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Jonathan: ‘How politicians, officers push for shares in power generation’

Former Minister of National Planning Commission (NPC), Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman, on Thursday disclosed how politicians and officials under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration jostled for shares in the power generation and distribution companies that were privatized by the government in 2013.

Usman who spoke in Abuja at the 26th October Lecture of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), said that government officials who ordinarily should have been neutral in the privatization exercise were however guilty of foul plays and used their positions to leverage their interests in the exercise albeit secretly.

The former minister said at the NSE lecture which was delivered by its former president, Mustafa Shehu, that most of the transaction principles often included and followed in the privatization of government’s assets were sidestepped during the sale of the power assets to private investors.

He said the outcome of the power privatization was heavily influenced by political considerations against economic or technical capacities of the eventual preferred bidders, and thus linked parts of the current challenges of the sector to his claims.

Usman who did not mention names even when asked said: “I was part of the power privatization, and I am not going to extricate myself, it is a collective responsibility and I am not comfortable with the speed at which we rushed that exercise.

“I was the first Director General of TCPC (Technical Committee of Privatization and Commercialization) which is the agency that started privatization in this country in 1988. We had our office in Lagos, and we did the first privatization in this country. As at that time, we had the code of conduct that ensured that no member of the management or the board actually could buy any of the assets that we were selling.”

“The electricity privatization unfortunately was not handled that way. If you look at all these Discos and Gencos, unfortunately, some of us saw it that time but there wasn’t much we could do because of the rush and political thing it had become, there is in each and every one of them at least one or two ‘big masquerades’.

“That is not how to do privatization, you don’t sell because of some people who are in the government, you sell because they have demonstrated the expertise, and a lot of people rushed into it because they think electricity is like telecoms without even understanding the industry,”

Usman who expressed disappointment over certain development in the country said Nigeria lacks implementation and not planning, adding that: “I have been part of planning in this country. Particularly, I spent five years as the Minister of National Planning, (NPC), some of the best plans I initiated have been accepted by this current government to be implemented. But after two years of planning, in the last three years as minister, I was more concerned about implementation. In this country we do not short of plan but what we lack is implementation. The problem is implementation. Government should be made to be accountable. Commitment by government is lacking.”

Former Governor of Kano State, Musa Kwankwaso also said: “Our legislatures in this country have to come together with all other stakeholders to bring in good legislation that help ensure that this country has adequate, efficient and affordable energy for everybody in Nigeria.”

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