16 October 2014, Lagos – Indications have emerged that power sector labour unions will move against the planned privatisation of the Transmission Company of Nigeria by the Federal Government by lobbying members of the National Assembly not to support such a move.
Labour chiefs told our correspondent on Tuesday that their opposition to the privatisation of the TCN was because the agreement on the power sector privatisation never included the company.
The unions are also using the poor state of the privatised power generation and distribution companies as a justification for their opposition to the privatisation of the transmission company.
The President General, Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, Mr. Bede Opara, told our correspondent on the telephone that when the Federal Government negotiated the privatisation of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria with the workers, the sale of the TCN did not come up.
He said the association would not be happy if the government went ahead with the process of selling its stake in the TCN, adding that such a move would be a big security risk for the country.
Opara said, “We can’t mortgage our transmission lines to the private sector; more especially as the Discos and Gencos privatised almost one year ago are having serious financial issues.
“Privatising the TCN is not good for the country. The private sector has not improved our generation capacity, or even our transmission infrastructure.”
He added, “We will advise the government to tread with caution as far as the privatisation of the TCN is concerned. We will explore all avenues within our reach to pass our message across.
“We will lobby the National Assembly, continue to argue and engage whosoever we can on this matter. On privatisation of the power industry, labour has kept its own side of the bargain, but the government has not done that. Also, considering the performance of the already privatised power firms, we feel this is not the right time to privatise the TCN.”
The Federal Government is said to be considering three options for the privatisation of the transmission company.
The Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, had said the options were full privatisation; regional privatisation and concession of the TCN to private investors.
There is massive inflow of potential investors from all over the world into the country for the proposed privatisation of the TCN, the minister said without giving a tentative date for the commencement of the privatisation process.
The Federal Government had also admitted that it was overwhelmed with the interest shown by investors as regards the sale of the TCN.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive, Power Cap Limited, Mr. Biodun Ogunleye, told our correspondent that sentimentally, labour was correct with its argument.
He said, “Power is utility and every utility has a backbone, which explains the existence of the TCN. It is those benefiting from the current system that will not want a change. There should be a system from which people can either make money or lose money, as is promoted by the private sector.
“The civil service has nothing at stake, but a private investor does. What we need do is strengthen regulation. The power sector has never been regulated this way before. This is the first time. Mistakes will be made because for now; it is a learning curve.”
Last month, the Federal Government said it was considering offers of more than $20bn for the assets of the TCN as the provision of adequate power continues to pose a challenge to the economy.
The sale of the TCN may start “in a few years,” Nebo said, adding, “The interest now for transmission is over $20bn and people are coming from everywhere.”
Transmission is the only segment of the power industry that the government still controls as it seeks to curb regular blackouts in the country.
– The Punch