Friday, May 30, 2008

All About Yar'Adua's Media Chat

My Plan for Power Emergency, By Yar’Adua
•’Why electoral reforms, rule of law and N’Delta are central’
By Deji Elumoye with agency report, 05.30.2008

President Umaru Yar'Adua yesterday in Abuja said the plan to declare a state of emergency in the power sector would require adequate preparation and wide consultation to get an effective result.
Yar'Adua while fielding questions on a live television programme on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) said power was critical to the development of the country.
The President also expressed confidence that the 20-man Electoral Reform Committee would complete its assignment before the end of the year.
He said a state of emergency in the power sector would only yield results with details on the failure of the sector, and a blueprint for the future.
“It is not a simple issue. We need to have a national plan that includes an emergency legislation for the sector,” he said.
Yar'Adua said a National Energy Council, headed by Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, was inaugurated last August to do a due diligence on the sector, with a view to understanding the depth of the problems.
He said the Energy Council had concluded its assignment and forwarded its report to him on the findings in the sector.
The president said the report would be discussed by various stakeholders, which includes the National Council of States, the NLC, governors and the National Assembly.
He said the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Civil Society Organisations would also be consulted to make their input before the declaration of the emergency.
“The importance is that by the end of the emergency, this country will be sufficient in power supply,” he said.
Emergency legislation, according to the president, will create enabling laws for the period of the emergency and beyond.
“People also have to change the way they relate with the sector in paying their bills,” he stressed.
Yar'Adua said an emergency court would be instituted to try people who foiled regulations in the power sector as a way to change the mind set on the power sector.
The president said about 6,000 megawatts would be generated in the sector by the end of 2009, adding that the trend would be onward until the nation reached self-sufficiency.
Yar'Adua said the private sector would play a key role in buoying the power sector, alongside the states and the local councils.
He said the federal government, working with the states and local councils, would have to use a part of the excess crude oil fund to reform the power sector during the emergency period.
The president said efforts were already being made to ensure an improvement in gas supply, which would further improve power supply.
The President emphasised that the committee headed by the former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Muhammed Uwais will submit its report to government this year.
He said the committee is currently touring the six geo-political zones of the federation "with a view to collating the views of the generality of the people towards the electoral reforms."
According to him, at the end of the exercise, the committee will come up with a comprehensive electoral reforms in the country.
Yar'Adua said he is determined to leave a legacy of credible electoral process and rule of law.
He said on eof the challenges facing his administration at inception was the lack of associate respect for the rule of law in the country.
"One of the greatest national problems is the breakdown of the respect for the rule of law and order," he said.

...Cabinet Shake-up on the Cards
By Deji Elumoye and Sherif Balogun, 05.30.2008

President Umaru Yar'Adua yesterday hinted of plans to effect changes in the machinery of government with the planned shake up of the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The media had been awash recently with reports of the planned cabinet reshiffle by President Yar'Adua.
When asked the question during the media chat to mark the first anniversary of his administration,Yar'Adua said there is the strong possibility that a cabinet shake up is imminent at the federal level.
According to him,"there is the probability of effecting some changes in the cabinet as presently constituted,it is true there is that probability."
He said the changes would come in terms of not only those heading ministries but that the structures of the ministries may be affected in the expected changes.
He said with one year gone out of his four-year term Nigerians should expect better things in the years ahead adding that having laid a solid foundation his government would now be ready to impact positively on the lives of Nigerians.
"Nigerians should be rest assured that this government is committed to their well being and should therefore look forward to very exciting time especially in the next 365 days," he said.
Commenting on the anti corruption move of his administration,Yar'Adua said his government will continue to pursue the assignment with all vigour.
"The issue of corruption, we have been able to approach it from the right perspective as we have been able to face the reality on the ground very squarely.The EFCC,ICPC and other anti graft agencies have continued to function within the ambit of the law," he said.
He debunked claims that the administration is favouring is a particular section of the country with appointments into positions and said he has always filled vacant positions based on merit.
"Appointments made so far are usually based on merit.Take for example the nine parastatals under the federal ministry of information, only two are from the North while the other heads are from the South even at that those appointments were based purely on merit," he said.
Speaking on his predecessor,Yar'Adua eulogised Obasanjo who he said "met Nigeria nine years ago on the verge of collapse. He did his best for this great nation although there may be lapses."
The president said that the current spate of probes going on in the National Assembly was not his making, explaining that the legislature, as a separate arm of government, had the powers to do what it was doing.
“I am waiting to see the outcome of what they are doing and I cannot predict what it will turn out to be,” Yar'Adua added.
On whether he would later set up a full-scale probe of the past government, Yar'Adua said the outcome of the current National Assembly probe would determine his next line of action.
The National Assembly recently set up committees to investigate activities in the power and petroleum sectors as well as the FCT in the last eight years.
On the Niger Delta Crisis, the President said all hands were on deck to amicably resolve the crisis in the nearest future.
According to him, "the federal government will soon convene a summit of all stakeholders that will take proper look at the problem of the Niger Delta and we hope to use dialogue in discussing with the militants and other leaders of the region so as to achieve the ultimate goal of holding the summit which is to allow peace reign in the Niger Delta region," he said.

