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“For more than two years now, Niger State has been in darkness.”
DISCO official disconnecting lines on electric pole
These were the words of aggrieved Niger State youths protesting unbearable power outages in the state. The frustration of the youths represents the feeling across the nation over the worsening power situation over the past three years since the private sector took over the generation and distribution of electricity in the country. From Port Harcourt to Kebbi, Kano to Oshogbo, Sapele to Umuahia, Lagos to Sokoto and Akure to Abakiliki, the story is the same: No power while consumers pay for darkness. Today, the general feeling is that the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, has outperformed the electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, and Generation Companies, GENCO. Meanwhile, many concerned individuals and groups are calling for a review of the privatization of the assets of the PHCN with a view to returning the sector to public control.
For example, while protesting the intolerable power situation in Niger State, thousands of youths stormed the regional office of the Abuja Electricity Development Company, AEDC, in Minna and the state House of Assembly, threatening fire and brimstone. Numbering over 5,000, the protesters displayed various placards with inscriptions such as ‘AEDC must go’, ‘No light in Minna, bring back our light’, ‘We say no to darkness”, among others.
Spokesman for the youths, Mohammed Aliyu Mohammed, said: “If AEDC plans to frustrate Nigerlites, then citizens of Niger State have learned to make things unbearable for AEDC too. We have told them that we need light 24 hours everyday, and that pre-paid meters must be given to all consumers in the state. Niger as the power generating state deserves to have steady power supply since we have three major dams, failing which we will continue to advocate and fight for our right. For more than two years now, Niger State has been in darkness. Officials of AEDC promised that there would be steady power supply till December but it has not been so.”
While addressing the protesters in front of the state House of Assembly Complex, the Speaker, Ahmed Marafa, said power outages in the state had affected all sectors and that the demands of the protesters would be looked into.
“It is unimaginable for a state like Niger that houses three hydro power stations to be in want of power supply”, Marafa stated.
In Aguda area of Surulere, Lagos, a resident, Mrs Toyin Awolowo, was seen lamenting how she was going to celebrate the Yuletide in darkness since there was no sign the DISCO covering the area would supply electricity. Awolowo’s pessimism may not be an exeggeration after all because information even from official quarters suggests that the power situation in the country, especially in 2016, was precarious. For instance, Transmission Company of Nigeria’s (TCN) generation report disclosed that the nation witnessed total system collapse on June 28, 2016 and partial collapse on July 10. Overall, in 2016, the power grid collapsed 22 times – 16 total and five partial – up from 13 and 10 in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Festive season report
Meanwhile, the TCN, on Wednesday, reportedly wheeled out about 3,959 megawatts of generated electricity to the 11 distribution companies.“The News Agency of Nigeria reported that power generation data is obtained from daily forecast on the Nigerian Electricity System Operator 50 website.
The daily power statistics posted by SO, a section of the TCN, showed that power generation gradually improved during the festive season with a peak generation of 3,959 megawatts from the national grid. According to the website, the country’s power generation also recorded its lowest generation of 3,366 megawatts within the same period.“The Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry operational (NESI) report for January 3 also said, the power sector hit a peak generation of 4,959 megawatts as against 3,321 megawatts recorded on December 2. NESI, a subsidiary of the TCN, said the sector recorded highest system frequency of 51.52Hz and lowest system frequency of 48.85 Hz. It also said the highest voltage recorded was 372KV, while lowest voltage recorded on the same day was 300KV. Separately, NESI, on January 3, disclosed that over N534 billion of revenue was lost by the power sector in 2016. Among the reasons for the loss are shortages in gas supply, frequency and line limitations and water levels management constraints that led to several cases of electricity outage in the country.
NESI, which put the average daily revenue loss at N1.5 billion, said gas constraint remained one of the major challenges facing the electricity sector.“It explained that the N534 billion amounts to the value of electricity lost on account of the challenges, part of which could have been used to bridge the liquidity gap in the power sector, estimated at N1trillion.
