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How Power Minister Failed To Defend N42bn Project Before Senate

The Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, had on Tuesday appeared before the Senate Committee on Power to defend the ministry’s 2022 budget proposal.

He, however, faltered when the panel began to pick holes in the budget and question how previous funds were expended.

Mr Aliyu assumed duty as power minister in September after he was appointed to replace the former minister, Saleh Mamman.

Until his appointment, he was minister of state for works and housing.

Mr Aliyu faltered when the committee demanded an explanation for N42 billion proposed for the Zungeru Power Plant project which was tagged “new” in the 2022 budget proposal when N25 billion was already budgeted for the same project in 2021.

The Senate Minority Leader and member of the panel, Enyinnaya Abaribe, questioned how a project, which already gulped N25 billion, was tagged “new” for another N42 billion to be expended in 2022.

He said, “Why should an ongoing project be tagged new. Does the term “new” refer to a new loan for the project or new Zungeru project which has been increased to N43 billion in the ministry’s 2022 budget?”

In his response, the minister apologised for the word “new” and said, it was a typographical error.

While he confirmed that the project as captured in the proposed budget was not a new one, he explained that the multilateral loans are handled by the Ministry of Finance.

He, thereafter, referred the question to the head, energy resources of the ministry who also affirmed that the project was provided for by the ministry of finance for loan arrangements.

After Mr Abaribe’s observation, the senators recalled that the same amount generated controversy between lawmakers of both chambers who described the amount as outrageous during the 2021 budget defence session.

The Chairman of the committee, Gabriel Suswam, noted that the loans collected are being paid back with no projects on the ground, to show what the loans were tied to.

The minister was therefore asked to return with all necessary details on the project as and its expenditure.

Mr Aliyu presented a 2022 budget proposal of N301 billion for the ministry, with N294 billion for capital.

He said the federal government is set to commission the $1.3bn 700MW Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Project, and the 40MW Kashimbilla Power Station in Taraba State, by the end of December 2021.

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