The vice president Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has said that the Federal government is opening up the nation’s electricity sector for new investors in generation, distribution and transmission. He said solving the poor power supply of the country has been a major concern of the government.
The embattled leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) Sheikh El-Zakzaky is back in the country barely three days after he was flown to India to receive treatment. He is back without receiving treatment as the federal government said he was frustrating the hospital authorities in India.
Major Nigerian Newspapers have more on these stories:
Punch Newspaper: FG’ll open power market to new investors –Osinbajo
The Federal Government is creating policies that will open up the nation’s electricity market to new investors in generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has said.
Osinbajo said on Thursday that resolving the power supply problem had been a top priority of the Federal Government in the past few years. He, however, said the current structure of the market could not deliver on the government’s promises for power for domestic and industrial use, adding, “A substantial change of strategy is being pursued.” Total power generation in the country stood at 3,586.5 megawatts as of 6am on Thursday, data obtained from the Nigeria Electricity System Operator showed.
This confirmed The PUNCH’s report on Thursday that the Federal Government was considering repossession of 10 electricity distribution firms as one of the options to rescue the nation’s beleaguered electricity industry. This is coming ahead of the scheduled final performance review of the private firms that bought into the distribution companies carved out from the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria.
However, document available to one of our correspondents shows that the Federal Government would require up to $2.4bn (N736bn) to repossess the privatised distribution assets from the core investors if it finally takes the decision. Giving clue that it could recover the assets from the core investors, the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in a document sighted by one of our correspondents has described the co-owners of the distribution companies as ‘failed investors.’
Osinbajo, while speaking at the inauguration of a 2x60MVA, 132/33kV substation built by Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited at Abeokuta, Ogun State, on Thursday, lamented the inability of the distribution companies to distribute available grid power to consumers. He said, “Today we have 13,427MW of installed capacity, and an available capacity of 8,342MW. The national grid has the capacity to transmit about 7,000M, an increase from less than about 5,000MW in 2015. “But distribution capacity in the 11 Discos are significantly low, hovering at around 4,000MW on average with a peak of about 5,400MW. So despite the availability of about 8,000MW of generation and about 7,000MW of transmission capacity, lack of Disco infrastructure to absorb and deliver grid power to end users has largely restricted generation to an average of about 4,000MW.”
According to the Vice-President, at the heart of that strategy is the Nigeria Electrification Road map aimed at deploying financing and technology on commercial terms agreed with transmission and distribution companies in partnership with the German government and Siemens. On July 22, 2019, the Federal Government and Siemens signed a Letter of Agreement on the Nigeria Electrification Road map, a three-phase project designed to achieve 25,000MW of electricity in the country by 2025. “Second is the opening up of the market to new investors in generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure, transacting directly with each other to serve willing customers including deploying off-grid power and using micro-grids, especially for deployment of solar power,” Osinbajo said.
According to him, the policies and regulations meant to empower customers to get the services they want at prices they agree to include the Independent Electricity Distribution Networks 2012; the Mini-Grid Regulation, 2016; and the Eligible Customer Regulation, issued on November 1, 2017.
He said, “The Electricity Distribution Franchising Regulation, which is still in public consultation preparatory to its issuance within a short period of time, sets out the rules for a distribution company to appoint or be compelled to cede consumers connected to a 33kV or 11kV feeder or a designated area to an agent or third party willing to make investments in lines, metering, transformers, other equipment and operations to serve the customers better at a mutually agreed tariff.” The Vice-President said these polices, when fully implemented, would enable the opening up of the market to new investors. He described the inauguration of the transmission substation in Ogun State as an important part of the Federal Government’s efforts to improve the supply and quality of power reaching the homes and businesses of Nigerians. According to him, before the end of the year, new generation is expected from Gbarain (extra 115 MW); Kashimbilla (40 MW); Afam III Fast Power (240 MW); Gurara (30 MW); Dadin Kowa (29 MW); and Kaduna (215 MW).
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, NDPHC, Mr Chiedu Ugbo, said electricity supply to the parts of Ogun State along the axis of Ota to Abeokuta was initially via a double circuit 132kV line into Ota from the mega 330/132/33kV Transformer substation at Ikeja West, which served as a marshalling station for several power plant inflows into Lagos. He noted that a 130MVA capacity substation was built at Ota for supply to Ota and environs, while a single circuit lower capacity 132kV line was built outside Ota to connect Abeokuta via an intermediate 132/33kV substation at Papalanto, within the premises of Lafarge Cement Company.
