Senate queries N10b solar power project for varsities

By Oke Peter
The Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy, on Thursday questioned the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) over a N10 billion solar power projects for nine universities in the country.
Committee Chairman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who led the budget defence session of agencies under the committee said it was unbelievable that REA would be spending a whopping N10 billion to provide solar street light for nine universities
Also on Thursday, the Committee deferred the budget defence by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, over alleged “unpreparedness to face the committee for his 2018 budget defence.”
Managing Director of REA, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi had told the committee that the agency listed as part of its 2018 budget a project titled “Rural Electrification Access Progamme in Federal Universities” which is billed to cost with N10,148,146,829.00.
But the explanation by the REA did not satisfy members of the committee who declared that the power sector has already been privatised.
According to REA, the agency is working in nine federal universities to upgrade electricity supply.
Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi in his contributions demanded a list of the affected universities where the projects are being carried out.
REA boss then named the institutions as including the University of Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Usman Dan Fodio University, Abubakar Tafawa Bella University, Bauchi, Bayero University, Kano as some of the federal institutions affected.
Vice Chairman of the committee, Senator Buka Mustapher declared that the agency must provide details of who is paying for the project especially when the power sector has been privatised.
Ogunbiyi however insisted that it was the duty of the Federal Government to provide power in the rural areas.
She also stated the most of the universities are located in “rural areas”forcing commitee members to demand her definition.of rural areas.
Another member of the Committee, Senator Mohammed Hassan questioned why REA was spending huge money to provide solar power in universities when rural communities for which the agency was created are left in darkness.
Committee Chairman, senator Abaribe added that the agency could have managed ita funds better when it has N10 billion to play around with.
The Committee said it was unimpressed at the level of performance of the REA as it was disclosed that the South South geo-political zone has over 30 completed projects while other zones has far below 30 completed projects.
Ogunbiyi explained that it depended on the nature, cost and variation of the projects.
But Fashola could not defend the budget of his Ministries as the Committee Chairman told his colleagues that on the minister told his members that he was not ready to face members.
According to Abaribe, the minister did not come with necessary documentation to present to members.
Close to the end of tge session, Abaribe hiwever announced that Fashola had communicated his readiness to appear before the committee and that the committee will accommodate him on Monday.

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