Any government that cannot provide security, Medicare is a fraud -Magaji
Hon. (Eng.) Magaji Da’u Aliyu represents Birnin Kudu/Buji Federal Constituency, Jigawa State on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In addition, he is chairman of the House Committee on Power. In this interview with PHILIP NYAM, he talks about the 2023 elections, problems in the electricity sector and various topics
The problems of the electricity sector seem insoluble. As Chairman of the Power Committee, what is the cause?
The power problem in Nigeria is huge and it is the result of the Nigerian factor. We are so selfish and ungrateful to God and so insincere.
Everything has been done backwards in this country and we can’t do better if we don’t go back to basics. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, with good intentions, took money from the federation account to establish power plants and they were to operate and generate money.
All of these power stations were located in the South and the intention was that the money generated would be used to establish more power stations in the North. But we woke up one day and found that a man wanted to sell these power plants. Everyone knows that the global economy is not good right now.
They want to sell the plants to themselves, their brothers and friends as scrap metal. There has been no real investment in the power sector for god knows how long. We have to thank President Buhari for working so hard against the tide to see that we have the infrastructure.
You cannot deliver energy with your hands, but through these infrastructures. We have only one line that provides electricity in this country. Since 1963 we have only had one line from Oshogbo across the country.
We need at least three different lines. If you hear what is happening in Shiroro in Niger State, you will cry. One of the towers was vandalized and they said the so called bandits are there and no one can go there for maintenance. The moment there is a drop in frequency, it will trigger.
What is sad is that everyone is now in charge of power in this country. The Governor of the CBN is in charge of power and the Minister of Finance is also in charge of power. I wrote them a letter telling us how they spend their money and who appropriated it.
They were running everywhere. They said Eng. Magaji is stubborn and creates trouble. I will continue to create problems.
We talked a lot about the Mambilla electrical project, where is the project?
The Mambilla Power project was a fraud. There was no such thing. It only existed in name. It was not until President Buhari came to power that a contract was given to survey the area. Even the space calculation can only produce 3,090 megawatts.
It can only reach about 1000 megawatts. They are not there yet, no clearance has been made and nothing has been done. Twice I was called to go to Taraba and said no, I will not be part of it because it is a game. I can call the ministry and arrange a site visit so that we can see things first hand. But Buhari did his best to get the project off the ground.
We even have a problem. They said there is a consultant or someone who got the job and he took the government to the Court of Arbitration asking for $10 billion and this guy is a Nigerian and did nothing. The president said he wouldn’t pay him a penny.
Even at that, the world has gone far in renewables. Why do we all have to be on the national grid? We should switch to solar energy because we have it in abundance.
People who do not have enough sunshine in their country are currently turning to solar energy. We can cut all of Birnin Kudu and make a mini-grid.
Currently, I am off the national grid. I use solar power because I cannot afford to pay 150,000 naira every month. The power problem in this country is huge and it will take us a long time to fix it.
You talk about going solar. Do you think every Nigerian can benefit from it?
We have the solar home system, which can take your light point, a TV and a fan and it only costs N25,000 and it will give you what you need. But the elites don’t want it to work, maybe because some people are taking advantage of it.
There is an estimated billing bill which criminalizes estimated billing and till date many Nigerians have not been metered but they continue to pay very high costs for electricity. How does the committee feel about this?
Estimated billing remains criminal and there have been several interventions to provide meters to Nigerians. This is probably the reason why some DISCOs were dissolved because the agreement provided that they would operate for 10 years and provide meters.
By now, everyone should have a meter. The law provides that every six months, the economic indices change because nothing is constant. Economic indices will change and so will the price. We should be able to pay for what is provided to us. The problem in this country is that people are paying for what they didn’t get.
As I said earlier, there is a chain, which goes from generation to distribution. We only know distribution companies because they are the first in the sector. Whatever they do is their problem.
There are things the government promised to do to them that they did not do. There are things they also promised the government to do, like investments they weren’t able to make.
So, we are against projected billing, we are against arbitrary price increases. But tariffs are calculated on the basis of AC and T losses. In this country, more of us do not pay for electricity. You just have to go to several communities and find that they draw light from each other, which is also illegal.
