Mixed reactions trail emergence of successful bidders for PHCN firms

Chima Ugwuanyi

18 October 2012, Sweetcrude, ENUGU – MIXED reactions have trailed announcement earlier this week of the successsful companies that won the technical and financial bid for the eleven Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, distribution companies, DISCOs.

Chairman, Technical Committee of the National Council on Privatisation, Mr. Atedo Peterside, unveiled the sucessful bidders, Monday, in Abuja.

Industry watchers in Enugu, the original capital of Nigeria’s South East zone, agree that private investors, as have been selected for the DISCOs, will bring better management to the privatised companies with a view to making profits, but they question the calibre and integrity of the buyers selected for the companies.

“Some of these persons have played key roles in the oil sector and electricity distribution all these years, without credible records of achievements,” an observer said, adding that though, government will continue to handle the transmission (or upstream) section of the power sector, fears are that the private investors might not be able to succrssfully manage the downstrean (or distribution) aspect f the buiness.

On the possibility of mass disengagement of the PHCN staff, a management staff said “there was no need fearing the obvious”, but expressed hope that all labour issues relating to pay-off package was being discussed between the workers union and government.

The source said private nvestors can not take over the companies until all government liabilities to staff are settled.

The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, the source said, has already sent out warning signal to government on the matter.

He declared, “if we have to go, I know they will pay us well. Many people have to go. Indeed, government itself should have, long ago, undertaken staff audit, to weed out many who have been old, and incapacitated in one way or the other”.

The source advised the new investors to take the engineering section of the power industry seriously as many hands would be needed in that area, to ensure efficiency, adding that power generation, transmission and distribution are 80% engineering.

He frowned at the recent flooding of the industry with marketing personnel, who are mostly females.

The source was, however, optimistic that the new private investors would come in with new technologies such as electronic meter reading and recharging systems, even using hand phones.

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  • Why are we not surprised. Government has as usual handled the privatisation of entities of the PHCN in a manner that is clearly at variance with acceptable norms in more developed climes. However, we are happy to see and hear that government is taking itself out of the power supply and distribution business – because it is the first critical step to enthroning private sector spirit of free enterprise that drives profitability and efficiency. The new owners would either shape up or ship out. When it rains, no matter how long it does, water must find its level.