He said the Abeokuta substation was also equipped with 2X40MVA 132/33kV transformers for supplying Abeokuta and its environs, adding, “Over time, all these facilities became overloaded and lacking capacity to cater to growing demand in these locations, necessitating government intervention through the NDPHC. “The NDPHC constructed a total of 77.5kms high capacity 132kV transmission lines, thus providing near quadrupling of the supply (wheeling) capacity out of Ota (from 70MW to 250MW) and thereby eliminating supply constraints and attendant load shedding that had existed before at Ota, and Abeokuta,” Ugbo added.
The Ogun State Governor, Mr Dapo Abiodun, commended the NDPHC for the successful completion of the project, saying,“It is a major leap and a big development towards the Next Level agenda of the Buhari/Osinbajo administration.”
He said the project would be a boost to his administration’s agenda of creating an enduring economic development and individual prosperity for the people of Ogun State. When contacted by one of our correspondents, the Executive Director, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, Mr Sunday Oduntan, declined to comment on the move by the government to open up the market to new investors.
Also, the Executive Secretary, Association of Power Generation Companies, Dr Joy Ogaji, could not be reached for comment as she had yet to respond to calls or a text message as of the time of filing this report. The distribution and generation companies carved out of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria were handed over to private investors on November 1, 2013, following the privatisation of the power sector by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration. But 11 of the electricity firms had been declared technically insolvent.
Guardian Newspaper: Confusion over Buhari’s stance on food imports, CBN’s autonomy
There is confusion over the state of food production in the country and the autonomy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) amid possible implications for the real sector, foreign investors and consumers. This followed the recent order by President Muhammadu Buhari, which stopped the CBN from providing foreign exchange for food imports.
Citing investors’ worries, inflation and activities of the real sector, operators in the Organised Private Sector (OPS), analysts and manufacturers have asked the apex bank to identify the HS codes of food items to be thus restricted and provide an updated list of the same. Besides, the operators expressed reservations about claims of food security when capacity to locally produce wheat flour, sugar, milk and even rice remains low and in some cases, undermined by smuggling.
Specifically, data on wheat production shows that the country consumes four million tonnes yearly through biscuits, bread, noodles etc., yet produces only 100,000 tonnes per year. Also, world rice production and consumption data made available by World Market and Trade, USDA (updated in June), shows that Nigeria produced 3.94 million tonnes in 2016; 4.41 million tonnes in 2017; 4.66 million tonnes in 2018; 4.79 million in 2019, and is expected to produce 4.90 million tonnes by 2020.
The figures indicate that Nigeria consumed 6.40 million tonnes; 6.70 million tonnes; 7.10 million tonnes; 7.20 million tonnes; and 7.30 million tonnes from 2016 to 2020. The data interpretation implies that Nigeria is rice deficient this year by 3.12 million metric tonnes, while in 2020, it will be deficient by 3.21 million metric tonnes. Africa Rice Centre has also confirmed that Nigeria is not yet rice sufficient, as indicated by the smuggling of foreign brands into the country.
In terms of sugar production, the nation, despite its backward integration policy, accounts for seven per cent of its 1.5 million metric tonnes yearly demand. Recently, the chairman of Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc, Aliko Dangote, stated that the nation loses over 300,000 metric tonnes of local sugar demands to smuggling yearly.
A professor of maize breeding and value chain development at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Dr Sam Ajala, said Nigeria currently produces about 12 million metric tonnes of maize yearly, while it needs four million tonnes to close the deficiency gap and another four million tonnes to become maize-secure. He added that Buhari’s order could be a public show of undermining the independence of the apex bank.
Maize is categorised both as food and industrial crop. It is used as a staple by millions of households and as raw material in food manufacturing, feed milling and starch production. The president’s directive came at a time the nation’s reserves, according to CBN figures, dipped by about $2.65 billion in the last one year from $47.3 billion to $44.65 billion, amid declining foreign inflow and a potential to create more panic. Already, the low yield on the fixed income securities in Nigeria is already impacting on the total foreign portfolio investment through the popular investors’ and exporters’ foreign exchange window, both in absolute number and as a ratio to the total.
