It is no longer news that Anambra State of Nigeria has arrived gloriously and glamorously from its disastrous and tortuous political journey. The tortuous road to this great recovery started on 17thday of March, 2006. This great feat so achieved, courtesies of the chief operator and Anambra’s “Chancellor of Exchequer”; Chief Peter Gregory Obi, his party, the Nigerian Judiciary and the Anambra’s rights and pro-democracy CSO, profusely begs for continuation and sustenance. Following from this, it is the position of the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety that some, if not many contents of Governor Willie Obiano’s inaugural speech are populist and not well grounded hence our modification of same through the following position.
Governor Willie Obiano’s inaugural speech touched on vigilantism and security, industrialization, trade and commerce, building of modern markets, transformation of import-based trade to industry based trade, partnership with diasporan Anambrarians for the purpose of dollar and talent transfer, expansion of APGA’s frontiers, job creation, power plants in Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi, exploration of oil and gas in the State, education, agriculture, etc.
We wish to state clearly that of all the areas touched, “dollar and talent transfer” policy targeted at diasporan Anambrarians, transformation of import based trade to industry based trade and building of modern markets are commendable, though the policy on “dollar and talent transfer”, targeted at Anambrarians in Diaspora, is not new to the people of Anambra State under Chief Peter Obi’s governorship. For us at Intersociety, Obiano’s inaugural speech ought to have focused majorly on his electoral campaign’s “3-Cs”-“Continuation, Completion & Commission”with addition of maintenance, environmental cleanliness and beautification, intensification on street roads using “lot” construction method as well as non-borrowing resources mobilization . In other words, the policy of ANIDS (Anambra State Integrated Development Strategy) should have formed the core backbone of the governor’s inaugural speech.
While the possibility of achieving a great feat in all the areas of Governor Obiano’s inaugural speech is not in contention, however, some of the areas mentioned are clearly outside the constitutional scope of Anambra State. Areas like oil and gas and power generation are a case in point. In oil and gas, for instance, it is still contained in the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended in 2011. In other words, it is a “no go area” for tiers of government other than Federal Government to venture into, except under its approval. But through harmonious relationship with the Federal Government of Nigeria, exploration of oil and gas in the State or by the Government of Anambra State through the issuance of “OPL” (operational license), etc and its legalization can be achieved. What Governor Willie Obiano should do in that regard is to embark on intensive and extensive administrative and legislative lobbying so as to get Anambra State included legally as an oil and gas producing State. Round the clock security and enabling environment must be ensured in the oil and gas exploration areas with strong environmental impact and social security policies including job creation and recruitment.
In the area of boundary disputes involving oil and gas exploration host communities or States, the Obiano’s government should get the Federal Government and the National Boundary Commission to clearly and fairly demarcate them and ensure that such demarcation lines are strictly adhered to. It is also our advice to Governor Willie Obiano to ensure sound corporate and financial management of the Orient Petroleum PLC. This is to avoid the company being crumbled. The company’s board and management must be kept away from “political patronage”, which is responsible for the failure of Premier Brewery, General Cotton Mill, etc. To this end, all appointments to the Board and Management must be based on merit and professional track records. Members given to the company for board and top management appointment by other corporate and individual shareholders must be thoroughly scrutinized on professional and meritorious basis. Governor Obiano’s proposed policy towards oil & gas should be geared towards constructive relationship and partnership with the Federal Government and provision of enabling security, social security, environmental security and policy security environments.
In the area of his proposed policy on power generation and steady power supply, as noble as his interest in this area is, again, strategic partnership with the Federal Government and owner-companies is roundly required. Though, by investing a whopping sum of N9Billion into the independent power project, Anambra State is a major share holder and stakeholder in the power sector, but it is important to bear in mind the precarious nature of the sector. Nigerian power sector is three fingers of a wheel, without one, others cannot propel the wheel. The country’s electricity is divided into three (generation, transmission and distribution). When power is generated by generation station, it is transferred to transmission station, which, in turn, gives to distribution station to distribute. This means that transmission cannot transmit well when generation generates poorly and if generation generates well and transmission is faulty, distribution cannot effectively distribute power to final consumers. On the other hand, if distribution transformers and lines are inadequate or faulty, power so generated and transferred cannot get to final consumers through distribution.
Following from the forgoing analysis, therefore, it is a truism that the state of Nigerian electricity is complex and complicated and cannot effectively, in the meantime, serve as a major and fruitful policy of a State Government until the mess is cleared. This is more so when out of the three power components (generation, transmission and distribution) two (generation and distribution) are said to be privatized, while one (transmission) is said to be retained by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Of the three, generation and transmission are utterly parasitic by relying on proceeds from distribution for survival. In other words, distribution is “the primus inter pares” (feeds generation and transmission). And of the three, generation is the most capital intensive and difficult to set up.
Also, from power sector’s expert point of view, building a standard power plant is not only capital intensive, but also takes years to complete. This includes importation of machines and technical expertise as well as installation and commissioning. That the constitution allows room for State and Local Governments, groups and individuals to participate in “rural electrification and public utilities’ projects” does not give them power to embark on “electricity generation and transmission projects” outside Federal Government approval. Even where such approvals have been granted, most, if not all State Governments’ so called “independent power projects” is failure. From Rivers State to Lagos State, the list stretches.
What Governor Willie Obiano should do in power sector is not to go into it as a major policy area warranting huge wastage of public resources with minimal expected end results. Rather, his government should team up with the Federal Government and other bodies’ corporate of like minds to unbundle the current power sector policies in Nigeria. The sector should be fully democratized to allow room for exploration of other power sources such as coal, solar, nuclear, petroleum, wind and biomass (energy made from animal, human and plant waste materials) to augment the existing traditional hydroelectricity and gas power sources. The Obiano government should consider the option of attracting competent local and foreign firms providing solar power energy services and get them into the State to provide their services to our people at reduced costs.
Further, our recent investigation showed that the market price of powering a three-bedroom flat apartment through solar energy still goes for as high as N350, 000. This means that it will take millions of naira to power a medium scale industry in Nigeria from solar energy. The influx of competent local and foreign firm with specialty in solar energy services will not only address the costs, but also the technical challenges still inherent in the installation and post installation of solar energy power in Nigerian homes, stores, markets, hospitals, schools, water stations and industries. The Obiano government should also continue his predecessor’s policy of rural and urban electrification through the provision of distribution transformers and their installations.
Issue of issuance of obnoxious electricity bills to consumers is one of the major problems bordering Anambra residents and rural dwellers. An average monthly electricity bill of N6, 000 based on criminal estimation is recklessly imposed on every two/three bedroom flat apartment in major urban areas of the State including Onitsha and Nnewi and their environs. Some are forced to pay as high as N10, 000 monthly, which equals their flat apartment monthly rent, whereas those with prepaid meters consume as low as N500/N1000 per month. If Governor Willie Obiano’s government can influence the Federal Government including the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to provide en mass the prepaid electricity electronic meters to Anambra’s electricity consumers, he will get kudos for a good start. This will eliminates the DISCOs’ current policy of “pay on estimates” or “pay as not consumed”, as against conventional “pay as you consume” billing system.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety
Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk