereto, members agreed that government policy should encourage low energy light bulbs. However, they rejected an amendment that Federal Government should set aside at least 60 percent of oil revenue for capital development fund.
The amendment that government should immediately commence efforts to clean up oil spill and restore the Niger-Delta degraded environment was also agreed, just as they agreed that the Petroleum Act of 1969 should be reviewed in the interest of justice and equity.
Nevertheless, they rejected a suggestion that politicians, especially elected public officials, should make the availability and usage of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) part of their constituency undertakings. They also rejected unanimously the proposal that 25 percent of oil proceeds be side aside for power generation and expansion.
The plenary also voted that laws should be enacted at the state and local council levels to control the indiscriminate felling of trees for household energy and charcoals for export.
It was as well agreed that throughout the country, streetlights be powered through solar energy, but delegates rejected Federal Government’s move to subsidise the importation of solar panel until it is able to produce same locally.
Members were also passionate about the urgency to end gas flaring and the importation of power generating sets, in order to strengthen commitment to redeeming the ailing power sector.
Contributing to debates, a civil society delegate, Isaac Osuoka, said that gas flaring should be banned without waivers from the Petroleum Ministry authorities while severe punishment is meted to oil firms that default.
He further proposed that all non-associated gas produced in the country be reserved for domestic uses, while supporting the committee’s position that a country should not hand over its energy sector to private hands. He argued that core sectors of the economy, including power, should not be handed over to foreign interests.
Some members also lamented that the country was fast becoming a dumping ground for sub-standard power generating sets. For Lawrence Agugudu, any unjust socio-economic policy against any part or parts of Nigeria will always boomerang.
According to him, Eastern Nigeria generated power through coal from the Oji River Power Station before the Nigerian Civil War, but it was shut down for no just reason. He argued that the enormity of problems facing the President Goodluck Jonathan government was caused by the mistakes of past administrations.
He further questioned the exclusion of North-Central and South-East regions from the solar energy pilot schemes initiated by the government. Meanwhile, other delegates called for the total ban on importation of generators, because the power sector problems would remain unresolved so long as the practice is allowed.
For Rivers State’s former governor, Peter Odili, anything not based on justice will never endure, therefore, government should take a critical look at the Petroleum Act, which was promulgated during the war.
Alfred Diete-Spiff also spoke strongly against gas flaring, saying that there are cheap technologies to check the menace, while the flared gas could generate huge funds for host communities instead of polluting the environment. He also condemned the continued importation of generators.
Nevertheless, former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Victor Attah, has warned that oil reserves in Nigeria would be exhausted in the next 30 years. Therefore, he urged that government slows down on oil production in the Niger Delta, while conscious effort is made to clean up the Niger Delta region.
Calling for a guarantee programme to assist investors in the power sector, he further canvassed the deregulation of the country’s oil sector, and labour and civil societies to support efforts in this direction. Also, he supported the development of bitumen and human capacity to work in the nation’s energy sector.
Chief Olu Falae, who lamented the country’s current inability to generate 4,000 megawatts while it was expected to have 8,000 megawatts by 1980, backed the privatisation of the energy sector and called for massive investment before allowing the private sector to gradually take over.
On his part, former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ahmadu Ali, supported tougher actions against power generation and distribution companies, noting that while the cost of power was being raised astronomically, quality of service was not. He further decried the abrupt increase in the cost of power and called for urgent steps to check it before it deteriorates into major crisis.
He lamented the increasing use of wood and charcoal for domestic cooking, saying that Nigerians be taught to use coal. “Let all those in the far North, who are cutting down all the tress for firewood also learn to use coal like it is done in the South-Western part of the country,” he said.
However, Ray Ekpu warned that apart from respiratory and eye problems, acid rain and skin cancer are associated with gas flaring. He noted that Nigeria has the worst case of gas flaring in the world, far above OPEC average.
Meanwhile, following its perception that the Federal Government lacks bite in the anti-corruption fight, Arewa elders and their delegates at the National Confab said that corruption has destroyed the nation’s opportunity for socio-economic and political development.
Stating also that the removal of petroleum subsidy is not in Nigerians’ interest, they urged government to wage the necessary, unrelenting war against the stealing of public funds, adding that it should pursue capital punishment against offenders if the nation would actually eradicate the menace.
In a statement, spokesman of the Northern Delegates Forum (NDF) at the confab and former National Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr. Anthony Sani, noted that Arewa elders were not sure the government and the confab were giving corruption the needed attention,” rather, it is being allowed as “basis of public policies.”
According to Sani, “the removal of petroleum subsidy is not being done in the best interest of the people but to remove the sources of corruption in the management of petroleum subsidy.
“If you look at the reasons advanced against the Land Use Act by the Committee on Land Tenure, you can hardly avoid the conclusion that they are based more on managerial imperfections and failure of leadership at all levels than on soundness of the law, and they do this in blithe disregard for the fact that most of our good laws are observed more in the breach.”
He added: “Are we now to be cavalier about policies in agriculture because we believe importers of foods work against development of agriculture in Nigeria, or do we now take policies on power serious simply because importers of generators would frustrate it?”
According to him, “instead of allowing corruption to overwhelm us and blight our thought and vision about socio-economic development, we should fight it with our head, heart and hand to standstill.
“Corruption should attract capital punishment because it steals people’s empowerment, steals their opportunity and their future by outsourcing such empowerment, opportunity and our future. Consider the number of schools and health institutions that would be built if the money is not stolen.”
On the Boko Haram insurgency, the ACF chieftain explained: “The security challenges in Nigeria is serious because they are all over the country. We have insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery, militant activism and piracy, among others, to the extent that insecurity is trying to make some Nigerians reconsider our togetherness