The CBN had earlier in the year stated that it would increase the number of items on its forex restriction list to 50 before the end of the year. While the restriction is expected to help the nation conserve foreign exchange, there are worries about the acclaimed local production capacity of some of the food items and others that serve as raw materials for the manufacturing sector.
For instance, latest data from the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) shows that only 38 per cent of local producers agreed that local sourcing of raw materials has improved in the country. Even though a large percentage of respondents claimed that the level of local raw materials sourcing increased, greater proportion of those interviewed are still of the view that effort should be intensified to improve the development, sourcing and utilisation of local raw materials.
The Partner/Head of Tax and Corporate Advisory Services at PwC Nigeria, Taiwo Oyedele, said the CBN is meant to be independent; it should therefore not be told what to do by the president, especially when the decision is not evidence-based. “Trying to fix all economic problems using monetary policy is like a carpenter trying to fix all broken furniture with a hammer and a nail. It doesn’t always work. Nigeria is not food-sufficient. Available data suggests the contrary. Stopping foreign exchange allocation to importers of foods will have unintended consequences,” he said.
Oyedele continued: “Every country imports food. Our focus should be on producing what we are best able to produce, export some and import the rest. The move will increase smuggling and push sub-standard imported food items under the radar. Self-sufficiency in food production cuts across the entire value chain, including logistics, transportation and storage. So, any restriction without first addressing these related problems is putting the cart before the horse.”
Reiterating the need for CBN autonomy, Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Muda Yusuf noted that policies should be thought through before pronouncements are made to avoid discouraging investors.
According to him, “Many of the food items are already on the prohibition list of the CBN. The CBN needs to identify additional items as well as specify the Harmonised System (HS) codes in details, to avoid a backlash that will affect the real sector. The expatriate community should also be considered when talking about food as they cannot be forced to take local delicacies.”
Also, MAN President Mansur Ahmed urged Nigeria to look at each sector based on its particular merit. Some sectors require heavy investments for backward integration therefore “we should treat those sectors in that context.”
He noted further: “Our suggestion is that there is no reason why those restrictions should not be worked out sector by sector, in full consultation with critical sector stakeholders. We should ensure we develop necessary frameworks and define a timeline to achieve the goal without too much pain to the economy, without loss of jobs and reduction of production capacity.”
Reacting through a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said: “It is indeed appalling that instead of bringing solutions to the depreciating living conditions in our nation, President Buhari is rather imposing more suffering by ordering the removal of subsidy on food even when it is manifestly clear that he has failed on all fronts to achieve any level of food security despite the huge resources available to his administration. “Instead of removing subsidy on food and putting more suffering on Nigerians, the PDP urges President Buhari to cut the billions of naira being wasted on luxuries in his presidency and free the funds for the welfare of the masses.”
The Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Eze Onyekpere, on his part, said Buhari’s directive is fraught with danger and appears to be an illegal order for a number of reasons. “By S.1 (3) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007, it is provided that ‘in order to facilitate the achievement of its mandate under this Act and the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, and in line with the objective of promoting stability and continuity in economic management, the bank shall be an independent body in the discharge of its functions.’
“There are no provisions in the CBN Act or any other existing law empowering the president to run or give directives on foreign exchange management or any other component of monetary policy. This directive erodes the independence and autonomy of the CBN. It presents Nigeria in the image of the Idi Amin fable, who gave directives to the governor of the Ugandan Central Bank to print more currencies when told that the country was running out of money.”
An economist, Ayodele Akinwunmi, said the way the order came might suggest to the financial market that the independence of the apex bank is being compromised in the area of monetary policy administration. “We must also note that the CBN has indicated that it would continue to use monetary policy to stimulate the growth of the Nigerian economy,” he noted.
Sun Newspaper: El-Zakzaky back from India without treatment
Barely three days after he left Nigeria for medicare in an Indian hospital, the embattled leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, is back in the country.
Sources inside the movement confirmed to Daily Sun that the Shi’ite leader and his wife left Delhi at 5pm Nigerian time. With the flight time of six hours, they touched down at theNnamdi Azikiwe Internation Airport by midnight.
