President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday declared that the deteriorating public electricity supply across the country, which Nigerians have been making jest of, is no longer a funny joke to him, and wants to hit a target of 10,000 megawatts by the end of his tenure in 2019.
He spoke at the beginning of a two-day National Economic Council (NEC) retreat on the economy held at the State House Conference Hall, Abuja, and attended by state governors, Ministers and relevant heads of government agencies.
Buhari, who said the purpose of the retreat is to generate immediate, medium and long-term viable policy solutions to the economic challenges facing the Federal and State governments, announced that this alone, the administration intends to add 2,000 megawatts to the national grid.
His words: “Nigerians’ favourite talking point and butt of jokes is the power situation in our country. But, ladies and gentlemen, it is no longer a laughing matter. We must and by the grace of God we will put things right.
“In the three years left for this administration we have given ourselves the target of ten thousand megawatts distributable power. In 2016 alone, we intend to add two thousand megawatts to the national grid.”
The president lamented that the privatisation of the power sector was yet to improve quality of service as complaints persist, including constant power cuts; high electricity bills despite power cuts; low supply of gas to power plants due to vandalization by terrorists; obsolete power distribution equipment; power fluctuations,and low voltage which cannot run industrial machinery.
“In our determination to CHANGE we must and will, insha Allah, put a stop to power shortages”, said Buahri while listing efforts being made by his government to turn things around.
According to him: “We are facing the classic dilemma of privatization: Public interest Vs Profit Motive. We must complete the process. But National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the regulatory authority, has a vital job to ensure consumers get value for money and over-all public interest is safe-guarded.
“Government to fast-track completion of pipelines from Gas points to power stations and provide more security to protect gas and oil pipelines.
“Power companies should be encouraged to replace obsolete equipment and improve the quality of service and technicians.”
He threw up four ‘random policy’ thrusts garnered from stakeholders which should engage the retreat participants: Agriculture, Power, Manufacturing, Housing. The president said he left out Education, Science and Technology because those one require a whole retreat by themselves.
On housing, Buhari noted a deficit of about 16 million units, and recalled that his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) during electioneering campaigns last year promised to build a million housing units a year.
“This will turn out to be a very tall order unless the Federal Government builds 250,000 units; the 22 APC States together manage another 250,000 units.
“We invite foreign investors together with local domiciled big construction companies to enter into commercial housing building to pick up the rest.”
The president recognised the major handicaps to be severe shortage of housing; high rents; unaffordable prices for prospective buyers especially middle and low-income earners; public service red tape/corruption in obtaining ownership of title documents; and absence of long term funding sources for mortgage purposes.
He therefore urged the retreat to consider the relevant laws that should be reviewed to make the process of acquiring statutory right of occupancy easier; court procedures for mortgages cases should make enforcement more efficient; computerization of title registration system; and development of strong and enduring mortgage institutions with transparent processes and procedures.
Buhari tasked the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the state governments to convene early meetings of stakeholders and identify issues with a view to addressing the obvious challenges of Nigeria achieving food elf-sufficieny and security.
“Inform the public in all print and electronic media on government efforts to increase local food production to dampen escalating food prices”, he directed.
Concerning the local manufacturing sector, the president further directed the
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to create more incentives and ease credit terms for lending to manufacturers.
Also, he mandated relevant agencies to launch a fresh campaign for patronage of Made-in-Nigeria goods.”Example: all uniforms in government-sponsored institutions should be sourced from local factories”, he ordered.
On health-care, Buhari recommended among other things, more funding for health centres to improve service delivery while the World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO) could be persuaded to increase their assistance.
Other suggestions include: “NAFDAC to intensify efforts on reducing or stopping circulation of fake drugs in Nigeria.
“Ministry of Health should work closely with the Nigerian Medical Association to ensure that unqualified people are not allowed to practice.”
In his remarks, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who chairs NEC, explained that the retreat was organised to find solution to the nation’s economy which were caused by over dependence on oil.