The House of Representatives committee on Power, led by Hon. Magaji Da’u Aliyu vowed to withhold approval for the 2021 budget proposal by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) if outstanding debt owed to the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), was not paid.
Hon. Aliyu further urged NERC to turn over all market surplus arising from licensing and fines against operators in the electricity industry to the REA to facilitate its operations of providing electrification to rural dwellers in Nigeria.
However the committee was later told by the Managing Director of REA, Ahmad Salhijo that one of the impediments faced by his agency in the discharge of its duties, is the inability to get the operating surpluses from NERC turned over to it as expected under the law.
The Committee was disappointed that NERC has been defaulting in this regard, an act the lawmakers said was in contravention of the commission’s Establishment Act, and that of the the REA.
In his reaction, the committee chairman said the Commission must first issue a cheque to the REA before the Committee will consider approving it’s 2021 budget proposal on Wednesday.
“I want you and your ED(Executive Director) Finance to come back here tomorrow by 11: am. We will tell them that you’re here because of them and we will ask them where is your money. They will be made to issue a cheque to you here, otherwise we will not consider their budget, because what they have done is against the law”, Rep. Magaji said.
He expressed sadness that operations of the REA were being hampered by failure of the Commission to remit the funds saying: “without the money, we will not pass NERC’s budget”.
The committee has also warned agencies under its supervision, that it would not consider fresh projects in their 2021 budgets, especially where there are plethora of ongoing projects.
While engaging the REA, Magaji after listening to the MD, Ahmad Salihijo, explained that a sub team under the leadership of his deputy, would need to put heads together with REA team in studying its last performance and the 2021 proposals.
Salihijo in explaining to the committee on why the about N11.5 billion Rural Electricity was yet to be utilized, stated that the agency had a lot of delay during the bidding process because of the huge number of contractors that responded.
“We received over 7,000 bids, but we’ve gotten to a point stage where we would be awarding the contracts, like what happened last year, we believe we would be allowed to use the funds until March next year”, he said.
The total budget of the agency, as presented before the committee on Tueday, which he highlighted to include sub heads like Debt Repayment, Rural Electricity Fund, Energizing Economy amongst others was put at N17.864 billion.