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Declare Emergency On Roads, Senate Tells FG

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The Senate, yesterday, asked the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on federal roads across the country.
The lawmakers made the request during yesterday’s plenary at the National Assembly in Abuja.
The Senator representing Cross River South Senatorial District in the Senate, Gershom Bassey, raised a motion on the deplorable state of federal roads in Nigeria.
Bassey also informed the Senate that the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has failed to remit the five per cent user charge of fuel pump price to the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), as stipulated in the Act for the rehabilitation of federal roads.
The Senate ordered its committees on Petroleum and FERMA to investigate the alleged non-remittance of funds by PPPRA for the rehabilitation of roads in the country.
The Senate’s plea comes eight months after Nigeria president Muhammadu Buhari signed an Executive Order allowing the private sector to build Federal Government roads in the country.
The Executive Order 007 2019, signed by Buhari, is on Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme.
The order was to allow private companies to construct major roads across the country and be paid in the form of tax credit.
However, the Chairman, Governing Board of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Mr. Tunde Lemo, yesterday said that Nigeria loses about N1trillion annually due to loss in man-hour as a result of bad roads and traffic delay.
Lemo disclosed this at an end of the year stakeholders’ meeting at the International Conference Centre in Abuja with the theme “Road Maintenance and Reforms: Legal and Institutional Framework”.
He said the numbers are staggering and called for emergency action in the road sector.
According to him, if the budget cannot achieve this because of other conflicting needs, it is imperative that the development and management of the road sector must be funded from alternative sources.
He said, “It is becoming clearer that legislation of a more enabling environment is required for an effective and productive management of the road for meaningful national socio-economic growth.
“It is a well-known fact that 80 per cent of travels in Nigeria are carried out on the roads including heavy duty. You then understand why the roads go bad now and again. In other climes the rail shoulders the bulk of it. 90 per cent of these are done on federal roads, thus the federal roads constitute the spine of the Nigerian road network to effectively evaluate the productive management of the Nigerian road therefore, one needs to evaluate the effective management of the federal roads. With only about 10, 000 km of federal roads in good state, and about 13, 300 and 11, 600 in fair and bad states, respectively.
“In any square kilometre area in Nigeria only 210 metres of roads are available for travel, irrespective of the conditions of the road. For smooth comfortable and timely travels, however, the density falls to 0.01km per square kilometre meaning only 10 meters of travel in every one-kilometre area.
“Clearly, this is unacceptable and needs to change. Funding for Nigerian roads is less than one per cent of the GDP, against three per cent GDP minimum spending threshold. The World Bank recommends minimum threshold of three per cent. In Nigeria we barely achieve a third of that,” he said.
He said effective roads can be guaranteed through a careful blend of many factors which include requisite capacity, capabilities, governance, accountability and controlled political influences as well as sound fiscal and funding policies.
These factors are critical to the optimal management of national road network for most effective impact on social economic growth, he said.
“It is the responsibility of road agencies to develop operational procedures of monitoring national road networks for needful interventions as at when due. Such road agencies retain the mandate to create and manage requisite administrative, operational and financial structures of the effective discharge of these activities.
“An effective road management practice is that which executes most productively, these activities within the constraints of the society of which it operates. Whereas the more advanced economies have developed reliable methodologies for constructing, monitoring and intervening on their road networks for optimal serviceability, the developing economies of the world, on the other hand, struggle to achieve these for a number of reasons. It is in this context that this stakeholders’ forum is convened in a bid to collectively reflect on Nigeria’s position vis-à-vis FERMA’s productivity, possibilities and promises,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Governor of Ekiti State, Governor Kayode Fayemi has said shortage of funds forced the federal government to stop states from rehabilitating Federal roads.
Fayemi gave the clarification in Ado Ekiti, yesterday, at a colloquium tagged: ‘Building a Sustainable Economy Through Values Orientation and Innovative Thinking’, marking the first year of his second term in office.
The governor said he would have loved to fix some of the federal roads in the state but for the stringent warning from the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, that there won’t be refund on such interventions.
Speaking particularly about the collapsed Ureje bridge along Afe Babalola University during a flooding a couple of weeks ago, Fayemi said: “I would have loved to do some of these roads but the Federal Government said leave our roads alone.
“They made it clear that if any state rehabilitates any road, there won’t be refunds and this is because there is no money.
“This year, Federal Government budgeted around N250billion for roads. If the government is to complete Lagos-Ibadan, Kaduna-Abuja and Kaduna-Kano expressways, it will cost a sum of N500billion out of about 36,000 kilometres of roads waiting for rehabilitation”, he said.
However, Senator representing Ekiti North Senatorial District, Olubunmi Adetumbi and former minister of sports, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi, have advised the country to redistribute its wealth and foster entrepreneurial education, to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor citizens.
They said, though very large numbers of the youths are educated, but disclosed that the education curriculum must be critically rejigged to ensure that the right education are given to graduates.
Adetumbi, who was one of the discussants, said there must be need for the states of federation to be innovative and think of how to increase the internally generated revenues through public-private partnership to build and sustain the economy under a corrupt free atmosphere.
“In order to build a sustainable economy, there must be a partnership between the government and the people. The major problem of our economy is poor environment and growing businesses, which Ekiti didn’t have in good numbers and once business environment is bad, then the economy will continue to be repressed.
“Ekiti has a poverty rate of 57 percent .This should be a concern to us all. Our unemployment rate is 14 percent, second highest in the South-West. Ekiti has no reason to be poor or has high unemployment rate, because of good atmospheric and soil conditions it has.
“Governor Kayode Fayemi has started with youth entrepreneurship and we have to build on that to turn around the economy of this state and it has to be accompanied with value reorientation among our youths.
“Value reorientation is very important. But the greatest influencers now are politicians and that is why we as leaders must be careful and be good leaders. We must be careful with the ways we live our lives, because we are the greatest influencers in the society”.
Adetumbi advised Ekiti to key into the concept of digitised land registry, describing the initiative as best way to generate revenues for any state.
The former minister of sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, regretted that the wealth of Nigerians are concentrated in the hands of few people, which he said signposted the level of inequality in the system.
“Even President Muhammadu Buhari while declaring open the Nigeria’s Economic Council in Abuja recently emerged the first President in the country to bring the issue of inequality to the front burner of national discourse.
“The president said the wealth of the nation is concentrated in the hands of a few from five states of the federation. In inequality, Nigeria was ranked 157, making it the most unequalled country and the poverty capital of the world. The GDP does not show the reality of our state of economy.
“The issue now is, when the rich people are flying around in private jets, which isn’t wrong; let us help the poor to be able to travel to their villages on good roads.
“We are talking of education and our youths are going to schools, we must also ruminate on the kind of education that will make our youths relevant, which I believe is by embracing entrepreneurship”, he said.

