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Nigeria’s Electricity Sector And Bundle Of Paradoxes

Nigeria’s Electricity Sector And Bundle Of Paradoxes

Nigeria’s Electricity Sector And Bundle Of Paradoxes—By; Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

I read with much relief two expositions on the electricity crisis in Nigeria. And I must confess that any interested observer of the critical appraisal of the issue will agree that those submissions were factual and patriotically expressed. While the first came from a reader who reacted to my initial intervention ‘Still on Nigeria’s Electricity Crisis’, the other and very revealing submission came from the government quarters-the Delta State Commissioner for Energy, Engr. Jonathan Ukodhiko.

Nigeria’s Electricity Sector And Bundle Of Paradoxes

Beginning with the first, it reads; the manifest failure of the poorly executed power sector privatization by the discredited Jonathan administration is a pointer to the root cause of our problems…… over centralized political structure. It is the cause of the unprecedented insecurity in the country, decaying infrastructures, arrested development etc etc. Until we restructure this nation politically and economically, meaningful economic development will continue to be elusive.

On his part, Jonathan Ukodhiko, the Delta State Commissioner for Energy while Speaking to journalists in Asaba at the weekend, , deplored the continued rip off of communities through estimated billings by the Benin Electricity Distribution Company, (BEDC) noting that most rural communities were groaning under huge electricity bills as a result of estimated billings.

According to him, you can’t continue to give people estimated billing, provide a bulk metering system for the communities so that they can pay for what they consume.“I found out that most of the rural areas are a big mess; even places with grids have no light. Why is there no light? BEDC said “It is because most of the people are not paying.“What do you mean by these people not paying? You cannot continue giving people estimated bills and expect them to pay. “So we are discussing with BEDC to meter these communities.

At this point, the state Commissioner dropped a bombshell.

Let’s listen to him; “For a fact, BEDC does not even have the power to distribute. As we know the whole country is generating about 2500 megawatts, which is been shared to the whole of the country, even at that, BEDC is not even paying or buying from the GENCOs maybe because the people are not paying.“What they do, is that the little that they get, they are giving it to the people that can pay in industrial areas, towns and oil states that they know can pay.” He concluded.

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What does all this mean to us as Nigerians?

Personally, it reminds of the dust created by the fracas, by the ill fated privatization of the electricity sector under President Goodluck Jonathan ‘led Federal Government which gave a clear and early indication of inabilities of the companies that won the bids to take over and manage effectively the distribution centres.

Take as illustration, while some were still sourcing for funds to complete payment to enable them take over their new companies, some of the host states, going by media reports, rejected the consortium of companies located in their areas. The Governors of Edo, Delta, Ekiti and Ondo, under the Benin distribution centre, for example rejected the result of the privatization bid that presented Power Consortium, as the preferred bidder. The governors maintained their stand that the security of the company that won the bid cannot be guaranteed in their states.

Adams Oshiomole of Edo, Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo, Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta and Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, held a joint press conference two days after the results were announced, in Abuja, to denounce the exercise  insisting that they would not allow Vigeo power Consortium take over the distribution centre on whose bid their company had invested heavily in.

The governors insisted that “the process that produced Vigeo was fraudulent and unacceptable” and argued that the company had no capacity to run the distribution centre efficiently to give the people of their states the desired results in power supply. Meanwhile, the NCP has stood its ground by releasing a list of approved preferred and reserve bidders for the 10 distribution companies and six generating companies. The list showed Vigeo as the preferred bidder of Benin distribution Centre.

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Today, bearing in mind the above declaration by the Commissioner, it is obvious that these Governors (former/serving) have not only been vindicated; rather, their fears expressed many years ago can no longer be described as unfounded.

Echoing the same sentiment, the rejection of this earlier warning by the then Federal Government, has reinforced the believe in some quarters that here in Nigeria, once a direction is chosen by an average Nigerian leader, instead of examining the process meticulously and set the right course; one that will allow us to overcome storm and reach safety before we can progress and achieve our goals, many obstinately persist with the execution of such plans regardless of a minor or major shift in circumstance.

To show that we did not draw any lesson from the past mistakes, the National Council on Privatization (NCP), in 2021,   a report noted, approved the sale of five GenCos in the Country through a competitive bidding process. On a similar note, the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), going by media reports, called on prospective investors to express interest in purchasing 100 percent shareholding.

It was reportedly gathered that the five power GenCos constructed under the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) listed for sale are located in Kogi, Edo, Cross River, Ondo and Ogun. According to reports, the five generation plants include Geregu Generation Company Ltd with gross installed capacity at ISO condition of 506 Megawatts (MW); Benin (Ihovbor) Generation Company Ltd with 507 MW; Calabar Generation Limited with 634MW; Omotosho Generation Limited with 513MW and Olorunsogo Generation Company Limited with 754MW. The report also indicated that the sale was in continuation of the ongoing reforms of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry said to be consistent with the Nigerian Electric Power Policy and Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act, 2005. Prospective investors would therefore be expected to submit separate Expressions of Interest (EoI) for each GenCos.

Aside from this author, there are also those who might wish to ask; why the NCP failed to consider as important the warnings/concerns raised by  Oshiomole, Mimiko,  Uduaghan and Fayemi?  Or at the very least investigates their observations/grievances?

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Why has the present administration, on its part,  neither revitalized the nation’s power/energy sector/ its power supply programme nor  vigorously pursued the expansion of electricity generation and distribution up to 40,000 megawatts in four to eight years as previously promised in its draft manifesto?  But continued in the old order of Nigerian Electric Power Policy and Electric Power Sector Reform (EPSR) Act, 2005?

While answer(s) to the above questions are expected from relevant authorities/agencies, two realities stand out.

One truth must be told to the effect that as a nation, we have carried out greater devotion and adherence to maintenance of old structures, policies and principles in the sector rather than engineering real policies that will guarantee sustainable development of electricity and boost energy supply in our country. Secondly, the present crisis in the sector was created by the Federal Government, exacerbated by the Federal Government and can only be managed/solved by the Federal Government.

So, using the above scenario as a dashboard to correct this present challenge, it is  important as a nation to openly admit and adopt within the sector both structural and managerial changes/approaches that impose more leadership discipline than conventional, and create a sector that is less extractive but more innovative  in operation.

This is important not for political consideration but to end the bundle of paradoxes in the sector and grow our economy.

 

Utomi, is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), A Lagos-Based Non Governmental Organization (NGO). He could be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

 

Disclaimer: “The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of The Genius Media. The Genius Media  will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.”
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