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Senate queries N10b vote for varsities’ solar power project in 2018 budget


Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe

The Senate committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy, has faulted the N10 billion budget for solar power projects in nine universities.

The Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe led committee wondered why the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) planned to spend a whopping N10 billion to provide solar street light for nine universities.

This emerged as the committee turned back the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, for the minister’s “unpreparedness to face the committee for his 2018 budget defence.”

The Senate also rejected the vote of N355 million for foreign trips by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in the 2018 budget.

The Senate committee on Petroleum (Upstream sector) committee led by Senator Tayo Alasoadura (APC Ondo Central), vowed to drastically reduce the estimates when sending it for approval by the senate .

Similarly, behind closed doors, it began a probe of the clash between operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Department of States Services (DSS) over an aborted arrest of former DSS boss Ita Ekpeyong and former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) boss, Ambassador Ayo Oke.

The adhoc committee declared that because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, particularly as it related to security, the committee has decided to shut the media out.

The REA Managing Director, Mrs. Damilola Ogunbiyi, had in her defence of 2018 budget of the agency listed “Rural Electrification Access Progamme in Federal Universities” with a cost profile of N10,148,146,829.00, as one of the projects of the agency for 2018 fiscal year.

The planned expenditure was not acceptable to the committee especially when the power sector has been privatized.

The REA boss told the committee that they are working in nine federal universities to upgrade electricity supply in the institutions.

Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi demanded the list of universities involved in the projects.

Ogunbiyi named University of Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Usman Dan Fodio University, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Bayero University, Kano as some of the federal institutions to benefit from the solar power installation.

Vice Chairman of the committee, Senator Buka Mustapher, insisted that the details of the power solution projects in universities must be disclosed as well as details of “who is paying for the installations when the power sector had been privatized.”

The REA boss said that it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to provide power in the rural areas.

She added that most of the universities are located in rural areas. She however did not define “rural areas” as demanded by the committee.

Abaribe said Fashola did not come with necessary documentation to present to committee members.
He later said that Fashola said he was prepared to appear before the committee and would be accommodated on Monday.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Committee on Commerce yesterday said unless the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah appears before it, the Ministry’s 2018 budget defence exercise would not hold.

Enalemah was represented by Permanent Secretary of the M
inistry, Mr. Edet Akpan.

Chairman of the Committee, Sylvester Ogbaga, said that the minister was in the habit of not making himself available for any engagement with the lawmakers.

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