PHCN’s investors grumble over assets handover

PHCN16 September 2013, Abuja – Investors in the Power Holding Company, PHCN, successor firms are grumbling. They are yet to take over the companies after paying the bid price on August 21.

The modalities for their takeover of the firms spread across the country are still being worked out. Besides, labour issues are yet unresolved.

“The entire arrangement is unclear,” an official of one of the investing firms said at the weekend.

The companies, which paid N358.04 billion into government coffers, are: West Power and Gas, the preferred bidder for the Eko Distribution Company; NEDC/KEPCO, Ikeja Distribution Company; 4Power Consortium, Port Harcourt Distribution Company; Vigeo Consortium, Benin Distribution Company; Aura Energy, Jos Distribution Company; and Kann Consortium, AbujaDistribution Company.

Others are: Integrated Energy Distribution and Marketing Company, the preferred bidder for both the Ibadan and Yola Distribution Companies; Sahelian Power, Kano Distribution Company, Transcorp/Woodrock Consortium, Ughelli Power Plc; Amperion, Geregu Power Plc; Mainstream Energy Limited, Kainji Power Plc; and CMEC/EUAFRIC Energy JV, which made part-payment for the acquisition of Sapele Power Plc.

The pending issues which the new owners will table before the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, tomorrow in Abuja, are inability of government to pay the severance package of the PHCN workers and failure to pay their full pension to the administrators.

The National Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, is yet to come up with the methodology for defining tariff and the transition market, among other issues.

Mr Ransom Owan, Chairman, Round Table Committee of the companies that bought PHCN firms, said government would regulate the electricity tariffs to protect consumer’s right.

Owan told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Port Harcourt yesterday that electricity prices were controlled and governed by NERC as the protector of the consumer.

He said the new PHCN owners would treat the consumers as “kings’’ since they stand to pay for the industry’s financial responsibilities.

“Why won’t the consumer be king when generation, transmission and distribution of power are paid for by the consumer through rates that are controlled,’’ Owan said.

The chairman said the new electricity owners were not expected to exceed the prescribed regulated price by the commission.

He urged consumers to remain confident as their interest would be protected in the regulation of tariffs.

Owan also said all existing employees of PHCN would be paid off 100 per cent by the Federal Government in line with labour unions demand.

He said the new owners of PHCN also had an agreement with the government to retain some PHCN employees for a period of six months for continuity.

“After being paid off by the Federal Government, the new electricity firms would take over from where government has stopped and pay the retained staff for the next six months,” he said.

Owan said retention of some staff would enable the new owners build up the business and try to turn it around for the benefit of the country.

He said the management of PHCN would continue its work with the equipment on ground, adding that the company had 60 per cent of the shares while the Federal Government still owns 40 per cent.

Former President, Senior Staff Association of the defunct National Electric Power Authority, Mr Godwin Ifenacho, said the reforms’ objectives might not be achieved unless urgent steps are taking to address the loopholes in the privatisation process.

Ifenacho said government had failed to provide a clear cut programmes on the handing over.

He said: “It is disheartening to note that there are problems on the handing over process despite the fact that the companies after they have fulfilled their own side of the deal.

“The BPE appears not ready to handover assets to PHCN’s successor companies, hence the problems we are having. Why has the government not paid the severance package in full? What is delaying it? Does that mean that the government does not have enough money to pay the workers? Are there facilities on ground for the firms to start on a clean slate? These are the questions the government must answer to win the confidence of Nigerians that have been expecting improved electricity”.

He said the government would be setting a bad precedent if it failed to allow the private operators to start on a strong footing.

– The Nation

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