10 January 2017, Lagos – Consumers are angry that electricity supply has remained erratic three years after the privatisation of the power sector and have urged the power firms to either deliver or relinquish the business, OKECHUKWU NNODIM reports
The recent dip in power supply has been greeted with condemnation from individual electricity consumers, professional organisations as well as non-governmental institutions.
They complained that power supply had been erratic in the past few weeks, stressing that investors in the privatised successor companies of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria were still not delivering on their mandates.
Data obtained by our correspondent from the Operator of the Nigerian Electricity Market showed that the country’s power generation dropped to as low as 2,741.4 megawatts on November 30.
Although it moved up to 3,223.1MW before the end of that day, the marginal rise was still a far cry from the 5,074.7MW recorded on February 2, which has remained the peak generation ever attained in the country.
Speaking on the poor power situation in the country, the President, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Mr. Otis Anyaeji, stated that engineers were not comfortable with the service provided by power generation and distribution companies.
According to him, they have observed that the poor power generation and supply across the country are as a result of the inability of electricity firms to invest significantly in revamping the companies they bought since November 2013.
This, he said, had warranted poor service delivery from the power generation and distribution companies as well as several transmission bottlenecks.
Anyaeji said, “The market is still facing numerous challenges ranging from the inability of generation stations and distribution companies to invest in the system and increase capacities; inadequate metering of consumers, several transmission bottlenecks, and poor quality of services.”
The NSE president further stated that the lack of access and reliable power supply to rural dwellers had undermined the economic activities in the affected areas.
This, he said, had inhibited the establishment of Small and Medium-scale Enterprises, thereby escalating poverty level despite high potential for economic activities that would improve the nation’s food security.
Also speaking on the issue, the Grand Patron, Progressives Solidarity Forum (a community support group), Dr. Ibrahim Emokpaire, told our correspondent that the present government should have reviewed the licences of the investors who bought the power firms.
He said the inability of the firms to meet their mandates three years after they took over the country’s power sector had clearly shown that the companies were not prepared enough before acquiring the facilities.
Emokpaire said, “From the very first day that this government came into office, I think what they should have done was to review the licences of the power companies. This is because the licences were given to cronies of the government officials in power at the time of the privatisation.
“Majority of the power companies do not have the financial, intellectual and technical capacities to run the utilities they bought. Virtually, all of them rushed to the banks to borrow money. They were not qualified because they don’t have the expertise and capacity, which is why we are suffering this much today.”
He added, “So, if you don’t have the financial muscle to run the company, the next thing is for you to lean on the people who are already suffering. This is why they always push for tariff increase, which is completely wrong. This should not be allowed to continue, which is why I said their licences should be reviewed by the government.
“Many of them are still not stabilised, even after buying the firms since 2013. A new government came in place in 2015 and they are still complaining and are calling for assistance. That shouldn’t be the norm. If they can’t perform, then their licences should be reviewed or withdrawn.”
Emokpaire wondered why power firms, particularly electricity distribution companies, were demanding for an increase in tariff when there had not been tangible improvement in the delivery of electricity.
He said, “We’ve had a situation where the power firms are talking of increasing the electricity tariff when they are generating and supplying below 4,000MW. This is despite the fact that the common man is not finding it easy to feed.
“I believe this is an area where the government must come in to subsidise electricity to the masses and this can be done by making sure that the power firms do not increase electricity tariff or by making sure that the right investors take over the companies.”
The National Secretary, National Electricity Consumers Advocacy Network, Mr. Obong Eko, told our correspondent that the demands of the power firms, particularly with respect to tariff hike, should be jettisoned as the companies had yet to deliver on their mandates.
“It will be so unreasonable to come out to announce an increase in tariff now that Nigerians are going through severe suffering. Are they aware that people are dying of hunger? We can never support such move and we will resist it,” he said.
Gencos and Discos recently declared that their operations were being stifled as a result of the huge debt of over N400bn being owed them.
While the Gencos’ debt was put at over N300bn, the Discos complained of being owed over N100bn by their various customers.
Aside from vandalism of gas pipelines and its impact on power generation, the power firms had argued that the huge debt owed them was adversely affecting their operations.
They argued that they lacked the funding required to deliver optimally, to purchase equipment, spare parts, as well as the necessary facilities needed by consumers to enjoy power supply.
“The debt is over N300bn that the Gencos are being owed. If the situation is not checked, there will be blackout. It is so imminent that I don’t know if the generation we are having now can go beyond the first day of the New Year if the payment problem is not solved. We can’t pay contractors; most of the machines are packing up,” the Executive Secretary, Association of Power Generation Companies, Dr. Joy Ogaji, said.
Power consumers have urged the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission to strengthen its regulatory mechanisms to enhance energy savings and efficiency in the market.
Speaking on behalf of engineers, Anyaeji said, “The electricity regulatory commission should use its powers to enforce the commitments made by the Discos on closing the metering gap as contained in their business plans during the privatisation of the entities.
“Also, effective commercial framework for supply of gas to power plants has to be ensured through formidable gas-to-power policy for sustainability of fuel supply.”