The federal budget is usually suffused with requests by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government for the purchase, maintenance and fuelling of plants and generators. This has become the proverbial tortoise that cannot elude a folk tale. The fact is that Nigeria lacks steady power supply and the MDAs therefore try to take undue advantage of this to make spurious provisions for this line item. In the 2013 budget, certain requests for generators, fuelling and maintenance need a thorough review so as not to waste public resources.
The wastages found on this item are categorised in three stages: Purchase of plants/generators; fuelling; and maintenance. On many occasions, separate huge amounts of public funds are allocated to these segments.
Take for an example the Presidency, the 2013 budget provides that, to fuel generators in the State House alone, the Presidency will spend N72,510,832. Also, the Presidency in its entirety is to spend the sum of N654.02m on generators. The money it is proposed covers the cost of maintenance of plants and generators as well as fuelling them. The money also covers the amount set aside to replace some generators in the agencies under the Presidency. Also, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources plans to spend N22,525,507 for fuelling of generators and N25,036,676 to maintain the generators.
The Federal Capital Territory is divided into low, middle and high income zones and the State House and the NNPC Towers are in the high socio-economic zone of Abuja. This zone enjoys regular supply of electricity from the national grid. This raises the rationale for allocating such a huge amount of public funds to these MDAs in spite of the regular supply of power to them. There is also another huge sum allocated to defray the cost of power supply from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, such as the sum of N148,105,373 to be expended by the State House alone to pay for electricity charges in 2013.
In examining the 2013 budget of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one will discover that there is a provision of N27,335,017 for maintenance and fuelling of generators in foreign missions. For the foreign missions, it is understandable that most African countries have problematic power supply. It is justifiable when you make budgetary allocations to foreign missions in some countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast and other countries where war destroyed their economic infrastructure including power supply. But how can you justify budgetary allocations of purchasing, fuelling and maintenance of plants/generators in foreign missions in such countries as Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, etc, which enjoy constant power supply? For example, Nigeria’s foreign missions in two highly developed cities of Berlin and Berne got N1,092,428 for generator maintenance and another N2,834,505 for fuelling and N473,570 for maintenance and another N1,228,608 for fuelling respectively.
As if the above is not enough, some MDAs will include purchase of generators at very exorbitant prices and this appears year after year. Back home, it’s infuriating to learn that an agency such as the National Primary Health Care Development Agency has a budgetary allocation of N23,515,181 for this purpose. The lifespan of every generator, even the one called “I pass my neighbour” exceeds a period of at least two years. So why is there the necessity for this request for the purchase of generators in the budget of some MDAs every year? These are just a few examples; all the MDAs are all involved in this mad rush, read fraud, of “fuelling” themselves to unfettered riches.
The foregoing makes a strong case for the intensification of the reforms in the power sector so that there will be sustainable improvements in power generation, transmission and distribution. If the Federal Government is sincere to itself and to the general public, concerted efforts should be made in adopting and implementing integrated development plans where the good management of one sector will support the management of other sectors.
Chukwuma Smart Amaefula, Centre for Social Justice, Abuja
*This piece was first published in The Punch