 

Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja

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Army To Mobilise Troops, Military Equipment For Crocodile Smile IV

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The Nigerian Army, yesterday, alerted the public that troops and military equipment would be mobilised frequently as Exercise Crocodile Smile IV kicks off in Lagos and Ogun states.
This was contained in a statement released by acting Deputy Director of Army Public Relations, Major Kamurudeen Adegoke for the 81 Division.
He appealed to residents of both states to stay calm at the sight of such movements noting that the exercise would run from November 19 to December 23.
Adegoke said exercise will commence with Beach Landing at Takwa-Bay Island on Tuesday morning, adding that Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will conduct the flag off.
“The event is aimed at enhancing troops ‘operational proficiency, inter-agency cooperation and civil-military coordination. Others include effective training on Rules of Engagement, handling of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in line with international best practices.
“The exercise is also designed to curb the prevalent contemporary security challenges such as kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism, ritual killing, and pipeline vandalism among others within the division’s Area of Responsibilities (AOR)
“During the period of the exercise, there will be free medical outreach, maintenance of some selected roads as well as donations of educational materials to some schools within Lagos and Ogun states. Participants will include members of the military, paramilitary and other security agencies.
“In view of the above, 81 Division wishes to advice members of the public not to panic on sighting troops and movement of military”, he added.

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‘Buhari, Redeem Six Years Of Failed Power Privatisation’

