Discos seek Presidency’s help over alleged N7bn debt

Electricity distribution transformer.

Electricity distribution transformer.

01 August 2015, Abuja — Electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) yesterday lamented how the debts allegedly owed them by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are crippling the electricity sector.

They therefore, called on the Presidency to come to their aid and direct security agencies and other government bodies to pay up their debts.

The DISCOs, which have come under the umbrella of Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors (ANED), say many of the establishments of government have refused to pay for electricity consumed, thereby placing their operations in jeopardy.

Director of Research and Advocacy for ANED, Sunday Olurotimi Oduntan, who spoke to newsmen in Abuja, cited the example of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), which he alleged is being owed over N7 billion by government ministries, departments and agencies. Oduntan said, “We have a lot of losses especially due to non payment of bills.

So many customers are not paying and we are appealing to the federal government to prevail on departments and agencies that owe us huge debts. The Department of State Services (DSS) and military formations owe us. It is same with many other agencies. The MDAs owe Abuja DISCO alone N7billion.

If we have that today, don’t you think we will invest more in this system?” On the volume of debts owed other DISCOs, he noted: “To tell you the fact, we are compiling the list of what the MDAs owe the 11 DISCOs. State governments are fond of owing electricity bills all over the country.

These are the same officials that are using N40 million bulletproof cars. They will be going in a convoy of 14 to 15 cars yet they can pay their electricity bills. For how long should we continue that? This is no more NEPA.

They accuse us of not investing in the networks but they don’t pay their bills. “So let them start paying their bills. A federal agency in Abuja owes Abuja DISCO N90million.

On disconnection, they paid N20million and later they were taken to court. We told them to pay N10milion and then sign a monthly payment plan to offset the N70million debt but they refused and so they remain disconnected.

They reported us to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and instead of NERC supporting the DISCOs’ effort of getting their money, shockingly our regulator that should be a neutral arbitrator sent a letter to the DISCOs that the agency must be reconnected despite the huge debt that the corporation is worth billions of naira and must not remain in darkness.

In a related development, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) have sealed a deal to boost electricity to the industrial sector.

The deal is said to have been approved by the Presidency. Among other things, both parties would work together to develop a framework for the creation of micro grid for industrial clusters across the country.

Both parties agreed after a long consultation process that the quickest way to supply power to the industrial clusters and centres would be through micro grid. Chairman of NERC, Dr. Sam Amadi, said Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo had been briefed on the objective of the meeting which is to make power available to industrial clusters in a reliable and quickest possible approach.

Options being considered, according to him, entail an arrangement to upgrade licenses of captive electricity generators with excess capacities to supply firms within their vicinity through commercial arrangements that would be jointly beneficial to the electricity distribution companies and the industries.

He said that the establishment of micro grid could be “beneficial, as it will provide commercially viable electricity to industries and free grid electricity that goes to industries for residential and other consumers.” A technical committee with nominations from the Commission will be coordinated by MAN since its members will be the main beneficiary of a stable and adequate power supply.

The committee is to develop the framework that would surmount associated financial and technical impediments to realising the objective.

The framework on the micro grid is expected to adapt the NERC’s regulations on Embedded Generation, which is applicable when electricity is generated and consumed within a distribution network and Independent Electricity Distribution Network, which permits development of electricity distribution to an area yet to be developed by a distribution company.

According to Oduntan, “We hope the regulator is not telling us to be condoning debt, while it wants us to invest hugely in the sector? If they are helping the sector, they wouldn’t be condoning debtors but will condemn them. There are many examples of that like the military barracks in Keffi beating up our officers just to collect their bills.”

He called for the urgent intervention of the Presidency in the issue. He noted: “Now we have a change and what President Muhammadu Buhari promised voters in this country is that there will be a change. So we need change in the power sector, in the Regulator and the federal government.

He needs to talk to his people from the State House to the state governments to pay their bills. There are provisions for utilities in the budget of agencies. Since they are not paying the bills, what then happened to the money? “The Armed Forces should also speak to their people that they need to pay their bills hence we will be going public to name and shame the bodies owing us debts.

For individual consumers, we keep saying that it is cheaper to take electricity from the grid than to use generators as you pay three times more coupled with the pollution.

There is improvement in generation in recent weeks with over 4,000megawatts and I can assure you that will still go up but need the assistance of consumers to regularly pay up their debts.” He called for greater support from consumers, noting that the low generation capacity was greatly responsible for energy challenges in the country.
*Emeka Anuforo – Guardian

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