What is your take on the clamour to create water user associations and empower the farmers more?
The only problem is that we have not been able to really get the people to do more on their mandate. There are lots of Constituency Projects that are still finding their way to the River Basin Authorities budget. Some of them are not within their mandate.
This is something we keep negotiating with the National Assembly. For now,
most of their core mandate projects are no longer at risk as used to
be the case before.
Of course, there is the challenge of funding and we hope that going
forward, the appropriation in the National Assembly, we will begin to see the importance and the need to providing more funds to the River Basin Authorities. Don’t forget that we have brought a lot of innovations like the Songhai farmingtechniques, but again, one major thing is that we have been able to make the River Basins understand they are more of enablers than implementers. They can have poultry farms, water bottling companies to improve their IGR, but they should understand that
whatever they are doing, what is important is that they impact
knowledge to their areas under their jurisdiction.
That is to say that when they set up Songhai Farms, it is not just to earn money, but as training ground to bring in farmers, to introduce them to modern
techniques, so that they can go back and replicate what they learnt, so that we can improve our productivity.
The Water Bill has been there with the opposition against it getting stronger by the day. Are you engaging enough
with the leadership of the National Assembly?
If you ask the leadership of the National Assembly, recently we had a meeting with the Chairman of the Senate and House Committees on the way forward. I equally had a meeting in camera with the House Committee on Water. Part of the problem has been the COVID-19 lockdown that has slowed things down. After we had the meetings, somebody went to report that I had a secret meeting with members of the Senate Committee, which was not true. It was an open meeting and on camera. All that transpired in the meeting was recorded.
We are not shying away from this, we feel without that Bill, it means my mission is unaccomplished, so I am going to work to the last day to ensure that we get this Bill passed. Whoever we need to talk to, whoever we need to convince, we will continue to work on it. Even the Governor of Benue, after my meeting with the Governors Forum, they asked relevant questions and Ianswered it. Since then, I have not had any opposing comment or fear from his end.
How do explain the slow pace in the provision of irrigation facilities and adding more power to the national grid through the dams?
Like I said earlier, the COVID-19 lockdown slowed us down but that is not to say that things are not happening. We concessioned the Gurara Hydro Power to Messrs North South power. The concession of Dadin Kowa was already there since 2005, but it was not on stream. Now the Hydro power plant is injecting power into the National Grid. It is working and it is a question of just commissioning it.
The concessionaire is having some issues trying to get buyers of the power. He is negotiating with various customers. The scheme has been tested and it is injecting power into the national grid. Also, the Kashimbila with 40 Mega Watts Hydro Power Station. We have finished 100 per cent; it is the Ministry of Power through the Transmission Company that has finished the transmission lines. It is also injecting power for the few months and also injecting power to the national grid.
We are in the process of concessioning it. The transaction advisers have been working. Already the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission has issued the outline business details to us. A lot of work is going on but there are processes involved and it takes time. The Itisi Dam is a proposal on the drawing board. The consultant has completed the final design. When we signed the MoU with the Kaduna State Government, it was on the preliminary design but we have to go now and do a detailed Engineering design which took us about a year and it has been completed.
We have reviewed the draft final report and we are waiting for the consultant to provide the final report for us to go into the next phase of the job. It has not come in now; I expect it very shortly.
Already we have gone far talking to potential investors and concessionaires. What we are looking at is a company that can take over the project and do it on a BOT basis from the dam, the hydropower, which also has a potential of 40MWs. We have about six companies that have shown interest and we are soon going to advertise for that project and we have been working with ICRC. Once the final engineering design has been done and we have an idea of the cost, we share with the potential investors.
How have you harnessed loans and grants from multilateral institutions, especially the $700 million coming for water projects in Nigeria?
First of all, Nigeria is a member of the World Bank; we are on the
board of directors like every other member country. We are in IMF; we
make contributions. In some way, it is money that we are entitled to
and these loans are soft loans. You have a moratorium or when
to start repaying. Normally, they have a 20-30 years repayment period.
If they have interests, they are very low. Mostly it is the commitment fees and some charges. If a country is running into trouble at some point, the World Bank and the IMF can also restructure the
facility. It is cheap money and its money that every member country is
Every country in the World borrows from the World Bank. It is not only Nigeria and there is nothing wrong with it. The money
is for development and what is important for this administration is that all the money we borrow, we are putting it in development and everybody can see. You have seen the railways, the SUKUK funds that we are using to do some of the roads and selected highways. When you are a country and you have limitations in terms of revenue, what other option do you have to provide development to the people? The country is still existing and development has to happen. There is nothing really wrong about obtaining loans from international financing institutions.
Again, the loan is not going to the Federal Government as such but the
states but the federal government is guaranteeing the facility. The
states must meet certain conditions before they can qualify for the
facilities. The eligible states have been selected that is for those
who will benefit from the facilities, which is about $50-60 million.
Can the Government meet the Open defecation Deadline before the date?
Well, I set targets for the campaign secretariat earlier but unfortunately, we had a setback last year. The deadline cannot be achieved without the support of the states. We are working very hard
and in the next few weeks, I am going to address the National EconomicCouncil so that we keep giving them the much-needed information. People are working in the field and we are collaborating with the NationalOrientation Agency (NOA).