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Contrary to all expectations, the power sector privatisation has turned out to be an unreserved fiasco. The optimism of economic and social revolution touted as an inevitable accompaniment of a steady and uninterrupted electricity supply has come to naught. Six years after the privatisation was pulled off by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Nigerians are now yearning for an urgent intervention to save the sector from an utter collapse, which could be only a matter of time.
Encumbered by a public power sector that reeked of corruption, ineptitude and facility decay, Nigeria had readily embraced an option of reform, which could only be effectively implemented through privatisation. “To the Nigerian people, who have demonstrated such great patience and confidence, putting up often with darkness…I say better days are coming,” Jonathan had boisterously promised. But rather than carry out a transparent bidding process that would have attracted not just the much-needed investible funds but also the technical know-how, the exercise was mired in opacity.
In place of the experts and foreign investors that privatisation set out to attract, a motley group of Nigerians with practically no antecedent in power sector business and lacking the financial muscle was thrown up as the new investors. The result is now obvious; instead of an effective and efficient power sector that would guarantee constant electricity supply to light up homes and fire the industries, boosting the economy, Nigerians are now saddled with an albatross.
As currently structured, the power sector stands on a wobbly tripod, made up of the Generation Companies, the Transmission Company of Nigeria and the Distribution Companies. While it is the duty of the GenCos to generate electricity, the TCN, which is still wholly owned by the government, takes the responsibility for the transmission to the grid, from where the DisCos can then sell to the consumers. But none of them has been able to inspire confidence.
When the power assets were handed over to private investors on November 1, 2013, the electricity generated in Nigeria that day was 3,712.4 megawatts, from an installed generation capacity of 12, 910.40 MW and available capacity of 7,652.60 MW, according to data attributed to the Nigerian Electricity System Operator. For a population of 171.8 million then, this was ridiculous. But despite the generation capacity of 12,910.40 MW, the transmission could only boast a wheeling capacity of 8, 100 MW, while 5,375 MW remained the peak that had ever been generated.
Six years down the line, with a population of about 200 million, very little has changed. The distribution capacity is still estimated at around 4,000 MW, barely over the 3.712.4 MW of November 1, 2013. The Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, was quoted in a report two months ago as saying that installed power generation had improved to 13, 427MW (as against 12,910.40 MW in 2013), while the TCN Managing Director, Usman Mohammed, said the national grid had the capacity to transmit 7,000 MW.
These figures remain mere academic, as long as they do not translate into improved electricity supply to consumers. What is however undeniable is the fact that the DisCos, which directly interface with the consumers, have emerged as the weakest link in the electricity supply value chain. They keep complaining about cost-reflective tariff, even though they have been found wanting through and through.
They whine over the reluctance of consumers to pay when more than 55 per cent of those consumers are not metered, and access to electricity remains a mirage. For sure, the GenCos are not generating enough and the TCN is not transmitting adequately, yet, even the little that is available is rejected by the DisCos. For example, 9,310.64 MW of electricity was reportedly rejected between August 13 and August 20.
Rejecting loads when there is not enough to go round may sound outrageous but there are other weighty issues that pointedly betray the investors as utterly out of their depth. Particularly, funding has remained a knotty issue. Having raided the local banks for money to buy the firms, the local investors have not been able to fund the needed facility upgrade that should have brought about improvement in electricity supply.
Although a REUTERS report put the cost of the purchase of the power assets in 2013 at $2.5 billion, the TCN MD said the DisCos alone would require a whopping $4.3bn investment to make the desired impact. Shorn of credit options, following challenges in servicing their loans, the investors are now at their wits’ end – uncertain of what step to take next, except perhaps to let go of their majority shares and pave the way for a takeover by capable foreign investors.
As the designated revenue collectors on behalf of other operators in the industry, the DisCos are heavily in debt and have failed to remit money collected to the others. As of July, the TCN said it was being owed N270 billion by the DisCos. The former Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had also said last year that the Discos’ indebtedness to the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Company stood at N500 billion. “NBET also owes GenCos N325.784 billion, which can be settled if NBET collects what the DisCos are owing,” he said.
This debt burden has completely thrown the power sector off balance. Admitting that it would be difficult to pay, the Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, Sunday Oduntan, said only a monthly revenue of N725 million by each of the DisCos could guarantee them meeting the 35 per cent threshold remittance requirement. Yet, the regulatory authority, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Authority, appears helpless.
As Osinbajo has contended, only a recapitalisation can solve the problem. The government has already made some strides in this direction by bringing in Siemens, whose three-phased road map is expected to ultimately deliver 25,000 MW. The deal involves the German government and Siemens collaborating to increase electricity transmission and distribution capacities in Nigeria.
Although the government, which owns 40 per cent equity in the DisCos, has been castigated for not discharging its responsibilities satisfactorily, it has still taken some notable steps to pull the power sector out of its current mess. Apart from a loan intervention of N213 billion in 2014, another sum of N701 billion was announced two years ago to guarantee the NBET to be able to pay GenCos for two years. In August, President Muhammadu Buhari announced another intervention of N600 billion.
It is time for President Buhari to intervene decisively in the power sector logjam. The government cannot just continue to shell out public funds in this manner for a sector that has been privatised. Nobody needs to be told now that the privatisation was shoddily done but something drastic has to be done to salvage the situation in the national interest. The government has to take advantage of the performance review due in December to see whether to continue with the status quo or not.
Power remains a big incentive for economic and social development. When the government manages to get rid of the current investors, efforts should be geared towards targeted foreign investors, as is currently the case with Siemens, to get replacements. In Singapore, the system of Open Electricity Market is adopted. It allows consumers to migrate to other companies if they are not satisfied with the services they are getting. Nigeria will benefit immensely from such a system. What obtains now is still a monopoly that was in place before privatisation.

