Hon. Bamidele Faparusi, ex-House of Representatives member, is a serving Commissioner for Infrastructure and Public Utilities in Ekiti State. He spoke to JOSEPH UNDU on the state of power supply and open defecation among other issues. Excerpt:
What is the mandate of your ministry?
The ministry is about the people. That is where the deliverables of government can be felt. The ministry is in charge of water resources. The goal of the government is to make stable water available to citizens. The government is working towards achieving access to water and energy. The government is working to ensure that no citizen is denied his or her right to stable water, electricity supply, to support the economic activity of the state. That is what the ministry is trying to achieve. We are blessed with a governor who knows what to do to achieve that.
During your recent visit to TCN, Abuja, you said the state of power supply in Ekiti State is worrisome, that the population of about 3.5 million people is being served with just 26MW from the national grid. How would Ekiti State government improve on this?
The worrisome state of power supply in Ekiti State was why I led a state delegation to visit TCN office in Abuja recently following the directive of Governor Fayemi Kayode. Energy supply has been taken away from the purview of the state governments. There is a limit to what the state government can do, although it would have loved to invest in power infrastructure. There are a lot of limitations hence we are calling on the relevant bodies to do their job. The TCN, for instance, is supposed to build the transmission infrastructure that would evacuate power to the state. In the past four years there has not been any activity from TCN in Ekiti State. We are happy with the assurance coming from TCN management that they will begin to work with us. We have sought their cooperation. It was the first time in recent time the Ekiti State government sent a high powered delegation to them to discuss about power infrastructure need. So, there is a new dawn in Ekiti State. Within the next few months, the people of the state will see an improvement in power supply.
Did TCN give you a specific date or time frame that they would start the project?
No, they did not. But, you know that this project is massive. 330kva substation is a massive project. They assured us that the station will be in Ekiti State. But, in the meantime, there are palliatives. They have assured us that they will begin to work on immediately to improve power supply in the state, but, not to the state at which we want. But, it’s okay. This is the first time we are meeting them after the governor’s first meeting with them. I think we are moving in the right direction. Very soon, we may be working together with TCN. I am sure the gaps would be filled in terms of power infrastructure in Ekiti State.
What measures would the government put in place to cushion the effects of epileptic supply in the state pending when this project is accomplished?
This is just a part of it, this is power from the grid. We will still engage the distribution company, that is Benin DISCO, on how to play their own part. As we speak, over 50 communities are under served in Ekiti State and over 120 communities are yet to be connected to the grid. The state government is willing to support the distribution company to improve on their network provided the Benin DISCO is ready to work with us, to partner with us. We are also looking at other means of power generation, like renewable energy, solar, small hydro and other source of power generation that can meet the needs of rural communities on the immediate terms.
What is your general assessment of the state of infrastructure in Ekiti State?
Sincerely speaking, things have gone for the worse in the past four years. You will recall that in 2014, PDP government took over the affairs in Ekiti State. It seems as if the clock was wound back because most of the infrastructure inherited from the first term of Dr Fayemi was not maintained. They were allowed to decay, may be for political convenience of the past administration. So, we can say there are a lot of infrastructure gaps in Ekiti State that this present administration is ready to tackle in the area of roads, water and virtually all other areas. This administration is working to ensure that those gaps are filled and the people will begin to feel the impact of this administration
Is Ekiti State government open for private sector participation?
Yes, part of the strategy of the ministry is to engage the private sector. To tell you the importance of private sector involvement, Governor Fayemi has a Special Adviser on Public Private Partnership (PPP). This is to tell you the importance the governor places on private investment in infrastructure development. The state government alone cannot do it because the gap is wide and the enabling environment is there now. We have a governor that is reasonable, loves his people, that can be trusted by investors. A lot of investors are coming in and more are still welcome to invest in Ekiti State to help fill the infrastructure gap through PPP.
Governor Kayode recently declared a state of emergency on open defecation. To what extent would people in rural areas comply with this?
You know eradication of open defecation will first start with advocacy for some people to see the health implications of what they are doing. The advocacy will be aggressive to educate people. The government is ready to invest in sanitation infrastructure to ensure that people have alternative. There are a lot of rural areas in some Local Governments, for example Ekiti West Local Government; all the rural communities there are 100 percent clean of open defecation, even when urban people are still practising it. Those two local governments were pilot projects for European Union and all the rural areas are 100 percent free from open defecation. So, it is achievable even easier with rural communities.
So, is this too open to public private partnership?
Yes, all are open to public private partnership. The state’s sanitation sector is open for public partnership.
How would you describe governor John Kayode Fayemi?
Dr. John Kayode Fayemi is a cerebral leader. I would describe him as a leader who has the love of his people at heart, who works day and night to ensure that the image of the state is put right according to the mantra of the administration. He is a blessing to the people of the state. Even with his recent nomination as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF). That is to tell you that he is a governor that commands respect of his colleagues and that will rob positively on the state.
What do you think his new position as NGF chairman portends for the people of Ekiti State?
First, it is an ego thing for a governor to be the NGF chairman. Ekiti people can now raise their shoulder high as against what we had before when people make mockery of us as scapegoats. But, with the coming on board of Dr Fayemi, Ekiti people can now raise their heads high with respect across the country. So, it is more of image and prestige thing to us. Being the NGF chairman, we are all proud. I am so proud to be called an Ekiti man now. Aside that, other benefits may follow. But to me, the most important thing is the positive image that goes with it.
Does it have any economic benefit or any tourism benefit to Ekiti State?
No, I mean being the NGF chairman has little to do with all those. It is the policy of government that will create the enabling environment for investors to come. Being the NGF chairman will not translate to economic or tourism development. It is the strategy of the government, which is already in place, which is already working that will bring about economic development.