3 December 2012

Nigeria: Evil Spirits and the Nation's Power Crisis


At a recent meeting with a South African delegation to Nigeria, the Minister of State for Power, Hajia Zainab Kuchi, was reported to have blamed 'evil spirits' for the crisis in the nation's power sector. She accused these unseen forces of preventing Nigeria from taking her pride of place in the comity of nations.

She also told the potential investors that "we must resolve to jointly exorcise the evil spirits behind this darkness...." Much as we sympathise with the minister in her apparent state of helplessness, we also believe that it was unconscionable for her to have decided to relapse into despondency in a matter that required well thought out, pragmatic ideas on how to make the system work.

To imagine that she said this, even if it was meant to be a joke, in the presence of would be investors, is to say the least, unfortunate.

Elsewhere in the world, appointments into some key ministries are often not based purely on political considerations. With the crucial nature of power and energy in the nation's economic life, that ministry ought not to be for anybody who can manage to spell his or her name. It should be reserved for experts versed in the subject, who can talk intelligently in the presence of visitors. We don't need a government official who will begin to blame her incompetence and lack of understanding of the intricacies of the subject on hapless unseen forces.

In earlier editorials, we were compelled to point out that the authorities have not shown sufficient commitment to the resuscitation of the power sector. We noted the corruption in the system. In one instance, the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was known to have wasted a whopping $16 billion dollars in his eight years in office sabotaging the energy sector. Some of his close aides at the time, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said this much when they alleged that he bypassed due process in the award of contracts for the National Independent Power Projects (NIPPs). A subsequent probe by the House of Representatives became an exercise in masterly cover-up. These were and still are the factors against efficient power supply in the country; certainly not some spirits somewhere.

In our opinion, the powers that be have consistently frustrated any bright mind with ideas on how to solve the energy crisis in the country. We are convinced that what is needed to restore sanity in the system is a change of attitude on the part of government and its agencies starting with the ongoing reform in the sector. Without this, no process of exorcism, no matter how potent, can help the situation. The minister, Hajia Kuchi, should bear this in mind and get down to work.

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