18 November 2016, Abuja – The Senate Committee on Privatisation has expressed its readiness to support the review of the nation’s power sector privatisation in a bid to address the challenges facing operators and consumers.
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, stated this when he led members of the committee and a team from the Bureau of Public Enterprises on a fact-finding visit to the BEDC, a statement from the company said.
He said he was not in favour of outright cancellation of power sector privatisation but was interested in assessing how it had fared over the years.
“We are not in favour of cancelling the process. If a bad deal was done in some areas, let us fix it and move on. The committee’s intention is to look at how to fix problems of privatisation. In other words, what can be done to solve the problems?” Ben-Bruce said.
According to him, the committee will soon organise a public hearing at the National Assembly that will include electricity distribution companies, the regulators, customers, and other arms of the value chain to review the privatisation process of the power sector with a view to fixing emerging problems and making the exercise work better in the interest of all Nigerians.
Ben-Bruce said he was familiar with some of the problems of the industry but expressed surprise that the industry was being owed about N900bn even when power generation was very low.
He explained that some of the problems confronting the Discos were unforeseen, saying nobody knew there was going to be economic recession, or forex devaluation of this magnitude.
He said, in view of the challenges facing the power sector, the BEDC had done well since it came on board, especially in the areas of community relations, payment platforms and customer services.
He said, “We have seen the excitement of members of staff at the training programmes of the BEDC, an enabling environment and air of camaraderie among management staff, which we have not seen in other places. This goes to show that the company is well-run, and we expected no less a good environment, given the pedigree and antecedents of your CEO.
“During our visits so far, we have seen privatised companies that are well-run; some average; while some are badly run; but with what we’ve seen so far about the BEDC, I congratulate your management for being one of the well-run companies,” he said.
He said that he was aware that the Federal Government had yet to fully honour its obligations to the distribution companies and that they could not collect tariff at prevailing market rate due to high foreign exchange rate and the recession.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, BEDC, Mrs. Funke Osibodu, highlighted some of the challenges confronting the Discos, stressing the need for the committee to impress it on the Federal Government to subsidise tariff for lower class residential customers.
She emphasised the need for the Senate to ensure the criminalisation of energy theft and fast tracking of the prosecution of offenders, saying, “More importantly, outstanding Ministries, Departments and Agencies debts should be paid with legislative and government full backing authorising disconnection of non-paying MDAs without fear of repercussion of arrest or victimisation.”