30 March 2016, Abuja – The Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the three tiers of government collectively owe the electricity distribution companies about N60bn.
According to the Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, the umbrella body of the firms, the Nigerian Army is the highest debtor, with over N15bn as of December 2015.
The Executive Director, ANED, Mr. Sunday Oduntan, disclosed this in Abuja on Tuesday, and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the matter, stressing that the debt had started weighing down the Discos heavily.
He said, “The total amount of debt owed the power distribution companies by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the federal, state and local governments is about N60bn. As of December last year, the total debt was N58bn, but it has grown to about N60bn as we speak.
“A large part of this debt is owed by the military. The Nigerian Army takes pleasure in beating up our staff for unjust reasons and they don’t like to pay their bills. We won’t condone this anymore and we are going to take up this case with them, particularly the recent one that happened in Abeokuta.”
Oduntan stated that despite the fact that the Army owed the power distribution companies over N15bn, its personnel always brutalised the power firm officials whenever they made attempts to collect electricity bills.
He said, “The Nigerian Army keep oppressing us and often times its personnel feel they are above the law, but this shouldn’t be. In Abeokuta, they beat up one of our officials for unjust reasons and the same group of military men who did that have not paid their electricity bills since 2013.
“The team in Abeokuta, which is the 351 Artillery Brigade, was led by one Major Musa, and we use this medium to urge the President, as an Army general, to caution his boys. They must know that they are not above the law. The Army alone owes the distribution companies over N15bn. They owe Benin Disco N2.3bn; Eko is owed N1.9bn; Ikeja, N1.6bn; Jos, N2bn; Kaduna, N6.6bn; Kano, N301m; Port Harcourt, N1.3bn; and Yola, N435m.
“These are huge amounts that can be used to meaningfully improve power distribution in the respective areas of operation of the Discos. Mind you, about three other Discos have not been added to this. So, we urge the Federal Government to do something about this, particularly with respect to the debt by the military.”
On the drop in power generation, Oduntan stated that this was as a result of vandalism of gas pipelines, adding that the current poor supply of electricity across the country was not the fault of the distribution companies.
According to him, the country currently generates far less than a quarter of its power needs, adding that Nigeria required about 1,000 megawatts of electricity per one million of its population.
“This means that Nigeria needs to generate 160,000MW of electricity to meet 24 hours power supply in every part of the country, whether in remote villages, cities, hill tops or in the desert,” Oduntan said.
The ANEDs director further stated that the country needed about $40bn to refurbish existing power structures as well as build new plants that would guarantee the nation 24 hours of electricity supply.
He, however, stated that the target of 20,000MW by 2020 was okay and that if achieved, many towns and cities across the country would boast of up to 18 hours daily power supply.
Asked when the Discos would considerably meter their customers, Oduntan said, “On the average, a distribution company can meter about 20,000 consumers monthly, and this has been ongoing. However, it will interest you to know that some communities like Ikot Abasi in Akwa Ibom State, and New Busa in Niger State, are rejecting meters.
“And this is a big problem for the business as it has been discovered that energy theft is the greatest problem confronting the power sector presently.”