‘Africa Still Centrepiece of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy’

President Umaru Yar'Adua said yesterday in Abuja that Africa still remained the centrepiece of Nigeria's foreign policy.
In a televised question-and-answer session forum tagged “Media Chat'', Yar'Adua said Nigeria was working to provide leadership in efforts to bring Africa together.
The forum was organised to mark Yar'Adua's first year in office and also to coincide with a national holiday in commemoration of the country's return to democracy on May 29, 1999 after 16 years of unbroken military rule.
Yar'Adua said that efforts were being made to integrate the continent economically before political integration.
On the recent attacks on Nigerians and other Africans resident in South Africa, the president down-played calls for retaliation, saying it was unnecessary.
Yar'Adua said the South African government had taken adequate measures by deploying its military personnel to the troubled areas.
Yar'Adua also said that Nigeria's stand on the Zimbabwean election crisis was that it should be resolved according to law.
“We cannot come out like the countries of the west to pass judgments,'' he said, adding that Africans would bear the brunt of any violence in Zimbabwe more than westerners.
“Everything that has to be done has to be done according to the law. We do not support violence and we should not follow the temptation to follow it not according to the law,'' he said.
He said "by next week I will be going to South Africa on state visit and will use the opportunity of the visit to resolve the problem through dialogue that will not lead to political disintegration." (NAN)

Exciting times await Nigerians, says Yar'Adua

From Martins Oloja and Madu Onuorah, Abuja

(The Guaridan)

PRESIDENT Umaru Musa Yar'Adua yesterday looked back on his first 365 days in office, identified some achievements, many challenges, but promised that "exciting times await Nigerians."

He however foreclosed any wholesome probe of his predecessor, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo's eight-year rule, saying that the former President did "his best, whether people like it or not."

The President also dismissed the thinking of many Nigerians that he is slow, stating that it is a matter of time before Nigerians appreciate the efforts he is putting towards planning as laying the "solid foundation" for an industrial Nigeria "requires perseverance and commitment."

He also confirmed that there would be a personnel and structural change in the administration very soon, based on the lessons learnt in the last one year of his administration.

On the fight against corruption and the perceived truncation of it on account of the removal of an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman as well as the appointment of a new one, Yar'Adua said he was more interested in building institutions and systems as opposed to personality. "Nations are built on systems and institutions as opposed to personality," he said. "I do not believe in the indispensability of human beings. Only God has the attribute of indispensability. We must put in place a system where every average intelligent Nigerian can run the institutions."

Also, on corruption, he says he is more interested in fighting the root of the problem than the cause. "Here accountability is the word before the act is committed. People confer on themselves authority that is more than what is conferred on them by our laws. But to me, discretionary powers and authority are out. They are the root cause of corruption," Yar'Adua said.

