An excited lady with a deep voice freely volunteered details of how residence of Arowojobe Community Development Area- a neighborhood of five streets in Oshodi, had tried for months to stave-off perpetual heat, fumes from generators and the blood-oozing tickles of mosquitoes, when she heard the person on the other end of the line was calling from Sahara Reporters. The transformer serving the neighbourhood got spoiled in October 2018 and getting a replacement has so far remained impossible.
“The transformer has a problem since October and they removed it since October. They asked us to pay some money- 1+1 or something like that. What it means is that the bill of last month, you will pay it double. So, we were asked to pay N2.4 million and we have paid up to N1.6. The transformer is N20 million, they waved it and told us to pay 2.4 million that is one+one.
“The problem is that we have already paid about 1.7 and no trace of the transformer has come. According to the resident who feels threatened by her drive to secure the transformer and therefore chose to stay anonymous, a list of creditors and debtors is published on request every day. The last time she went to check, the money to be paid per meter holder had increased.
“They ought to bring N8,000 per meter, now they are bringing N10,000.
We ought to have gone past N2 million with the N8,000 we have been paying per month. But they now increased it to N10,000 and said we have paid N1.7 million.
When we asked her for a copy of the creditor and debtor list the next day, the lady said she would not speak to us on the subject again. This is one of many communities that wait for months, and in some instances, years before they can get back on the national grid. There were however 208-line items carrying transformers in the 2018 budget cycle, which came to an end in June.
Misaligned transformers in the 2018 budget
In what Civic media lab— a media research centre, is observing to be a trend, multiple offices and departments in the Presidency undertake power related projects even though their mandate has naught to do with the subject. In a scan of the 2018 appropriation act, 208-line items pertaining to the provision, installation, and construction of 500, 300 and 33 Kilo Volt Amp (KVA) transformers were found. 161 of such projects were placed under ministries with the mandate to offer such services. The remaining 47-line items were unpacked into ministries with no clear directive for the execution of such projects.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture has seven transformer related line items. The Federal Ministry of Education were given eight, seven of which have no identified location. IN the Federal Ministry of Health, there was a project to deliver a 300 KVA transformer to an unnamed location. The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, which is chiefly concerned with shaping public opinion about the government, is empowered to provide one transformer. Even the Ministry of Labour and Employment who has a mandate two maintain a smooth working relationship between the government and its employees were to build two transformers in the 2018 budget.
Surprisingly, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was to execute two electrical projects. If the SGF had his, it was appropriate to show the genuine interest of the federal government in making power available across the country by committing the State Headquarters to carry out the provision of two electrical installations to places outside the premises of the Federal Capital Territory.
The Ministry of Science and Technology received instructions to complete 10— one of which is the construction of a transformer production plant.
This, however, falls under its mandate. The ministry of Transportation was instructed to add three electrical set-ups to its overhaul of the country’s transport network, like the burden of the $45 billion worth of rails it needs to raise money to construct across the country is not much enough. The Federal Ministry of Water Resources was allotted the grand total of 12 when Nigeria’s water infrastructure and sources need revamping.
The Federal Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing whose primary duty it is to execute such projects, was duly loaded with 154-line items, while the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs which has the commission to carry out infrastructural development within the oil-producing region of the country, planned to execute six.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development was given the largest envelope of N4.9 billion to execute its seven projects. The Ministry of Science and Technology got approval of N1.39 billion to deliver on its nine misaligned line items loaded with transformers and electric poles. The 12-line items assigned to the Federal Ministry of Water Resources were given N708.4 million. The Federal Ministry of Transportation’s three projects were allotted N324.9 million. The State Headquarters received N142.7 million to deliver on its two transformer related projects. The Federal Ministry of Education got N114.8 million for its eight projects. The Ministry of Labour and Employment was allocated N77 million. The Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was given N50 million for its two projects, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture received N37.8 million, while the Federal Ministry of Health got N15 million.
Poorly Described Projects
The absence of uniformity in the description of the line items found remained a trend. As seen in scans of the budget provisions for other ministries and departments and agencies have done before, some line items had several projects lumped together, others did not specify the number of transformers to be distributed and specific locations of where they were to be delivered or installed, some line items lacked either amount or location.