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IYC Tackles Amaechi Over Warri Port Dredging Accuses Minister Of Anti-N’Delta Activities

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The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has taken a swipe at the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi over his poor handling of the dredging of Warri Port in Delta State, accusing him of playing anti-Niger Delta politics with the project.
In a statement signed by the IYC President, Eric Omare, Esq, and made available to newsmen in Port Harcourt, yesterday, the Ijaw youth think-tank said that Amaechi’s behaviour portrayed him as a politician who was against the development aspirations of the Niger Delta people.
The statement read, “The attention of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has been drawn to a statement credited to the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to the effect that he would have stopped the planned dredging of the Warri port, if he was not from the South-South region over youth disturbances.
“Amaechi was reported to have made the comment at the Palace of the Ovie of Uvwie in Delta State during the reception in honour of the Minister of State, Labour and Productivity, Chief Festus Keyamo on Thursday, November 14, 2019. When the story was reported in the media, we had initially thought that the minister was quoted out of context. However, having waited for more than three days without a correction from the minister’s media office, we wish to correct the wrong impression created in the said media report.
“That the IYC completely condemn the statement made by Rt. Hon. Amaechi that youths are disturbing the commencement of the proposed Warri Port dredging because it is very far from the truth and calculated to paint the youths of the Niger Delta region in the wrong light before the Nigerian public.
“On the contrary, we state clearly without fear of contradiction that there is no existing contract to dredge the Warri Port that is being delayed by youth disturbances.
“For the purpose of clarity, we state that sometime in 2018, the Federal Government announced its intention to carry out dredging of the Warri Port channel so as to allow bigger vessels use the Warri Port and make the port functional.
“In response and to create the conducive environment for the project to take-off, the youths of Ijaw and Itsekiri under whose area the dredging was supposed to take place at their own initiative and expense organized a sensitisation workshop and indeed set up an advocacy team which went round the communities affected to allow for peaceful dredging in the interest of the Warri economy. This initiative was widely reported by the media and the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) management was excited by the initiative of the youths.
“The Warri Port dredging was supposed to be in three phases; which are the dredging of the Escravos bar, construction of the breakwater and the dredging of the Warri Port channel from Escravos to Warri.
“After the sensitisation workshop organized by the Ijaw and Itsekiri youths, there was supposed to be a meeting between the affected communities and stakeholders with Federal Government officials before the commencement of the first phase of the work which is the dredging of the Escravos bar.
“However, instead of meeting with the communities and stakeholders, Rt. Hon. Minister Amaechi as Minister of Transportation directed and handed over all community rights to a party chieftain from Delta State from one of the ethnic groups at the expense of the generality of the communities and stakeholders without regard to the multi ethnic sensitivity of the Warri area.
“However, the Ijaw leadership saw that this was another attempt by Rt. Hon. Amaechi to create room not to go on with the dredging as he is now doing. Therefore, the affected communities did not raise any issue and allowed the dredging of the Escravos bar to go on without any problem. In this dredging, the communities and stakeholders were not involved in anyway, hence they are not in a position to know if the dredging was actually done up to specification or not.
“The Escravos bar dredging was done without any disturbances whatsoever despite Minister Amaechi’s provocative conduct. Therefore, we are amazed that Hon. Amaechi is now accusing youths of the South-South especially from the Warri area of acting as hindrance to the Warri Port dredging. If we may ask Amaechi, who are the youths disturbing the Warri Port dredging and when did the engagement with the youths took place? Is there a contract in place to dredge the Warri Port by the Federal Government and who is the contractor and when was the contract awarded?
“To the best of our knowledge, after the dredging of the Escravos bar, the next phase ought to be the construction of the Escravos breakwater and then dredging of the channel from Escravos to Warri and none of these contracts has been awarded. So, which dredging contract and youth disturbances is Amaechi talking about? Who are the youth or community representatives that have been arguing with Amaechi over the Warri Port dredging in the past six months?
“It is obvious that Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi despite being from the South-South is allergic to anything development of the region. He always hide under spurious reasons to opposed any developmental initiative of the region just as he did with the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko.
“Consequently, we call on the general public, especially President Muhammadu Buhari to completely disregard the claim by Minister Amaechi that youths are obstructing the dredging of the Warri Port channel. On the contrary the youths have been very supportive of the Warri Port channel dredging but the Minister Amaechi seems to be playing politics with the dredging.
“However, Minister Amaechi should remember that he would not be Minister of Transportation forever and at the end of this tenure he would be asked what he achieved for the South-South region just as he used to ask former President Jonathan”, Omare added.

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