A member of the House of Representatives Committee on Works and Power, Engr. Ganiyu Abiodun Johnson, has said that the main reason power supply has continually become epileptic in the country was because a lot of people are using electricity illegally.
According to him, this has resulted to little money going into the coffers of the government.
He said this has made it difficult for the government to have sufficient fund for infrastructure that would boost power generation and distribution.
In this interview, he also spoke on the state of the roads across the country, the challenge of granting Lagos a special status, his monthly interface with the members of his constituency and how to achieve free, fair and credible election in 2023. Excerpts:
As a member of the House Committee on Power and Works, what really is the problem with power supply in the country?
To be honest with you, I want to say that Federal Government has really tried a lot to make power supply constant in the country. Government has privatized distribution. It is only generation that is still in the hand of government. But the distribution companies are complaining that they don’t have fund to carry on their assignment. They said that there is a disconnect between what they are spending and what they are getting and this is as a result of the decay in infrastructure. In some areas, there are no transformers and other structures. I am not trying to make case for them, but this is the reality. At the moment, it is only nine million people that are hooked in the net. But we need about 30 million people. If we get more people in the net, the proposed new tariff may not take effect. But the biggest challenge is that a lot of people are illegally tapping the grid. A lot of people are tapping electricity without paying and this is affecting funding of the sector, which is why government is calling for increase in electricity tariff because it is not getting money.
What is your view on the state of the roads?
The major problem facing the roads in the country is paucity of funds. Recently, the Minister of Works and Housing said that there are unpaid vouchers of almost half a trillion naira just for the roads alone. Right now, what is known as federal roads committee is in progress. If the committee is empowered, it would help to reduce the gap in the road sector. However, there should be a road bond which people should embrace to raise money for road construction. I strongly feel that once Nigerians are convinced that the money realized from the road bond would indeed be used to do the roads, they would key into it. The roads are not what the Federal Government would do alone. The citizens need to come into it. In fact, all hands should be on deck. At the moment, we have sovereign fund, which is different from the basic budgetary funds that are being used for the construction of Lagos, Ibadan expressway, Abuja, Kaduna, Kano road and the Second Niger Bridge. There are still other monies that are tied down somewhere that need governors to meet and approve. We have talked with the chairman of Governors Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi to make a presentation with his colleagues so that the money can be released to FERMA.
Do you think that the N37 billion budgeted for the renovation of National Assembly is justified under this present hard economic condition?
To everybody, the figure is huge. But the problem is that those who are complaining of the huge figure have not made any attempt to see the scope of work. So, the reality is that the figure is huge and the scope of work is also huge. Since the dawn of democracy over two decades ago, the National Assembly complex has not been renovated. There have been lots and lots of wears and tears. So, the scope of work is huge, that is why the money is also huge.
What are you doing for Lagos to be granted a special status?
Well, attracting special status to Lagos is a project that I believe so much in. It has become a recurring decimal in the National Assembly. But it is not what only me can do. It requires collective effort. I equate Lagos to New York, which is the economic hub of the United States, while Abuja is like Washington DC, which is the seat of administration. So, Lagos deserves to be accorded special status. But it is not what only me can do. It requires collective effort. The same with the recognition of the 37 local council development areas as bona fide local government areas. What Lagos State government did on Western Avenue, but till now the money has not been paid back to the state. Again, it is like what is going on in Oshodi-Apapa road. If we cannot support the infrastructure, it will be taken to other parts of the country, which will be an economic loss to the state.
Do you have concerns for 2023 election?
What I have for 2023 general election is advice. We are, no doubt, on the right part. However, we need more awareness. If there is mass voter education, if the people are enlightened and the card reader machines are working, we will be having credible elections. It is lack of awareness and ignorance that are causing most of the problems in our elections. Even the thugs that sometimes come to cart away ballot boxes are acting on ignorance.
How is your Meet-Your-Member of Parliament project working?
It is a very wonderful project. I interface with the members of my constituency at the last Saturday of every month. At the meeting, we discuss one-on-one and this has given me the opportunity to know those that I did not know before very well and for them to know me too. Now they know that if they vote for me that I would not run away. They tell me their individual problems and I try as much as I can do solve them. I recognize the fact that the level of poverty in Oshodi/Isolo is high and because of this I launched food for all projects. I have also introduced other empowerment programmes like skill acquisition and the rest. It is my dream to directly empower 1,000 people before the end of this 9th Assembly.