Yar'Adua to present new energy plan to National Assembly

No Comments » January 11th, 2008 posted by // Categories: Energy Development Project





Friday, January 11, 2008              

From Alifa Daniel, John-Abba Ogbodo and Pascal Nwigwe, Abuja

WORRIED by the deteriorating power supply in the country, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on Wednesday night reached an agreement with the National Assembly that the way out of the situation was to carry out a review of government intervention in the sector with a view to presenting a new plan that would arrest the problem.

During his electioneering campaign, the President had promised Nigerians that he would declare a state of emergency in the power sector.

The Guardian learnt that at the meeting which the President held with members of the Assembly on Wednesday night in Aso Rock, he expressed concern over certain aspects of the nation’s economy and noted that power and transportation were critical elements in development and, therefore, there was the urgent need to do something radical to turn things around.

Yar’Adua told the meeting that there was a need to carry out a review of the various initiatives by the immediate past government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and identify the defects so as to correct them and get the country out of the quagmire.

He told the lawmakers that already he had raised a team to carry out the review and assured that when it completed its work, the end product would be sent to the National Assembly.

The President said he might raise a supplementary budget in the first week of March in respect of the Independent Power Project (IPP) so that the problem of electricity could be solved once and for all.

It was also agreed at the meeting that Federal Government’s share of the excess crude account be used to fast-track the process. The supplementary budget is likely to come from this source.

Another concern, which the President raised at the meeting, was the railway project being handled by a Chinese firm, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC). Yar’Adua said it was not acceptable that Nigeria with a huge population and pre-dominantly agrarian has no effective transportation system to assist in the movement of goods by land from one place to another.

The meeting, therefore, agreed that the contract for the rehabilitation of the nation’s rail system being handled by the Chinese firm be re-assessed and report sent to the National Assembly so that a new road-map could be drawn.

The National Assembly delegation, led by Senate President David Mark and House of Representatives Speaker Dimeji Bankole, expressed satisfaction with the way the meeting went and pleaded with the President to encourage more of such interactions so as to narrow down differences as witnessed in the last dispensation, which was characterised by incessant feuds.

They assured the President of the co-operation of the legislature and lauded him for the way he has so far steered the affairs of the country.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Publicity, Eziuche Ubani, said the meeting was essentially to ensure a synergy in the operations of the two arms of government.

According to him, the present National Assembly believes in co-operation as a tool to move Nigeria forward.

“You can see that this is a new dispensation and the National Assembly believes that there is no point feuding with other organs of government. Our people have suffered so much waiting for democracy dividends and for them to reap these things, there must be harmony in the system and the President and the National Assembly are determined to deliver. That informed the meeting. I am sure that very soon, you will begin to see a lot of changes in the system,” he said.

Yar’Adua, through his Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, last Tuesday invited the leadership of both chambers in the National Assembly to a meeting on Wednesday night.

Also a breakthrough in the negotiations on the 2008 budget may have come following the late night meeting in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa.

A lawmaker said Yar’Adua had agreed that the Assembly was free to deal as it deemed appropriate with the figures he proposed, even changing the benchmark of crude from $53.83 per barrel, if necessary.

Because the federal budget over the last four decades has been hinged on revenue accruals from oil, the benchmark has become a necessary ingredient for its preparation.

While there are some in the Executive who believe it should be kept at the $53.83 proposed by Yar’Adua, lawmakers have been pushing for a jack-up to between $59 and $60.

A senior lawmaker told The Guardian yesterday: “The meeting went well. He left the issue of the benchmark to our discretion that we should decide whatever we want. He (Yar’Adua) explained that the areas of concerns we brought up would be addressed in a supplementary budget coming up in the second quarter of this year.”

It was learnt that the President excused the lapses in the budget to inadequate time available to the present administration, which had to begin preparing it shortly after taking office and settling down.

“We are expecting a major Supplementary Appropriation after the first quarter, and we were told that it would cover the seven-point agenda of the administration. It will include sectors like power, transportation, Niger Delta, and Security, among others,” the source at the meeting added.

It was also gathered that the Executive did not want to choke its first budget, because it was not too sure of the sources of funding, but would do so as it continues to come to grasp with the workings of the economy.

It was not clear yesterday what would become of the directive by the Senate Leadership to its committees not to exceed the figures for sectors as proposed by Yar’Adua.

The Guardian had reported exclusively yesterday that in the face of alleged huge allocations being made to various ministries and government agencies by various committees, the leadership has directed them to restrict whatever allocations made to federal agencies to what was contained in the 2008 Appropriation Bill sent to the National Assembly by Yar’Adua.

Disclosures from the House Committee on Finance yesterday showed that the revenue framework for the 2008 Budget would be completed this morning.

Consequent to the meeting, the President had issued a directive to all federal establishments and finance authorities to furnish the House with all information pertaining to the central government’s revenues and accounts.

The Guardian gathered also that the Federal Government would pay only a percentage of its cash-call commitments to its joint-venture partners for the year 2008. Based on cash-call demands by the JVCs, Federal Government commitments amount to $8 billion, an equivalent of 57per cent of the total production investment sum for the year. The remaining 43 per cent is to provided by the JVC partners.

However, the government is able to pay up $ 4.97 billion of the sum as captured in the 2008, still under appropriation.

“Government has said that it will not be able to pay the whole amount and has resolved to bring in a third partner that would provide the remaining part of the money as lender,” a source in the House Finance Committee disclosed.

Bankole said unspent federal funds would be captured in the 2008 budget.

Monies unspent by federal ministries and agencies as part of the 2007 budget had been returned as at last December 31.

Bankole announced yesterday that the total sum of undisclosed monies domiciled in undisclosed accounts amount to N80 billion while monies returned by federal establishments were put at N217 billion.

In course of yesterday’s session, the Speaker praised Yar’Adua and the House committees on Appropriations and Finance for their unprecedented display of transparency and fortitude in uncovering as much N300 billion of public funds in hitherto undisclosed accounts.

The monies are to be captured in the 2008 budget, which is before the House Committee on Appropriations and on Finance.

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