Until Nigerians start obeying law and order, we will stay like this for a long time.
Today in the UK, a liter of petrol is sold for 2.5 pounds, which equates to around 2,000 naira. In Nigeria you want to buy it at N187 pretending you are subsidizing it. Who are you funding for? Today, our refineries are not working. We have to give crude oil and take refined products. The problems are manifold.
Whether we like it or not, we have to solve the problems on our own. What interests people today in Nigeria is who is Muslim and who is Christian. How can we solve our problems like this? Every day I receive at least 30 petitions on this issue, acknowledge them and try to do what little I can within this small office.
People say I’m a fool and don’t want to make money because telling the truth means being a fool. I am not an entrepreneur and I am not a businessman. I am purely a politician and Chairman of the House Committee on Power and this is temporary. But I’m happy that during my time I added value.
Someone told me jokingly that this is the first time that there is no crisis in this committee.
Ahead of the 2023 general election, APC recently lost the Osun gubernatorial election to PDP, would you say this loss is good for your party, APC?
I’m not happy that we lost, but that’s nothing new in politics. We should take the positive side of it. There’s probably something we didn’t do right. This will give us the opportunity to take another look at it and get it right. Let me assure you. Go and write it down.
Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu will be Nigeria’s next president. We will win and win convincingly. In the federal constituency of Birnin Kudi/Buji, I will be on the ballot with Asiwaju and I will give him about 500,000 votes from my constituency. Nobody wants to lose and we will never lose again. We have learned our lessons.
As a legislator, why would you want to be remembered?
And what do you think of the controversy around the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of Tinubu/Shettima? I want to be remembered for doing my best and my best is good enough. I feel like I’m still not satisfied. Typical Nigerians, wherever they come from, are the same. All they need from the government is very little. Our people are not greedy and they are not lazy.
The government that cannot provide security, cannot provide water, light or health insurance is a massive fraud. But it’s cumulative and you can’t blame Buhari for that. I hear people arguing about the Muslim/Muslim or Christian/Christian ticket and I think it’s unfair to Yorubas.
In the Yoruba country that I know, there is no dichotomy in religion. You can see that Asiwaju’s wife is a pastor and President Femi Gbajabiamila’s wife is a Christian. It doesn’t matter to them. Even in the North, religion allows us to marry Christians.
When you hear these disparities, it’s about sharing your money. When you hear people say I’m a Christian or a Muslim, whether I’m from Lagos or Kano or wherever, it’s about sharing your money and not because of you. They just want to trigger a crisis so they can take advantage of it so they can be called up and set up. It’s the truth and you can quote me anywhere.
There was an issue that caused a lot of controversy in the Department of Energy, which you watch, the removal of the Bulk Electricity Trading Company and its transfer to the Department of Finance. What is the way forward?
This is why I told you that we are in a country where the Governor of the CBN is in charge of power and the Minister of Finance is also in charge of power. I have written volumes of memos on this very issue to the President.
They said Bulk Electricity Trading Company should report to the Federal Ministry of Finance and Niger Delta Power Holding Company should report elsewhere
. I said on NTA’s Good Morning Nigeria show that if we don’t do things right, we will never be successful. We have sound engineers and civil servants in the ministry who have been laid off. Even the new energy agency of the federal government, God only knows who they report to and these are the people who will be in charge of the Siemens project and one day there will be no files.
But here, in the National Assembly, we will watch them whether they like it or not.
Unfortunately, no government has been able to solve the problem of power in the country. Where is the problem ?
The problem is that we are Nigerians. We refuse to do things right. When I was employed at NNPC in 1991, you will be happy to walk into the Kaduna refinery and there was tremendous goodwill. We had wonderful engineers. When I went to Unipetrol, I know the amount of work we did to make sure all the refineries were running. Things were smooth.
Today people want to buy government property. I think the biggest mistake we made in this country was the creation of the Bureau of Public Enterprise. We just destroyed our own assets for people to buy as scrap. Some of the assets sold were not used.