By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has handed down a 6- month deadline to banks which recently took over the shares of core investors in some Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs, to exit them.
The Director-General of the BPE, Mr. Alex Okoh, told Vanguard in an exclusive interview in Abuja weekend that the banks were not expected to hold the shares in perpetuity, adding that those shares must be sold to credible operators within the stipulated period.
The affected DISCOs include those of Benin, Ibadan, Kaduna and Kano.
He explained, however, that if the bank fails to sell the controlling shares to other operators within six months, they could be given a maximum of another six months to do so.
His words: “It is important for me to mention at this point that the banks are not expected to hold the DISCOs in perpetuity.
“In fact, in conjunction with the CBN, we have given them a deadline of six months within which to sell those shares to credible operators approved by the BPE and NERC and should they not be able to meet that deadline, they can be given a maximum extension of another six months. So in one-year maximum, they should be out of the DISCOs.”
Okoh also revealed that the $500 million World Bank loan for the DISCOs to enable them improve their facilities, such as provision of transformers, feeders and transmission lines, was being administered by the interim management put in place in DISCOs where the banks took over the shares of the core investors due to the latters’ failure to service their loans.
The BPE boss assured that with effective implementation of the Presidential Power Initiative, PPI, there should be a significant improvement in power supply across the country.
“Once we can fix transmission, we will be able to free a lot of stranded power from the GENCOs to the DISCOs and to consumers.
“There are a lot of interventions going in that regard. There is the 2.3 billion Euro for the transmission and distribution so that we can wheel more power for consumers,” he said.
While admitting that transmission capacity was a major challenge due to government’s inability to adequately fund that sub-sector, especially before 2013, Okoh noted that some citizens were also making it difficult for the expansion of transmission lines as they constituted themselves into a hindrance to the construction of lines over compensation issues.
The DG said the compensation demand could sometimes be more than the cost of the construction of the lines.
He, therefore, urged citizens to change their attitude in that regard as according to him, “transmission lines are for the benefits of everybody” and should be supported by every member of the public.
On the moribund Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) located in Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, which transaction had been bogged for many years by litigations, Okoh said the federal government was making efforts to resolve the problem, with a view to freeing the multi-billion Naira company to commence operations.
He added that the dredging of Imo River for both imports of materials and export of products would be addressed for a smooth operation of ALSCON.