The President, who let out a slight cough intermittently, also spoke extensively on his medical history from 1986 to date said: "I am human. I can fall sick. I can die tomorrow. I can die next month. I can live to be 90... "So there is nothing extraordinary about my being ill." He also lamented the predilection of Nigerians for believing rumours on health instead of information that he himself volunteered. "The last time I went to Germany for medical check up, my office issued a statement on my health, but people did not believe the official statement but the rumours."

Speaking on the controversy over May 29 as Democracy Day taking precedence over Independence Day, which is October I, the President said that for him, October 1, "our National Day, comes first." But for the purposes of its significance as the day of transition to democracy in Nigeria's history, according to Yar'Adua, May 29 is also relevant. "On that day, those of us who want to relax and recharge our batteries can take advantage of the public holiday," he said.

The President also said: "People miss the criminality in the Niger Delta. It has to be dealt with in the coming summit. People are stealing crude oil in the high seas. This can't help the Niger Delta. This criminal activity and bunkering has to be dealt with for the sake of the region."

He also said that before a national emergency is declared in the electricity (power) sector, there would be a national consensus on it so that whatever will be done in that sector would be a "shared project."

In a two-hour live programme tagged: 'Presidential Media Chat' on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) to mark the first anniversary of his administration, President Yar'Adua said that what Nigerians expect from his administration and what he is doing are "to lay a solid foundation and effect reforms to transform this country into an industrial giant."

This focus, he said, is what is facing "the direction of his government. And they are quite challenging, which involves having a sustainable democratic culture anchored on credible elections and commitment to the rule of law and maintaining law and order. These are the platforms to building a developed nation. And without political stability, you can't have a developed nation."

Asked if he was going to buy into the on-going probes of his predecessor by the National Assembly and conduct a wholesome probe of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo's administration, the President stated: "frankly speaking, my predecessor met a nation almost on the point of collapse. And during his eight years (in power), he did his best. There could be lapses. But he has done his best, whether people like it or not. For over 30 years, the system had broken down completely. It is between May 29, 1999 and now that attempts are made for proper governance. What the National Assembly is doing, they have the power to do what they are doing. I am waiting for the outcome of their reports. I cannot contemplate what they are going to do. I am waiting just like you. All of us are waiting."

President Yar'Adua described his perceived slowness as "a process of learning. When you work hard and produce plans, it will be 60 per cent of what you want to achieve. If you have a good plan, the implementation goes on smoothly. The problems we have are anchored on lack of respect for rule of law and lack of proper planning. But we are insisting that we must learn. We must take time to produce good plans that will translate to actual achievements. But am not perturbed (by the tag of being seen as slow). Once you are sure of what you are doing and the path you are travelling, it is a matter of time for it to materialise. We have to have a national culture of rule of law. And this respect for rule of law sets out the reference point for everything. The greatest national problem we have and one of the greatest problems facing Nigeria is the breakdown of respect for the rule of law and established procedures. We are learning to tackle the problems sector by sector."

On the seeming delay in declaring an emergency in the power sector, the President said that "to declare an emergency is not as simple as just making a declaration for its own sake. It is having a programme and the benchmarks that would be achieved. And by the end of the emergency, this country would be self-sufficient in the power sector and the problems in the power sector would be solved once and for all."

He added that by the programme of the emergency being planned, "the emergency period will last up till when we produce 10,000 megawatts and have a distribution network that can efficiently distribute this. This will take us to 2011. By the end of 2009, we will have generation of 6,000 megawatts and have a transmission and distribution system with enough integrity to distribute this."

On South Africa, the President noted that the issue of retaliation for the violence against foreigners does not arise as he would be going there next week on a state visit.

No regular power till 2011, says Yar’Adua

By Kayode Ketefe, Mudiaga Affe, Ihuoma Chiedozie and Stanley Opara
(Punch Newspapers)

President Umaru Yar’Adua on Thursday said Nigeria might not have regular power supply until 2011.