They were as generic as ‘procurement of transformer.’ In the Budget provision for the Federal Ministry of Education, Seven out of the eight-line items containing transformers or electricity utility related objects had no detail on where they should be supplied, installed or provided. Three out of the four projects simply read: procurement of transformer, ‘procurement of transformers and installation, ‘supply and installation of a transformer.’ The other four project descriptions had extensive details of how many poles, solar streetlights, transformers, and generators needed provision and installation but there was no mention of where they should be delivered to except for a single vague line item that read: “Provision of 90 electric poles, wiring of college compound and set of 500 KVA/33 to 415 KV transformers and installations.”
The name of the school whose ‘college compound’ needed wiring was not stated. The wording of the line item also indicated that three projects were haphazardly described together.
In FMARD’s allotment, it proposed to spend the same amount of money— N701 million on the provision of an unspecified number of 500 KVA transformers to all the six geopolitical zones.
One of the two projects assigned to the Ministry of Labour and Employment says: “Supply of transformers for Owerri federal constituency.”
According to INEC, there is no federal constituency with that name. the closest reference is Owerri Municipal/Owerri North/Owerri West, which is in Imo State. The description does not indicate what size of the transformer as stated in other project details.
As generic as it comes, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources has in its list of transformers carrying line items one that reads: “Provision of 2 numbers of 500KVA/33 transformers in Benue State.”
Again, the description lacked detail on where in Benue the transformer should be supplied and installed.
Besides injecting line items that are not their responsibility and giving vague project descriptions, certain Ministries stretched the width of the red flags a couple of more inches by repeating line items.
The Federal Ministry of Education turned out to be the chief defaulters, ticking the three patterns Civic Media Lab observed. Besides executing misaligned projects, and giving a vague description of their budget line items, the ministry gave the same description twice with different codes:
“Purchase and installation of 250KVA generator and 300KV transformer.”
They were, however, written with code ERGP23107797 and code ERGP23105045. Both codes are allotted N22 million. Also guilty of this is the Office to the Secretary of the Government of the Federation. The two-line items approved for the office in the 2018 budget cycle, all read:
“Procurement and installation of 33/300KVA transformers in rural communities in Udenu/Igbo-Eze North, Enugu State.” They were coded with ERGP445002277 and ERGP445001698. The two codes were apportioned 25,000,000. (N25 million) each.
Project distribution by State
If funding is released for all the line items under observation, nine of the projects described will be executed in Imo state. Three will be done in Kogi, Kwara, and Anambra. Tenders for two projects should be sent out within the 2018 budget cycle in Enugu while a single project each was assigned to Ebonyi, Rivers, Kano, Abia, Ogun, Oyo, FCT, Delta, Lagos, and Benue.
The back page story
Sahara Reporters reached out to Felix Ofulue, Public Relations Officer of Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company to understand what exactly 1+1 means:
“It’s a business policy. If I go and check Arowojobe right now, I’m sure they will have a bill which they cannot pay,” Ofulue said.
“What happens is, when your transformer gets spoiled, we can’t use the money we are getting from other communities to pay for you. Do you have to also pay a part of your bill now?
“If Arowojobe as a community owes us about N15 million and we tell them that ‘Your transformer is spoiled oh!’
“Even if we want to repair it or we want to replace it, at list pay us a part of what you’re owing us. Just pay two months of your debt,” he emphasized.
“You are not paying for the transformer you are not buying it.” After requesting to take some time to check on the status of the community’s debt, he reported that the N20 million which the reporter assumed to be the cost of the transformer is actually what the distribution company waved. ON the balance of the
N2.4 million, "I think they are owing six hundred and something thousand," Ofulue informed.
The source in the community said in a follow-up conversation that the two-month bill or 1+1 has been fully paid. She said youths from the community paid a visit to IKEDC Wednesday but no response had been received yet.
With 208-line items and an unspecified number of transformers slotted into the 2018 budget, it is obvious that the distribution companies and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), will have fewer electricity utilities to buy than they should. Experts the reporter interacted with, say if the sum of N20 million was accrued before 2013 it is down to the Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO) to recover the debt. While agreeing with Mr. Ofulue that there are lots of debt in the distribution network, one of the experts noted that instances of distribution companies not providing transformers for communities when they get spoiled and living them disconnected, is common across the system. He maintained that the disconnection could have been done on an individual basis.