Nigeria’s Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has sparked outrage after saying the federal government should not be blamed for poor electricity supply across the country.
The minister said businessmen operating in the sector should be blamed for the poor state of electricity supply to Nigerians.
Fashola made the declaration while speaking at Nextier Power Dialogue on Wednesday night in Abuja.
The minister argued that since the sector had been privatised, it was not the federal government’s fault if citizens fail to enjoy stable electricity supply.
“There are problems without a doubt and we must deal with them,” the minister said.
“But let me remind you, all of the assets that Ministry of Power used to control power were sold by the last administration before I came. And so if you don’t have power, it is not the government’s problem. Let us be honest,” he was quoted as saying.
“The people who are operating the power sector, generation and distribution are now privately owned companies. I am here because I am concerned. If your telephone is not working, it is not the minister of communication you go to. Let us be very clear.”
The minister explained that in other sectors of the economy, the blame of poor services does not necessarily go to the government but those operating in the sector.
He said, “For those of you who want to weaponise electricity, face the businessmen who have taken it up.
“Let us be honest, if your bank over -charges you interest, is it the Minister of Finance you go to? So, let ’s be clear. This is now a private business by an Act of Parliament 2005.
“My role is regulatory, oversight and policy, but I have a problem which is the fact that I can’t see a problem and turn my back; so I’m getting involved. So the people you should be talking to about transformers is not me, the ministry doesn’t supply transformers anymore.”
The minister also denied that he once said a serious government would fix power sector challenges within six months and challenged participants at the dialogue and members of the public to produce any video where he made such a comment.
“I have the video of what I said and where I said it and I think it was in 2014 in the run-up to the election and I was in Lekki, Lagos,” Fashola added.
The minister explained that the comment was made during the inauguration of Lekki Independent Power Project when, arguing that his statement dwelt on connection of residents of Lekki to IPP within six months if the state government had received the approval to do so.
The minister has however come under heavy criticism over the recent comment.
Many Nigerians took to their social media pages Thursday to berate the minister’s comment.
Matt Etta, a twitter user said, “Imagine #Fashola saying he is not to be blamed for Power problem in #Nigeria because the previous administration privatized everything! Wait! Is it not then the job of the Power Ministry to keep them in checks? Why is he Power Minister then? Infact let him blame me! Smh”.
Another user, Olamide Ogunduyile, wrote: “This is so irresponsible by #Fashola. Like, there are millions that don’t have power in Nigeria yet you make comments that put the blame on them. #DoBetter.”
Tweeting via @ArtytudeC, another twitter user made hilarious allusion to the game of football, claiming Mr Fashola scored an “own goal”.
“So #Fashola just scored a very damning own goal. Please someone should let him know that VAR cannot help him on this one,” the twitter user wrote.
Lanre Suraj, head of Human and Environmental Development Agenda, HEDA, said on Friday that the minister gets carried away by arrogance of power.
“The minister sometime gets carried away with arrogance of office in expression,” Suraj said.
“Lagosians, especially civil servants have experiences of similar outburst. The minister should be excused by Nigerians. He is in the class of public office holders with mentality of superiority over citizens and deserves to be worshipped for occupying public office.”
Farooq Kperogi, public affairs commentator, also berated the minister in a tweet on his Twitter page.
He tweeted: “On July 12, 2014, Fashola said “d only way you & I’ll have electricity in this country is to vote out PDP.” PDP was voted out in 2015 & he became Power Minister. After 4 years, he now says ‘It’s not FG’s problem if Nigerians lack electricity.’ That’s called a bait & switch scam.”