Yar’Adua, in a live television presidential media chat to mark his one year in office, gave two reasons why power shortage may persist.

These are non-existent of law to back up the much expected declaration of emergency in the power sector, and the fact that Nigeria had sold all its gas for export.

He said the deals entered into by Nigeria with international oil companies on gas would have to be renegotiated over seven years.

“It is only now that the nation realises the critical importance of gas to the national economy,” Yar’Adua added.

The President, who coughed repeatedly during the two-hour telecast, said the privatisation of the power sector had failed. He however pledged that a large chunk of Nigeria’s savings from oil revenue would be spent on repairing power stations and transmission grid.

The President said that the power sector was too sensitive to declare a state of emergency without having the necessary legislation to back up such a period.

He, however, noted that the plan to declare the state of emergency was still on course just as necessary steps were being taken to implement short and long term measures that would address the problem of electricity.

Yar‘Adua said that the power sector was one of the vital sectors of the economy that would fast-track development and attract more investors into the nation‘s economy.

He said, ”To declare a state of emergency, you must have a clear programme. There should be an emergency legislation that is meant to be in place during the period of the declaration.

”I had in mind that by the time I declare this emergency, the nation should know what the problems are. It has to be okayed by the National Assembly and all other related agencies, state and local governments and all other sectors of the economy.

”The issue must have been exhaustively discussed. So, it is not just a simple issue and by the time we are out of the emergency situation, it is expected that this country will be self- sufficient in the power sector.

”What we are doing is learning how to tackle the sectors one-by-one. That is where the issue of declaring a national emergency in power and energy sectors comes in. This is one of the most critical sectors that needed to be sorted out before we can move forward. I have promised this country that I will declare a national emergency in that sector.

”In August 2007, I set up the National Energy Council and also two committees that will look into the oil and gas sectors. Let me inform the nation that just this week, I received a copy of the power sector reform and had to go through it personally before it is officially presented.”

The President disclosed that as part of the plans, the emergency period would see the sector generating 6,000 megawatts by 2009, and 10, 000 megawatts by 2011.

He said his hope was that 10,000 megawatts would be sufficient for the nation’s needs to a large extent.

He said, ”Again, we will need a legislation that will serve as deterrent to offenders during the period of emergency.”

Reacting to criticisms that he was slow in taking decisions, the President said that he was not disturbed because he was determined to effect a change in the polity.

He explained that the issue of the rule of law was paramount to the sustenance of national development.

He said, ”I believe that what Nigerians expect of this administration and what I am determined and committed to do is to lay a solid foundation that will protect reforms and programmes that will transform this country from an underdeveloped one to a developed nation.

”When I came in, there were certain elements that I recognised very clearly that are key and critical to achieving these objectives and vision, in particular the vision 2020.

”These elements are the ones that can shapen the direction, and they are quite challenging, but if this nation must transform, these challenges must be tackled.”

Dismissing insinuations that he was not serious about tackling corruption, the President said he had ordered the prosecution of officials of the Federal Capital Territory Administration involved in the award of a fraudulent contract that led government to incur debts totaling N80bn.

He said, “Some officials, knowing that there is no appropriation; there is no cash backing, went and signed the contract. The contractors went and started work and then in the contract agreement, it was signed that any certificate of valuation which was not paid within the stipulated period in the contract agreement would attract a certain percentage of interest against the FCTA.

“Signing these types of agreement is against the extant laws of the Federal Government. The Bureau for Public Procurement law explicitly makes it illegal to award contracts without appropriation, or cash backing.

”What did we have? By the end of that, there were certificates worth N35bn, but the FCTA settled as and when due. It attracted an interest of N45bn.

“I have asked the FCTA to bring those who are responsible to be prosecuted.”

On his health, the President said he was amused by rumours that had gone round about his medical condition, including rumours that he had died.

“To me, this was amusing. Just like I told some foreign journalists, it is just a medical condition. Anybody can fall sick. I am an ordinary human being like other Nigerians. I can fall sick, I can die; I can die tomorrow; I can die next month; I can live to be 90. I can not guarantee how long I want to live and when I am going to die,” he said.

