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Power sector: No hope for Nigeria —Senate

…Says privatisation must be revisited
…DISCOs bankrupt, can’t buy meters

By Henry Umoru

ABUJA—AS the Senate began discussions on the power sector in Nigeria, yesterday, a very gloomy picture was painted by senators who came to the conclusion that there was no hope of Nigeria coming out of its present power crisis.

The Senate, which noted that the power sector was in dire need of emergency response, said Nigerians would not have steady power supply because the distribution companies were bankrupt and could not, therefore, procure meters.

Consequently, the upper chamber asked that the privatisation of the sector be revisited without delay.

The Senate’s position came, following a debate and discussions on a motion moved by Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), entitled “DISCOs, electricity consumers and the burden of over-billing.”

Senate chamber

Melaye, in his motion, said the burden of over-billing shouldered by electricity consumers in the country, even in the face of epileptic power supply by Distribution Companies, DISCOs, was totally unacceptable.

He also urged the Senate to mandate the Committee on Power to look into the astronomical electricity billing by DISCOs across the country and asked the Senate to urge the National Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, to call DISCOS to stop forthwith the practice of estimated billing.

Melaye had at plenary on Tuesday, promised to present the motion after drawing the attention of senators to the exorbitant estimated billings being forced on consumers by the DISCOs.

In his contribution, Senator Ben Murray- Bruce, PDP, Bayelsa East, made it clear that with the manner  the privatisation was carried out, operators in the power sector, such as DISCOs, were in serious difficulty.

Therefore, he recommended that the Senate prevailed on government to revisit the privatisation.

Murray-Bruce, who declared that Nigerians have a catastrophe in their hands as far as the sector was concerned, said those currently running the sector were technically deficient due to a lot of factors not envisaged at the time the privatization was executed.

He said:  “They are technically bankrupt, unless we revisit the entire privatization process, unless we understand and dissect what went wrong, we will still get estimated billing.

“We have a catastrophe on our hands, there will be no power in Nigeria until the current structure is reviewed.

“Those who privatised the sector did not imagine that naira will be devalued from N160 to about N400 now. Those who invested in the business thought it was like a company where they will make a lot of money.

‘’I believe they only had enough money to pay the federal government and make the initial investment; they did not have the capacity to run a power sector company in a modern economy.”

In his contribution, Senator Mustapha Bukar, APC, Katsina North, while lamenting the ugly situation of the power sector, said that going by realities on ground in the sector, the country was sitting on an emergency without any sign of immediate solution.

According to him, though the nation has capacity for generation over 12,000mega watts, only 4,000mw    have been achieved at any time, out of which 1,800mw are paid for by consumers, making the providers to be in perpetual indebtedness.

Senator Bukar, who is the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, said: “The problem we have is the inefficiency within the system which we have actually so far not decided to address.

‘’ I will give you a small example: Nigeria has an installed capacity of 12,522 Megawatts of power. We have non-available capacity of 5,300; we have non-operational capacity of 3,180; meaning that the amount that is actually available is just over 4,000 Megawatts out of 12,500.

“We have transmission loss of 228, we have distribution loss of 447 Megawatts. At the end of the day, only 3,800 Megawatts reach the consumer. And we have commercial loss of more than 36 percent.

“So, what is actually being paid for out of the over 3,000 Megawatts is only 1,800 Megawatts. So unless and until we decide to look at these inefficiency within the value chain, there is no way we can have better electricity generation, distribution and also billing system in the country.

‘’So, I agree that the model they have used for privatisation has not worked. And unless and until this inefficiency is looked at, it will not work.

“If we have capacity to generate 4,500 Megawatts but we can only get less than 4,000, that is more than 75 percent of the capacity is not ulltilised. It means that we are sitting on an emergency has to be attended to drastically to address this problem.

‘’The value chain is weakest at the DISCOs because they are the ones who collect the money. And you never know how much money is being collected because they have failed to install the metres that are needed. We need millions of metres.”

Chairman Senate Committee on Power, Enyinnaya Abaribe, told the Senate that a report on the matter was waiting to be laid, and requested that further debate on the matter be suspended until the details of his committee findings were considered.

The Senate accepted Abaribe’s prayers.


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