FEDERAL Government has pledged that it will substantially reduce the debts owed to the power sector operators, one it claimed was inherited from the government agencies in the last administration, adding that the Debt Management Office, DMO, has been notified of this, as payments would be made before the year runs out. The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who made this statement while fielding questions during the robust interactive sessions involving a four-member group of discussants: Private Sector Operators, Civil Society Groups, Journalists and Politicians recently in Abuja, recalled that the various departments and agencies of government, including the Ministry of Defence, have been notified of the intention to wound down the debts. “We must lead by example as a government. If we ask people to pay their bills, then we must pay what we owe”, he said. In a statement signed by Special Adviser on Communication, Hakeem Bello, Fashola disclosed that his Ministry was now focusing on increasing transmission of power through the Kaduna- Kano-Katsina-Calabar-Ikot Ekpene transmission line, saying it would be included among some of the transmission lines to be concluded this year. According to him, repairs on the collapsed Ugwuanyi transmission line would be completed in August this year to add additional 1,000MW to the National Grid, adding that in terms of the system collapses that had occurred, they were largely triggered off by shortage of power supply to the systems in order to avoid damage. He also said Federal Government has started increasing the store of gas in various parts of the country, especially in the Eastern Region and Western Axis. This is done to ensure supply to the gas- powered electricity generating plants that supplies 70 percent across the country. Addressing vandalism, he said 23 out of the 26 Power Plants being powered by gas, has been affected in recent time by militants in the oil producing region of the Niger Delta, who have been sabotaging the gas pipelines that convey the commodity to the Power plants located in various parts of the country. For this reason, he said Nigerians “must take ownership of the pipelines and secure them as a collectively owned public utility. “I wonder why some citizens would engage themselves in destroying a public utility built for their use, adding, I don’t know of any nation which has to protect gas pipelines built in people’s interest. “We must find another way to ventilate our anger. It doesn’t make sense to me that government or indeed somebody else, must be paying somebody to look after a facility built in his interest”, the Minister said.

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