How I fell sick, by Yar’adua (Daily Trust)
30-05-2008 03:16

PresidentPresident Umaru Musa Yar’adua gave a com-prehensive explanation of his much-talked about illnesses last night, saying it was a simple matter that was somehow twisted and given a political meaning. Explaining why he left for Germany soon after signing the 2008 Appropriation Act last month, Yar’adua said he actually suffered from malaria for four days, which did not abate despite his taking of Metacalfin tablets administered by his doctor.

He said after four days, his doctor went and brought another doctor from the Julius Berger Clinic in Abuja, where Yar’adua said he maintained a medical file since 1986. He said the Julius Berger doctor then administered to him a new anti-malarial drug, which quickly took care of the fever and he has not suffered from it again since then. However, the president said when he woke up in the morning, his face was swollen, and the doctors said he suffered an allergic reaction from the new anti-malarial drug.

Alhaji Umaru Yar’adua said he was given other drugs to bring down the swell and when they failed to do so after some days, he went to the National Hospital, Abuja for some tests. It was there that he was advised to go to the German hospital where he normally treats himself, he said. The president said when he got to Germany, no specific thing was done for the swollen face because it subsided on its own, so he decided instead to undergo his normal medical checks at the hospital. He said he had been doing so since 1986.

The president expressed surprise that even though his Special Adviser on Communication Olusegun Adeniyi had issued a statement prior to his departure to Germany explaining this, rumours took over and alleged all kinds of things as the reason for his illness.

Yar’adua said the same thing happened last year, when he suddenly fell sick during the general election campaign and rumours made the rounds about his alleged sickness.

According to him, he had been involved in vigorous campaigns for the PDP presidential primaries and had gone on to campaign for the general elections when he suffered from a cold. Yar’adua said when doctors examined him, they said his main blood vessel, the aorta, was greatly swollen and could burst at any time.

He said the doctors described the situation as critical and ordered for an air ambulance to fly him to Germany, even though the only thing he himself felt at the time was a cold. He said when he got to his German hospital, he found that surgeons were waiting to conduct an emergency operation on him, but they decided to do a check first. When the CT scan result came in an hour later, he said, the German doctors said there was a misdiagnosis, that in fact his aorta was normal.

President Yar’adua said he was therefore surprised and amused when rumours spread that he was unconscious and some even said he was dead. "I am just a normal person, like everyone else," the president said. He said like every other person, he can fall sick, he can recover, or he can die tomorrow, next week, or he can live to be 90 years old. "I cannot guarantee anything about that because it is in the hands of God," he said.

My battle with ill-health – Yar’Adua
(Sun Newspapers)
Friday, May 30, 2008

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua last night took the wind out of the sail on the raging controversy over his health status.
In a two-hour live presidential media chat to commemorate Democracy Day, the president explained how he had been managing his ill-health, dismissing widespread fears that he was medically unfit.

Yar’Adua had a question thrown at him by one of the interviewers, who said one of the reservations Nigerians had about the seeming inactivity in governance was the ill-health of the president.

Responding to the question, President Yar’Adua regretted that the issue of his health had been politicized. He then opened up on his health condition, explaining that what took him to Germany last month was reactions from a drug earlier given to him by his doctors for the treatment of malaria.

Said he: “I had a reaction to a drug which was the case. I had malaria, I took Metakelfin, it did not go, I got my doctor who brought another doctor from JB Clinic and they gave me a new drug, the malaria went, but the following day, I woke up with a swollen face.

“So they gave me what they called term steroid, it did not work and I went to the National Hospital where they ran test and they decided that I go to my doctors in Germany. I have my record there since 1986. In 2000 I had kidney problem. My record is there. I got there and in three days my face became normal.

