…As mixed reactions trail Senate’s call for cancellation of privatisation
By Udeme Akpan
Contrary to the Senators’ privatisation cancellation model, stakeholders have proposed the review of the nation’s Power Sector Act, sale of interest, transparent utilisation of funds and the strengthening of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, as new strategies for the development of Nigeria’s power sector.
In email to Vanguard, the National Secretary, Nigeria Electricity Consumers Advocacy Network, NECAN, Mr. Uket Obonga, called for the review of Nigeria’s Power Sector Act, in line with current realities.
Power Sector Act
He stated: “The first step is the review the Act in line with current realities in Nigeria and globally. The review would give the government the legislative and legal power to take certain decisions for the development of the sector.”
Sale part of interest
Mr. Obonga said: “Since the Federal Government and the investors have 40 per cent and 60 per cent interest in the assets respectively, they should be compelled by the Act to surrender part of their interest to new investors with provable technical and financial muscles to invest in the sector.”
Obonga stated: “The funds should be properly utilised to boost investment, expand capacities and procure new equipment, including power plants, transformers and prepaid meters for every household in the nation.”
He added: “The government should also work towards strengthening of NERC, apparently because of its central place in the sector. The reviewed Act should ensure that the appointment of NERC commissioners is taken away from the president and selection made by advertising for the post of chairman and commissioners for those who are knowledgeable in Electricity regulation and have the experience to apply.”
Engage competent consultants
Similarly, Prof. Omowumi Iledare, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) Professorial Chair in Oil and Gas Economics and Management, Institute for Oil and Gas Studies, University of Cape Coast, who also supported the review of the Power Sector Act, said: “The Senate should engage competent consultants for major assignments, including the review of the Power Sector Act, which the privatisation was based on.
The Act is due for review, having been enacted about 15 years ago. With the review, it can then move ahead to accomplish other clearly defined intensions, targeted at the developing the sector.”
Don’t cancel privatisation
Prof. Iledare said: “However, I am not sure abandoning privatization through a Senate motion is consequential. I am also sure usurping the power of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, is not proper, especially as it has many investment implications for Nigeria.”
Need for power
However, the president, Oil and Gas Service Providers Association of Nigeria, Mazi Colman Obasi, who stressed the need to adopt new measures for the development of the sector, stated: “If the Senate committee should investigate operators in the sector and all those found wanting should be brought to book. The Senators should also everything legal to place the sector on the path of sustainable development.”
The Executive Director, Spaces for Change, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, had said: “It is true that trillions have been spent to revigorate the power sector without commensurate results. Taking steps to understand and address the factors militating against the success of power sector reforms, is also a step in the right direction.
“Nevertheless, they should be careful to avoid distortions in investor confidence in Nigeria. In other words, cancelling the entire privatisation program abruptly is not the kind of decision to be made in haste. The plethora of laws, regulations and standards under girding the power sector reforms cannot be overlooked, unless repealed.”
The senators, had on Tuesday this week, accused the electricity companies for alleged poor performance, thus justifying their call on the government to withdraw the power assets from them.
Specifically, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan that spoke on, ‘Power Sector Recovery Plan and the impact of COVID- 19 Pandemic’ had said: “We gave power to them (Power generation and distribution companies) and they still come to the public to ask for funds. I think it’s time for Nigeria to consider reversing the privatisation of the power sector or they should just cancel the entire privatisation process completely. If we leave it, we may not have power for another ten years.
“We expected efficiency and something better. DISCOS have no capacity to supply us power. We should not continue to give them money. They are private businesses. We need to review this whole thing. Something is wrong.”
Senator Lawan had added: “Our committee needs to investigate trillions spent. That’s a lot of money. Try to find out what has happened so far. Government needs to look at this whole thing. Maybe Government is not doing its own part. We need to find out. There is lack of capital. We feel very bad. There is no electricity and the country is suffering.”