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Group condemns persistent national grid collapse

...calls for forensic audit

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The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has expressed strong condemnation over the recent collapse of the national power grid, resulting in a complete blackout across the nation.

The unfortunate incident occurred on Sunday at 1 pm, marking the first grid collapse of the year and contributing to the concerning pattern of recurring failures in the power sector.

In a statement issued on Monday, HURIWA deemed the situation utterly unacceptable and called for immediate action to address the systemic issues that continue to plague Nigeria’s power infrastructure.

It said, “In a shocking recurrence, the national power grid in Nigeria suffered a complete collapse, registering zero megawatts on Sunday at 1 pm, plunging the entire nation into darkness. This marks the first grid collapse of the year, adding to the concerning trend of recurring failures in the power sector.

“The power generation data obtained from the Ministry of Power revealed a significant drop from 2,407MW at 11:53 am to 31MW by noon, ultimately collapsing to zero an hour later. The widespread blackout affected various regions, with Kaduna Disco confirming power loss in Kaduna, Sokoto, Zamfara, and Kebbi states.

“This grid collapse is not an isolated incident, as the country witnessed a similar crisis in December 2023 when power generation plummeted from 4,032.8MW to 43.5MW, and twice in September the same year. While the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) managed to restore the system on that occasion, the frequency of such collapses raises serious concerns about the reliability of the national grid,” HURIWA expressed.

HURIWA contended that despite substantial investments in the power sector, the persistent grid collapses suggest either internal sabotage within the government or mismanagement of funds allocated for sector development. In light of these concerns, the rights group emphasized the immediate need for an independent forensic financial audit of the electricity sector to uncover the truth behind the continuous failures.

According to HURIWA, the call for a forensic audit gains further urgency considering the declaration by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of former Minister of Power and Steel, Olu Agunloye, wanted over an alleged $6 billion fraud. This adds to a list of corruption allegations in the power sector, where funds meant for critical projects like the Mambilla Hydropower Project have been reportedly misappropriated.

HURIWA questioned the effectiveness of anti-corruption agencies, particularly the EFCC, in addressing the systemic corruption in the power sector. While Agunloye was declared wanted, the Association highlighted previous instances where individuals implicated in massive financial irregularities were either briefly detained or left without conclusive resolution.

“In December 2023, the EFCC declared former Minister of Power and Steel, Olu Agunloye, who served under Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, as wanted for alleged fraud amounting to $6 billion. The funds were intended for the construction of the Mambilla Hydropower Project. Agunloye, who held the ministerial position between 1999 and 2003, had previously been invited and questioned by the anti-graft agency.

“Even prior to Agunloye’s situation, various individuals have been implicated in the massive misappropriation of funds meant to address the electricity sector’s challenges. It appears that the EFCC is merely engaging in media dramatization rather than achieving tangible results. This pattern extends not only to the current Chairman but also to successive leaders of the EFCC. The question arises: why has the EFCC been unable to effectively address the rampant theft of billions of dollars that government officials claim to have invested in the electricity sector?

“Beyond the case of Agunloye, another instance involves the EFCC detaining former Minister of Power under President Buhari, Sale Mamman, in May 2023, over an alleged diversion of N22 billion. However, he was released after a few months, and the matter seemingly faded away. Subsequently, Ogunleye was declared wanted, further adding to the perception that the EFCC’s efforts may be more symbolic than substantive.

“This raises concerns about the EFCC’s approach, which appears to prioritize media attention over concrete resolutions. The consistent failure to bring those responsible for embezzlement and mismanagement of funds in the power sector to justice is alarming. The lack of accountability not only undermines public trust but also perpetuates a cycle of corruption within the government.

“These developments underscore the need for a critical examination of the EFCC’s effectiveness in addressing financial irregularities within the power sector. Nigerians deserve transparent investigations and decisive actions against those responsible for diverting funds meant for critical infrastructure projects. The recurring theme of individuals being declared wanted after initial detentions points to a systemic issue that requires urgent attention and reform within the EFCC.

“Again, the World Bank’s ‘Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report’ for 2022 revealed a concerning energy access deficit in Nigeria, with approximately 92 million Nigerians lacking access to grid power, constituting 45% of the population. Rural communities, comprising over 47% of the population, remain unconnected to the national grid or alternative energy solutions, despite substantial investments,” decried HURIWA.

HURIWA insisted on a thorough investigation led by international forensic experts to scrutinize the financial transactions within the electricity sector, stressing that holding those responsible accountable for the prolonged darkness experienced by Nigerians is crucial. It further emphasized the importance of transparency in revealing the truth behind the significant investments made in the power sector and demanded justice for the Nigerian populace.

In conclusion, HURIWA called on the government to prioritize the well-being of its citizens by ensuring that the power sector is free from corruption and mismanagement, citing that the continuous collapse of the national grid underscores the urgency of comprehensive reforms and stringent measures to restore the faith of Nigerians in the country’s power infrastructure.

It highlighted that accountability is paramount, and those found guilty of embezzling funds meant for the development of the power sector should face the full force of the law. HURIWA reiterated the need for transparency and proactive measures to restore confidence in the nation’s power supply system.

 

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