“So you see, the press statement by my Special Adviser (Communications) was not believed, same thing the other time, when I was campaigning then during my campaign they ran an x-ray and the doctors said my aorta was inflated and they termed it critical, because they said it can burst anytime. That was how I was referred to the hospital in Germany and they brought an air ambulance because they wanted a doctor to be with me.

“When I got there, they prepared the theatre for a major operation, but they decided to run another test and shortly after the result was out and they said my aorta was normal.
“It is amusing because you can have a medical problem anytime. I am an ordinary person and I am as ordinary as any other Nigerian. I can fall sick, I can get well, I can die, I can die tomorrow, I can live to be 90, I am pleased to be president, but I am an ordinary person.”

Speaking on former President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Yar’Adua gave him kudos saying his predecessor did his best to put Nigeria back on track.

According to him, Obasanjo met the country on the verge of collapse and he did his best in eight years to put the country on track, admitting that there might be excesses in the process of putting things right.
The probe of some activities of Obasanjo’s administration by the National Assembly, Yar’Adua said, was within the lawmakers’ constitutional power, adding that he could not envisage any outcome of the exercise. “I am also waiting for the outcome of their activities as any other person is waiting for it.”
The president spoke extensively on the plans by his administration to rescue the nation from the doldrums and restore hope in the citizenry.

According to him, lack of respect for law and order was one of the greatest national problems, pointing out that his administration had set out to guarantee entrenchment of the rule of law as well as ensure political stability with the on-going electoral reforms.

The president who also identified the lack of planning as a critical problem in the nation’s development efforts said tackling the problem would set the tone for development in the various sectors of the economy, including electricity, petroleum and gas, iron and steel and cement. According to him, those sectors would drive all other sectors of the economy.

On why he had not declared national emergency in the power sector as promised, Yar’Adua said, “To declare it one must have a clean focus on what should be done. There should be emergency legislation to govern the period of emergency. When I said so, I had in mind that by the time I declare it, the nation will know exactly what it entails, the objectives, the guidelines and how it is going to be financed.”
According to him, when declared, the power sector emergency would last till the time the government was able to produce 10,000mw of electricity and to have a transmission that would be able to generate and distribute the electricity. “That will take us to about 2011. We hope that by the end of 2009, we’ll have 6,000mw and distribution and transmission system with enough integrity to distribute the electricity generated. By 2011 the emergency period would have been over.”

He listed the elements of the power emergency to include national effort at financing the emergency. “The nation has to agree to dedicate a certain percentage of the Federation Account to fund the power sector. The other alternative is for the Federal, state and local governments to dedicate part of the excess crude account for the power sector during the emergency period. The other aspect of the emergency is the need for emergency laws to try offenders who vandalise transmission lines and those who fail to pay tariffs, etc.”

On funding of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the president said that the Federal Government had done its best to ensure adequate funding of the commission, though the issue of security in the region had been a stumbling block.

His words: “As regards funding to NDDC, the government has done its best. There is Federal Government intervention in oil producing areas. There is issue of security which is affecting our projections. The Office of the Vice President is looking after this aspect. The initiative to dialogue with the militants is bearing some fruits.”

He said the agitations of people of the Niger Delta would be dealt with during the national summit on the Niger Delta. While admitting that some of the issues would need constitutional amendment to deal with, he condemned the activities of the militants as criminal.
On the attack on Nigerians in South Africa, the president said retaliation was out of it, saying the problem should be resolved through dialogue.

According to him, Nigeria must provide leadership towards integration of the sub-regions within the African continent just as he assured that what were supposed to be done were being done to resolve the problem.

While hinting of a Federal cabinet reshuffle, Yar’Adua urged Nigerians to look forward to an exciting time in the next one year when the plans his administration had made in the last 12 months began to yield fruits.

I have kidney problem - Yar’Adua
From Idowu Samuel and Akin Durodola - 30.05.2008

PRESIDENT Umaru Yar’Adua on Thursday finally opened up on the state of his health as he admitted having a kidney problem. The President made this known during a live telecast of a special presidential media chat organised to mark Democracy Day and one year in office.

He also stated that Nigerians had been exaggerating his health condition and that it had been politicised. Yar’Adua said his last trip to Germany was to treat a reaction he had to malaria drugs administered to him by his doctors in Nigeria, adding that the effects of the drugs were so severe that they made his face to swell up.

He expressed dismay that Nigerians ignored a clear statement made on the state of his health by his Special Adviser on Communication, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, and chose to believe the rumours peddled about his health.

“Before I travelled to Germany, my Special Adviser on Communication, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, issued a statement on what was wrong. His statement was clear enough. “In the statement, he said I had a reaction to drugs administered to me to treat malaria. That was the case. I had had malaria for four days and then took drugs, and it did not go.

“My doctor got another doctor from Julius Berger Clinic. They came and gave me a new drug. I took it and the malaria was gone. The next thing was that my face got swollen up. The doctors said it was the effect of the drugs.

“I went to the National Hospital and a test was conducted. It was from there that a decision was taken that I should go to Germany. I was in Germany in 2006 because I had my medical record there. And in 2000, I had kidney problem. I decided to go to Germany to have my check-up.
“The interesting thing is that people did not believe a statement

that was officially issued, and they did not believe what was officially issued, why did they believe rumour?” President Yar’Adua also mentioned a similar rumour about his state of health during the last presidential campaign when he said he had cold and had to travel to Germany for immediate check-up.

Yar’Adua told the nation that only God knew how long he would live as the President of Nigeria. He said, “I can die tomorrow, I may die next month and I may live up to 90. I can not guarantee how long I will live. And I am not a super human being.”

Nigeria power shortage to persist (BBC)

Nigerians do not get reliable electricity supply
Nigeria will not be able to generate enough electricity for its population until at least 2015, President Umaru Yar'Adua has said.

Speaking live on television, the president answered critics who said he had been slow to address the problem.

Nigeria is the eighth largest exporter of oil but cannot generate enough electricity to meet the needs of its 140 million-strong population.

Before his election, President Yar'Adua promised to take swift action on power.

But three finished gas-fuelled power stations are unable to generate electricity because Nigeria has sold all its gas for export, the president said.

These deals with international oil companies would have to be renegotiated over seven years, he added.

"It is only now that the nation realises the critical importance of gas to the national economy," the president said.

'Failed privatisation'

The president said the nation's privatisation of the power industry had failed.

During the televised press conference with a select group of journalists he declared his intention to spend some of Nigeria's savings from oil earnings on repairing the nation's power stations and transmission grid.

Under the previous administration of Olusegun Obasanjo, the government-run power company was split up so parts of it could be sold.

Nigeria's electricity facts
Currently generates 3500MW
Would need 100,000MW to become an industrialised economy, according to the ex-president
Six power stations begun under the last administration have not been completed
$16bn (£8bn) has so far been spent on the power sector since 1999

Power stations are rotting away unfinished, and imported generator turbines are still in ports unable to be moved years after they were delivered, a parliamentary investigation found in March.

There was no way investors could be attracted to the industry as it was he said.

"Today, still, most of the companies are still publicly owned," President Yar'Adua said.

"Emergency legislation" will be needed to allow the government to spend some of the billions of dollars in oil revenue it has saved in the central bank on power, he said.

For every barrel of oil sold $59 goes to the national budget.

The rest is held in an account which has now swelled to $12 billion.

By law this has to be shared among the state governments.

Health worries

The president coughed constantly through the press conference.

One of the reasons his critics have said he has been slow to act is his deteriorating health.

Last month he was flown to Germany for emergency medical treatment.

"They prepared the operating theatre, all the surgeons were ready," he said.

"But they ran tests on me and said an operation wasn't necessary."

An allergic reaction to a malaria drug was responsible for his illness, he said.

In 2000 he suffered from an unnamed kidney condition, from which he says he has recovered.

He was also flown to Germany for medical treatment in the middle of his election campaign.

"I am just a human being, I could die tomorrow, but I could also live until 90," he told the conference.

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