It was disheartening to read the Minister of Power Resources’ carefully spun narrative on securing a $6.1bn ‘funding’ to improve power supply with the World Bank, the AFDB and JICA named as ‘partners’.
They very carefully omitted the word ‘loan’ because of the backlash it would attract and I must say that was a deft touch considering that just a day before, the President’s Special Assistant on New Media, Bashir Ahmad was passing off our polio-free status as a Buhari achievement when in fact the whole of Africa was polio-free for almost a year before Buhari became President. It was under him polio returned to Nigeria in 2016.
More and more Nigerians are asking what exactly the huge amounts we borrow are being sunk into that no one sees and as such, the Buhari administration has learnt to describe lending entities as ‘partners’ and the loans they provide, ‘funding’ in evasive press releases. Our debt profile contrary to what many believe was not N12trn as at the time Buhari assumed office in 2015. His transition committee chairman, Ahmed Joda said himself that the Jonathan administration left a liability of N7trn.
Subsequent loans by Buhari after the Debt Management Office’s last official figure of N28trn has taken us way past the N30trn mark. That is more than 3 times what Buhari met. We know electricity tariff will increase on September 1st and not next year as we had been earlier told because according to reports, it is a condition given to us by the World Bank before we can access any loan for power.
What has Buhari done with all he has been borrowing?.$6.1bn adds up to N2.3trn.For the umpteenth time, What has Buhari done with all he has been borrowing? How many of our hospitals have been upgraded to world-class? How many roads have been completed? How many schools have been built? How many young Nigerians have benefitted from skill acquisition schemes since jobs are not available? How many of our refineries are at optimum capacity?
As far as the issue of power is concerned, we have had to sit and watch him and his cronies reel out some very outrageous sums. Vice-President Osinbajo said the government spent N1.5trn on that from 2017-2019. El Rufai was reeling out another figure of N1.7trn just months later. What significant improvement has Nigeria seen as regards power supply to justify all that spent money? Just days ago, an investigation by a reputable news outlet revealed that the power sector lost N468.4bn from January-August 21 and also that 33,122MWs wasn’t utilized in that period.
Last year Buhari promised to chase and catch a ‘previous administration’ that claimed to have spent $16bn (N3trn) on power (the Obasanjo administration did). Nothing has come out of that probe. As a matter of fact, they have stayed mute and wished it out of our consciousness. If Buhari really probes that expenditure, it would also draw attention to how much he has spent on power since 2015 and he doesn’t want that. He and his people have grown scared of being straight with Nigerians and have started referring to our lenders as ‘partners’ and their loans as ‘funding’ because it has become simply impossible to explain how all that is being borrowed is used to improve Nigerian lives.
An extra N2.3trn is going to be spent on power in addition to a figure that is already more than what Buhari wants to probe another administration for frittering away. The scariest part of it all is that this man has 3 more years to do as he pleases. God help us.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is based in Kano.