THE Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy, has threatened to shut down the budget of the Rural Electrification Agency, REA, over the perceived ineffectiveness in rural electrification. The committee said if the yearly allocations to the agency did not guarantee electricity for the rural dwellers, it might be forced to deny it further allocations this year.
It, however, directed the minister to review the REA’s 2014 budget estimate with a view to ensuring even distribution of rural electrification projects and quick completion. The threat was issued when Mohammed Wakil, minister of state for power, appeared before the committee to make clarifications on the 2014 budget of the ministry and its parastatals.
The minister expressed displeasure over the failure of the REA to champion rural electricity projects across the country since 2012. He, therefore, promised to take proactive steps to re-organise REA by paying attention to accountability in its action and output. “You are an organisation and you are supposed to work for people to use and see your work. It is unacceptable for the agency to be returning fund when critical projects are crying for implementation. Now that I am there, I am going to take effective control of that organisation. I am going to embark on tours to see things for myself.
“I am there to make that place very effective and productive. I want to work with people who will bring value to me so that I can tell Mr. President that things are working,” he said.
Wakil also called on all stakeholders to support the vision of the president to satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians for sustainable electricity supply for all.
Double Speak on Refineries
DESPITE the promises by the presidency that the refineries would not be privatised, Deziani Alison-Madueke, minister of petroleum resources, is saying a different thing. She said on Tuesday, March 11, during her appearance before the Joint Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream, Downstream and Gas) to defend the ministry’s 2014 budget, that the privatisation of the nation’s refineries remained the best way to tackle the problems in the petroleum sector.
She said the federal government was continuing with the rehabilitation of the refineries, improvement of facilities and provision of enabling environment for operators in both the upstream and downstream sectors. The minister said the process of privatisation would have been concluded if the various trade unions within the petroleum industry had not kicked against the action. “The way forward is the privatisation of the refineries because the government should not be involved in the business of fuel sales,” she said.
The minister assured Nigerians that the federal government would, in the next few weeks, flood filling stations with petrol in order to arrest the current scarcity. Alison-Madueke also said punitive measures would be taken against owners of filling stations either diverting or hoarding the product. “I wouldn’t call the current fuel shortage a recurring development because there has been no shortage in the last three years until two weeks ago. The shortage has a lot to do with a number of issues.
“First, there seems to have been some scare or rumour that the Federal Government wants to increase the pump price of petroleum products and I have said it categorically that the government has no intention of increasing the pump prices of petroleum products anytime in the near future. That is for certain. Secondly, whether it is as a result of rumour or supply issue, there was a certain level of burden and we found out too that there was a certain level of diversion of petroleum products as well. We are trying to ensure that they are brought to an end in this period. And as a result, I have been going out to monitor fuel distribution and talk to petrol station owners in Lagos and to consumers as well, just to get an understanding of where they have the worst shortages over the last couple of weeks. But it is coming under control now.”
All’s Well With Shell in Bonga
THE dispute between some communities in the Niger Delta and Shell Petroleum over the 2011 Bonga oil spill has finally come to an end. The communities have agreed to drop pending litigations against the multinational oil company and dialogue with it with a view to resolving all differences amicably. As part of the new peace initiative, the communities are already dialoguing with Shell, according to Monday Francis-Amoma, co-ordinator of the initiative of bringing together communities affected by the Shell Bonga oil spill in Niger Delta.
“The aim of the dialogue with Shell is to determine the quantum of the amount of compensation each of the affected communities would receive,” he stated as he equally stressed the new resolve of the communities to work together on the matter.
The Shell Bonga Oil Spill occurred 70 kilometres offshore Delta State in 2011, with its impact remaining a source of concern to the affected communities. Francis-Amoma said the spill affected the people, animals and environment. “After the Shell Bonga spillage, the oil company came with various disinfectants like the Slickgone NS, Corexit 9500, Corexit 9527 and Biosolve to clean up the environment, but these chemicals are harmful to the aquatic life, plants and human beings,” he said.
At a gathering of the affected communities in Warri at the weekend tagged, “Dialogue Conference over the Impact of Shell Bonga Crude Oil Spillage of Dec. 20, 2011,” the communities also resolved to work together to ensure adequate compensation by the oil giant.
They also agreed to support other communities outside the coastline in championing their grievances over the oil spillage if they had substantiated facts. Francis-Amoma, who led chiefs and leaders of thought in the communities to the gathering, said the forum was aimed at resolving the litigation against the oil company.
This is a relief for the oil giant, which has had a dispute with the communities to contend with even after it was fined a whopping N1.84 trillion by the Federal Government over the spill.
Compiled by Anayo Ezugwu
— Mar. 24, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT