By Victor Ikhatalor
There are parts of the Country that when you say – “Show me-Show me”, they know it means : “the more you look the less you see”. The Power(Electricity) sector in Nigeria, from NEPA, to PHCN, and now the GENCOs and DISCOs; have been steeped in “show me-show me” .
From their inception the Discos have been dogged by – the “mistrustful atmosphere”.From battles with Labour Unions ,to allegations that Power assets were handed over to government officials and cronies while bypassing more competent firms; it has been an unending tale. Some commentators have gone as far as to allude a conspiracy in Discos deliberately not metering customers.
The now exorcised contentious fixed charge which has been referred to by consumers as “illegal and extortionary” , continued estimated billings and failure to supply pre-paid meters have been met with displeasure and ire by Nigerians. Claims that the Discos are fleecing Nigerians by making undue profit from inefficient service delivered and collecting free money for service not rendered has been vehement.
In October,2013, the Chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Dr. Sam Amadi, speaking on behalf of the government stated that – “The new PHCN successor companies should see metering of all their customers immediately they take over ownership of the PHCN companies as their major priority to avoid bills estimation”. He said this,while speaking at a two-day workshop organised by the NERC for the successor companies and other stakeholders in Abuja, adding that arbitrary billing by power firms would not be tolerated..
This is 2016 and the “first line charge of metering customers have been epileptic at best in its implementation”. Notwithstanding the challenges of the Discos, they must take up the gauntlet and urgently go into overdrive to meter customers.Until such a time as this is done substantially and electricity efficiency is improved it will be remiss to apply increments of any kind under any disguise.
It has not been all bad and can indeed be better.The Discos have been a breath of fresh air and have done enough even now to substantiate my premise that -“Government has no business being in business”. If only for the customer service delivery alone that has been greatly improved,at least from Ikeja electric,which I can attest to,it can only get better but all stakeholders must do their part.
Government must not let the Discos carry the ball alone.The Discos face dire “operational challenges”.The principal component in the non-realization of the supposed gains of the privatisation of the power sector is revenue and funding challenges.
In December 2015, at an interactive session called by the Senate Committee on Privatization, Director General Bureau of the BPE, Mr. Benjamin Dikki, defended the lapses in the operations of the Discos and Gencos saying they only get between 70 and 80 per cent of what they generate and hence find it difficult to recoup their investments.
He put the blame on government on the power plants’ inefficiency,stating that government had failed to keep to the terms of agreement it reached with power firms.Dikki, listed such agreements to include government’s pledge to provide subsidy of N50 billion annually for two years to the investors, a situation he said had made it impossible for them to accrue revenues.
Government inaction has made it difficult to hold the power firms accountable for their inability to meet the set targets. “If you tell them they are not meeting targets, they also will say these are the reasons,” Dikki, was quoted as saying.
Last I checked, ”Government MDAs were owing the DisCOS almost N60 Billion, and you have to ask yourself how any struggling business can make any headway being owed that kind of money”. Government should start by mandating all MDAs to pay up after all they do have budgets, don’t they?
Government should realise that the power sector is not just a business issue, but also a development issue.It is imperative therefore that as partners,government and the Discos must pool their resources and synchronize their road map.This is not a short term venture.It should be clear though that the People are not ready and should not be made to bear the burden of their “Omissions and Commissions”
Founder of “The MyTribeNigeria Initiative”
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