Already, the sector is finding it difficult to access more loans from Nigerian banks due to their inability to meet the payment obligations for previous debts.“The situation will also affect the capacity of the power firms to improve on electricity supply to consumers for domestic and industrial uses.“NESI said in its daily statistics on energy losses that the industry lost N1.525 billion on December 24, 2016 alone.“It also disclosed that about 12 power stations could not produce electricity during off-peak period under the review.“Statistics from the National Control Centre,
Osogbo showed that Afam IV-V, Geregu Gas, Alaoji National Integrated Power Project, Olorunsogo Gas, Odukpani NIPP, Okpai, Ibom Power, ASCO, AES, Omoku, Rivers NIPP and Gbarain power plants could not produce a single megawatt on December 25, 2016.“Nigeria has installed power output of 11,165mw, of which the 12 plants have a combined capacity of 2,035mw
The growing feeling is that the privatization of the assets of PHCN was nothing but a fraud to the detriment of consumers. And the feeling is justifiable.
Power supply, so frustrating
Three years after the privatisation, Nigerians have not seen the promised benefits of the private sector’ to take-over of the distribution and generation of power.To compound the situation, the mind-boggling funds have been suck into the sector with nothing to show for it. Amid the appalling power supply, many consumers are disturbed by inadequate meters and the crazy billing system in the name of estimated bills.
In fact, the billing system and poor metering by the DISCOs have forced many consumers to doubt the wisdom behind the privatisation of the power sector.
According to Amos Simon, the Chairman, Palmgrove Housing Estate, Lagos, the objective of privatising the power sector has been subverted by the new owners. He believed that the new power sector operators are only interested in making money through crazy bills than metering electricity consumers.
Simon expressed regret that the Credit Advance Payment for Metering Implementation, CAPMI, a metering intervention programme introduced in 2014 by the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, has been stopped by the new operators. “CAPMI is meant to enhance revenue generation as well as reduce revenue losses by operators.
Many Nigerians are now regretting that they supported the government when the plan was being sold to the people. The existing regulations provided that consumers should not pay for meters as it was to be supplied free of charge by electricity distributors and paid for on monthly basis. The paucity of funds, which militated against adequate procurement of the facility by DISCOs, forced the
Theodora Orji, the Managing Director, Treasureland Water, Ikoyi, described the estimated billing system as a fraud. Orji accused the DISCOs of extorting consumers in spite of poor service delivery and suggested that the only way out is for government to sanction them. According to her, consumers are also complaining that in spite of erratic power supply, they are still meant to pay for transformers.
To Tajudeen Bamidele, Chairman, Prestige Printing Press, Somolu, Lagos, NERC should begin to sanction DISCOs which fail to provide meters for customers who had paid for them under the CAPMI scheme.
According to him, metering is important to the success of the privatisation of the electricity industry, particularly as it is to address the problem of estimated billing and protect the interests of the DISCOs against revenue losses.
“It is however imperative for the DISCOs to increase public awareness on metering through aggressive campaigns so that more willing customers can be encouraged. Electricity consumers are not happy about the outrageous bills received from electricity companies in spite of poor power supply since November 2015,” he said. Privatization, a scam, says NUEE Lamenting the developments in the power sector, the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, speaking through its General Secretary, Mr. Joe Ajaero, did not mince words in condemning the privatisation process which he described as a ‘scam’. “Even the so-called bidding process was a scam. Some of the companies that won the bids emerged on the eve of privatisation.
We need to have a holistic review of the process. If it has not worked, what is wrong in cancelling it? “, Ajaero said. The union leader explained that electricity workers in the country had petitioned the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, demanding 10 per cent of government’s remaining 40 per cent share in the DISCOs, as part of an agreement reached during privatisation.
“In line with the privatisation Act, workers were supposed to be allocated 10 per cent. Our lawyer, Femi Falana, has written the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) to demand this. Three years later, nothing has been allocated to workers. Even government that claims to be retaining 40 per cent in the DISCOs has not received one Naira in dividend since the privatisation ended.
It means that government sold 60 per cent, but in the real sense, handed 100 per cent of the distribution companies to investors. This is now the case of the buyer being the seller. We have to investigate all these things.” Ajaero alleged that the DISCOs and GENCOs have two different accounts. “One is the official account that is always in red which they use to deceive government that they are not making profit.
The unofficial account tells the story of how the operators are smiling to the banks while consumers bear the brunt, paying heavily for power they never consumed”. Labour threatens Separately, the organised labour has petitioned President Mohammadu Buhari, notifying him of the alleged anomalies in the privatization of the defunct PHCN, and the need to address same to avoid industrial unrest. In the petition by NUEE, Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, and Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, Electricity Sector, the organised labour did not only highlight the pending issues since the privatization of the assets of the PHCN three years ago, it also copied the petition to top government officials including the Vice President, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives.