As governor of Lagos State for eight years, media presence and derisory engagement of opposition party in assessing Fashola’s performance in the State, gave him a field day. The image the media shaped of Fashola, as governor of Lagos State was such that, after the job of a governor, the next most fitting job for him was that of the President of Nigeria.
If Fashola had nursed presidential ambition in 2015, reasonable support would have gone for him based on the perceived image of an achiever. When his party, the APC emerged victorious at the 2015 general elections, the media image of Fashola resonated as a figure for a top position in the centre government. Fashola’s name featured prominently while Buhari was planning his cabinet team.
President Buhari bought the idea of a “powerful” Fashola and appointed him a “supper minister” with three powerful portfolios – Energy, Works and Housing ministries. Many knew Fashola was not being honoured or recognized as a performer by Buhari’s appointment. They remarked that the three ministries Fashola would be supervising were too heavy for him, and proffered suggestions that the appointment should be reviewed.
The views expressed that the government reassign some of ministries from Fashola may not have gone down well with uneven minds. They saw everything wrong with the suggestion. Fashola, himself, may have had uncomplimentary words for those making the suggestions, though no evidence that he said anything to reflect such.
About three years on the job as “supper minister” of Energy, Works and Housing – Buhari’s government has no significant progress report on Fashola’s performance as Energy Minister. It is darkness everywhere in Nigeria. Electricity Tariffs – for commercial and private consumers have moved up several percentages higher than Fashola met them; and the Discos are asking for more increases.
Infrastructure has remained the same inherited from the previous government, no noteworthy additions. Energy regulatory body is performing below expectation. The best interest of electricity consuming public was, often, not factored into regulatory decisions taken by the body.
Energy consuming public has continued to bear increases in tariff, and burden with huge bills from unmetered billing system. When the Discos are invited to correct faults – especially major faults reported by electricity consuming customers, the Discos seek “consumers support funding” — in establishment they had no stake.
For instance, Fashola’s statement to the public on government’s position in Discos providing meters to consumers is a case in point. At the 18th monthly power sector meeting in Abuja, recently, Fashola said: “Please, recall that government had in the past attempted to intervene in meter supply through CAPMI, Credited Advanced Payment Metering Implementation, which I decided we should wind down because of the distrust and disaffection it was creating between consumers and Discos, with government caught in the middle with numerous petitions by customers who paid for meters that were not delivered within the approved time”.
“Some Discos have come back to say that their customers still want to pay for meters and they can reach agreements with them on how to pay for it. Government will not stand in the way of such an agreement. It is consistent with the intent of privatization envisioned by the Electric Power Sector Reform Act or at least, it does not violate the Act.”
Fashola did not name the Discos that “come back to say that their customers still want to pay for meters”, but added that “government will not stand in the way of such an agreement”. What Fashola implied was that government has approved that electricity consumers should fund Discos business obligation to its customers. The electricity consuming customers should go into “agreement” with Discos to purchase the meters to be “produced or imported” by Discos, and supplied to the customers.
If electricity consumers should pay for meters that ought to be provided free to them, then, Ministry of Energy should reconsider how responsive the ministry is to welfare of the people. Fashola would have made the electricity consuming customers the milking cow to the Discos, just to provide them electricity. Whatever must have informed government’s position that customers should fund Discos operations is arm-twisting, retrogressive and against civilized best practices.
Babatunde Fashola’s eight years administration in Lagos State was point of reference in good governance. Many see it differently though. Good governance is about policies and achievements that impact positively and benefit the governed. What is commonly referred to as “dividend of democracy”. In Lagos, it was believed that the governed were more impoverished during Fashola’s tenure. It seems that is what is being replicated at the federal level by Energy Minister.
He once told Lagosians that there was no low-cost cement in Nigerian market. As such he could not afford to build low-cost houses for low-income earners. His internal income generation policy – gave birth to multiple taxations. Monthly environmental sanitation exercise during his tenure shut people indoors from [7am – 10am] without legislative backing. The judiciary has set-aside that illegality.
Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, LASTMA, instead of regulating flow of traffic, became revenue generating agency of government. LASTMA, under Fashola’s watch, would manhandle perceived traffic-offenders and imposed heavy fines, without fair-hearing in a court of law.
In Lagos, today, incumbent Governor Akinwumi Ambode is undoing Fashola’s unfriendly policies and bringing human-face to governance in the state. LASTMA now has new orientation with their core responsibility as traffic managers. Presently, Lagos States Vehicles Inspection Officers, VIOs, are undergoing some form of orientation to serve the public better. This are just some few to mention, how responsive government take-up obligation to the people they govern.
Babatunde Fashola is a distinguished Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. Governing or serving the public – public servant – is not about the law. Using the law to address situations is the simplest, if not the laziest way of addressing citizens concerns and problems. Only dictators use the law as a basis of governance. Governance is about leadership, and leadership is about convincingly carrying the citizens along.
Electricity consumers in Nigeria are customers. They should be treated as such. It should begin with the Minister of Energy, Babatunde Fashola and his team in the ministry, then the regulatory agency and the Discos. In the power sector reform programme, being implemented by Buhari’s government, right things have to be done in the sector. Electricity consuming customers in Nigeria need no longer be further burdened.
Nigerians need substantially improved power supply from Buhari’s government under Fashola’s watch as Energy Minister. For whom much is given, much is expected. It is not rocket-sciences to provide electricity to Nigerians; Fashola was quoted to have said sometimes in the past. Much is expected from Fashola in dealing with situations that affect electricity customers in the country.