Power: FG to disconnect debtor agencies

Prof Chinedu Nebo

Prof Chinedu Nebo, Minister of Power

13 March 2014, Abuja – Agencies of government that fail to pay their electricity bill within stipulated time shall henceforth be disconnected, the Federal Government has said.

The Federal Government also directed agencies that were highly indebted to the power sector in terms of payment of electricity bills, to pay up or have the funds deducted from their 2014 budget.

Furthermore, the government retracted its target of generating at least 7,000MW of power before the end of 2014. On Tuesday, a new target of 4,500MW by June and 6,000MW by December was announced.

The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, Dr. Sam Amadi, who disclosed these in Abuja on Tuesday, stated that the President had directed power distribution companies to ensure that all government agencies were adequately metered.

Amadi spoke at the headquarters of the commission after the regular monthly meeting of CEOs and representatives of power distribution and generation companies as well as the Transmission Company of Nigeria.

He said, “The Federal Government has issued a circular that every government agency should pay their bills as provided in their budgets and the accountant-general is being mandated by the circular to deduct from source if after 90 days that agency has not paid its bill.

“Even though we’ve communicated to the discos the President’s directive that they should try and install prepaid meters for all government institutions, we also want to restate that every agency, whether government or private customer, must pay its bills or be cut off after due process.

“This is because we want to make sure that the suppliers of electricity services have enough revenue to continue to supply these services. So we want to appeal to Nigerians, both private and public companies, to pay their bills on time.”

Amadi explained that NERC had written to the President on the need to inform the government agencies that henceforth the market had changed and was privately managed.

“So therefore they have to pay their bills on time,” he said.

He added, “And if after some time they do not, based on our regulations, which provides processes for disconnecting a customer who defaults in payment, the disco is at liberty to disconnect.

“We are also working hard to ensure that all forms of energy theft will be punished drastically. We cannot talk about improvement in the sector except we are prepared to play by the rules and pay for services.”

Reacting to the issue, the Managing Director/CEO, Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, Mr. Robert Dickerman, observed that there were however a few agencies of government that may not be disconnected even if they were heavily indebted.

He said, “There are a few categories of customers that no one will disconnect. There are some of them that, really whether they owe us a lot of money or not, you just cannot disconnect them. For instance you just can’t disconnect the hospital for health and safety reasons and this is because we have an obligation when it comes to health and safety of the public.”

Asked if the government was still on course to generate 10,000MW by 2014, Amadi said the realities on ground proved otherwise.

He said, “Let’s put it this way: the target could be political or technical. In our MYTO (Multi Year Tariff Order) in 2012, we benchmarked 7,500MW as the target for December 2013 and that is based on the assumption of gas supply and the commissioning of NIPP plants and the existing capacities of the generation companies. And that is a technical benchmarking.”

He stated that the target now is “4,500MW by June and 6,000MW by December 2014.”

Amadi had during a presentation at the ‘Nigeria Dialogue Gala Roundtable,’ in Chatham House in London early this year, said, “Power supply is expected to hit 7,000MW by the end of this year as increased capacities are expected from the NIPPs coming on stream, while generation benchmark is set at 20,000MW by 2017.”

But the NERC boss explained that although issues of gas shortage were being addressed, the development had affected the initial target negatively.

“There is a regulated benchmarking which is based on the feedback we get from the Gencos. The kind of technical questions we ask the directors and response we get determines what is possible.

“So the government is right to set a benchmark, but what we do is to give technical possibilities as touching this. We can exceed the target but as a regulator there is a target that we work with,” he said.


– The Punch

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