Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, has been said to lack the capacity to deliver on the mandate of running three of the nation’s most critical sectors that hold the key to the revival of the economy.
Hon. Segun Odebumi, a member of the House of Representatives, who said this in an interview with journalists on Thursday in Abuja, expressed doubts in the ability of the minister to solve the problems of power, roads and housing deficit which have accumulated over a period of five decades.
Responding to a question on how the economy can be turned around by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration regarding the issue of power, road infrastructure as well as workable diversification of the economy via other sectors, Hon. Odebumi said: “At the beginning of this administration when ministers were announced, I was surprised that the Ministries of Power, Works and Housing were given to one man to handle.”
“These three ministries hold the key to the economy of Nigeria. Power is the major one; everybody needs power to survive, even those at the grassroots. I want to say that the man in charge of these ministries can never tap the resources by the end of this administration; he has no resources with which to tap the available resources.
“Why can’t we give it to a professional in power to handle it? How it would happen is not important to Nigerians; what they want to see is light on the streets. Let me say that in the last budget, for three months, we were not able to implement the budget. The Ministry of Power, especially in rural electrification, failed to implement the 2015 budget.
”How can just a single person handle three major sectors of the economy? For God’s sake, we should not fool anybody; it is not possible. Give these ministries to those who deserve the work so that Nigerians can derive a lot of dividends from the ministries. The little power we are generating is enough to stabilise but we don’t have the policy on ground to sustain the available resources,” he asserted.
He warned the Buhari administration to stop toying with Nigerians and face the task of fulfilling the promises it made during electioneering as anything to the contrary could result in a backlash.
“Yes, the change is coming, we believe, but the time for promises is over; let us see what you are doing to build Nigeria’s power sector.
”Honestly, you journalists have a lot of work to do in terms of diversifying the economy. Nigerians have been crying for diversification of the economy for the past five years, in the last administration we clamoured for added value chain to our agricultural sector and by God, we were able to achieve a little.
“Nigerians were asked to go back to the farm and harvest cassava which they did but at the end of the day, it got rotten away because there was nobody to buy this produce over. Now, the present administration is clamouring for the diversification of the economy but has no policies to guide it,” the lawmaker lamented.
He, however, stressed the readiness of Nigerians to promote agriculture by showing the willingness to go back to the farms and aid the diversification policy.
“Yes, Nigerians are ready to go back to farming but what are the policies? How will value be added to these agricultural produce? Is the government ready to take these produce from farmers? That is the major thing. Diversification is very easy, I am a farmer and I have up to five hectares of land where I farm but who will buy my farm produce at the end of the day?
“There are no clear policies on this; the government should have a system where even the peasant farmers can sell their farm produce to the government. Look at the Fulani people who get milk from cow; they end up using it to make milk cake (wara) because they can’t sell. The best way is to have a design where they can deposit their farm produce; with that the farmers are encouraged to go back to the farm,” he advised.
On the 2015 budget controversy, Hon. Odebumi commended President Buhari’s insistence on getting the details before appending his signature, adding that it was a step in the right direction, warning that the President should not expect to receive the document the same way he submitted it on December 22, 2015.
“Mr. President’s demanding for the details of the 2016 budget is in a good direction. He is right for requesting for the details and now that the details have been transmitted to him, I believe he will sit down and do justice to it but he should be aware that the budget cannot get back to him the way he brought it.
“This is the only power given to the National Assembly to appropriate the various sectors of the economy; so it is our duty, the only thing is that we will not change the direction of the budget, what I mean by direction is the thinking of the President. There are some things Mr. President don’t even know that are in the budget because he did not even prepare it himself but in the National Assembly, various committees worked on it. So we have enough time, equipment, manpower to analyse and put the budget in order.
“Nigerians are waiting for the assent of Mr. President and I advise Mr. President that we should have good implementation of the budget,” he added.