interviewBy Yunus Abdulhamid
Chief Obiako C. Obiako is the national chairman of the Rural Electrification Contractors of Nigeria. In this interview, he advises the federal government to electrify the rural communities to unlock the country's economic potentials. He says dividends of democracy are better appreciated in the hinterlands. Obiakor also spoke about the controversial deductions of five percent of payment made to contractors by some members of the group.
Government owes some of your members quite a huge sum, partly due to the suspension of activities at the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). To what extent has government responded to their payment since the revival of the agency?
In recent times, government responded by releasing N3.2 billion as appropriation for payment for old debts for 2012. We were told that less than 60 percent of that amount was released.
That is to say some of our members did not get payment. That is why we are appealing to the federal government and the National Assembly members as well as the ministry of finance to ensure that adequate funding is provided for the 2013 budget to ensure payment of old debt and all ongoing projects recently awarded.
There is bad blood within the ranks of your association. There is somebody else laying claims to the position of chairmanship of the group. He has issued press statement to that effect. What is your reaction to that?
It is unfortunate that in any group, an association of about 1000 member, with very educated and intelligent professionals, few people that parade themselves as chairman, secretary and publicity secretary for about six years never called a meeting of this association. Rather they go about introducing themselves as executive of the association even though they never fought for its cause.
They never projected the interest of the members. The association's members are being owed money but these people don't fight for their cause. The association elected us in May last year. The meeting held here in Abuja where members passed a vote of no confidence on the leadership of Alhaji Inuwa Badamasi.
People were angry that for five years, they didn't hold a meeting rather they were fighting to deduct five percent of the payment made to contractors. And members are saying they will not accept that. If not for our appeal, we would have been in court because of this deduction since last year.
There is a rumour that the federal government is considering scrapping the REA after all. What do you have to say about?
I will say my prayer is let it remain a rumor. I want to advise the federal government not to give into such advice. Such advises should be discountenanced because the dividend of democracy is felt and appreciated more in the rural areas than in the urban areas. Go to the rural areas and see an army of youths doing nothing. These are educated youths that have no jobs. The federal government should look into this and ensure that the rural areas are electrified. Once that is done, the youths will use the electricity to create wealth, provide employment and reduce insecurity, armed robbery and rape.
Under darkness, you don't see the next person coming to attack you but when you have illuminated communities, you can see somebody from afar. Nigeria is a consuming nation as large as we are. That is why a lot of people take us as unserious people. Once the rural areas are open to electricity, Nigerians in Diaspora will be thinking of coming home to set up industries. We will be able to feed the whole of Africa.
The production foundation will be laid in the rural areas. Land and labour are cheap in the rural areas. How can you create wealth and job without providing electricity in the rural communities? It's a dangerous advice that REA should be scrapped.