FG suspends planned review of Electric Sector Reform Act

ERERA Power lines17 December 2013, Abuja – There is an indication that the federal government has put on hold the planned review of some of the provisions in Nigeria’s eight-year-old Electric Power Sector Reform Acts (EPSR) 2005, which was championed by former Minister of State for Power, Hajia Zainab Kuchi.

THISDAY gathered weekend in Abuja that the planned review, which was not approved by the Minister of Power, might have been suspended following its ostensible unacceptability by key operators in Nigeria’s Electricity Supply Industry (NESI).

Kuchi had initiated moves to review the EPSR Act, which gives bearing to government’s reform of Nigeria’s power sector without the knowledge of the substantive Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo.

The junior minister had set up a committee comprising representatives of some agencies in the sector except the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) that possibly worked behind doors to undertake the review.

Sources within the ministry had hinted at that time that the committee worked for three days on a stretch at Bi-Waters Hotel in Nasarawa state to brainstorm on the planned review.

Kuchi was however removed from office in early September by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The planned review of the Act midway into the implementation of its key provisions including the privatisation of successor generation and distribution companies created from the unbundling of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) had prompted the NERC to petition Jonathan to intimate him of the likely implications on the power reform programme.

A power ministry source, who confirmed the development explained that the government might have jettisoned the idea because of the negative effect it would have on the power privatisation.

“I cannot tell you that the plan is out of the way with the exit of the former minister of state because even while it is silent now, there are indications that the people that were involved in the first place are still lurking around and may have been working underground.

Kuchi in response to THISDAY’s exclusive story on the issue, explained that the holistic review was initiated to take care of such issues as electricity theft, which was not addressed in the original Act, but legal experts had insisted that rather than such holistic review, a supplementary amendment would have been appropriate if that was the case, thus raising further suspicion of the underlying objective.

The Act provides a legislative framework for reform of the power sector in accordance with policies ensconced in the National Electric Power Policy (NEPP).

It removes operational and regulatory responsibilities of the electricity industry further from the government and provides the legal backing for the unbundling of defunct PHCN into successor companies that have been privatised to assume the functions of PHCN.

The EPSR is within terms of its conception expected to foster the development of a competitive electricity market, while creating an independent regulatory body that licenses and regulates the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in Nigeria.

– Chineme Okafor, This Day

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