This was confirmed in a statement by Ibrahim Musa, spokesman of the movement, who accused the Federal Government of frustrating the treatment of the IMN leader. “Following lack of a breakthrough in the impasse that ensued in the treatment in New Delhi of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, it is now confirmed that the Sheikh is on his way back to Abuja,” the statement said. “In a video message sent through his office, the Sheikh said it was decided that they will be taken to the airport to be flown back to Nigeria. He has left Delhi by 17:00 Nigerian time. He prayed that that may be the best option in the circumstances. “The Nigerian government’s interference and scuttling of the whole process rather than supervision as ordered by the court is the direct cause of the impasse. The government never wanted the medical leave in the first place, and did whatever to stop it by all means possible.”
In an exclusive interview with Daily Sun in Kaduna, yesterday, another staunch member of IMN, Dr. Shuaibu Musa, described the return of their leader without getting what he traveled for as a “very bad development.” “The crux of the matter is that the government never wanted him to go for the treatment in the first place. If you recall, they opposed the application in court and that failed, they said they were going on appeal. Again, when that was not going to be favourable to them, they then put conditions they thought should be able to prevent Sheikh from going. “After all that failed, they then took another step which was to go there and interfere with the treatment to scuttle rather than supervise it “It is a well known fact that every patient is autonomous and has the right to chose the doctor he or she wants and that was why if you come to the hospital, there is what we call consent, which means people have their consent on treatment and you cannot impose treatment on anybody. “They went there to ensure that the hospital does not admit, accept or treat him to the point that they arranged doctor for him to see. “So, Sheikh then decided that, rather than face all that there, he should come back home and whatever is going to happen should happen at home. That is just what is going on.”
The IMN leader had earlier raised the alarm over the situation in India, saying it was worse than what he and his wife experienced in Nigeria. In an audio tape that went viral on Wednesday, he had said he was being held under heavy security, expressing the desire to return home.
El-Zakzaky complaimed that he was not given access to his preferred doctors, adding that he did not trust those they asked to examine him. But the Federal Government had dismissed his claim, accusing him of not complying with the terms of the Kaduna high court, which granted him medical leave.
In a statement, Grace Gekpe, permanent secretary, ministry of information,had said the IMN leader demanded to have his passport and sought free movement. She added that he wanted to receive visitors and also made a request to be checked into a 5-star hotel. She said he had behaved so badly that the Indian authorities were willing to return him to Nigeria. The Shi’ite’s leader’s daughter, Suhaila had also raised the alarm that his father is suffering from lead poisoning which could result to his death. “I am really worried… especially because of the lead and cadmium poisoning,” she said. “His doctors say if he gets to a certain level his organs could start failing and that’s really scary because that means he could just die at any moment,” she said in an interview with BBC.
While noting that the embattled cleric deserves to get proper medical attention, Suhaila said her father told her that he was unhappy with the heavy presence of security operatives at the Medanta Hospital. El-Zakzaky, in a viral video, said him and his wife were placed under security and treated like criminals, a development he claimed could affect his psychology worse than the infamous Kirikiri maximum prison would do to him. “All what we have seen here, have shown us that there is no trust, they just brought us here for another detention. I have been in detention for about thirteen years but I’ve never seen this kind of security that I’m seeing here, even at the door of my hospital room, there are many security personnel waiting, heavily armed,” he said. “They didn’t even allow me to go to the next room, I started asking myself, all these while I’ve been in detention, I’ve never seen this type. Even if I’m in the cell, they usually lock us up around 9 p.m. and open the cell around 7 a.m. and they allow us to go anywhere we want in the area we are. “Even Kirikiri prison will not affect me psychologically like this one. It will not be possible for us to come out of detention just to get medical attention and now find ourself in another form of detention”
He further said he could not trust the Indian authorities, citing Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey as preferred destinations. “We won’t submit ourselves to people we don’t trust. There is a need for us to go back home since it has been agreed that we should travel out to get medical attention and India is not a place we can trust,” he said. “There are other countries that have volunteered to take care of our treatment, some are Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey. We can choose from amongst these three.”
The Federal Government had dismissed the cleric’s claim, accusing him of making unreasonable demands, including wanting to check into a 5-star hotel.