The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) has cried out over nonpayment of electricity bills by consumers as it is being owed over N28 billion and suffers loss of N3 billion annually to energy theft.
The Chief Executive Officer of the distribution firm, Syed Taha, who stated this while welcoming members of House of Representatives Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation to its corporate headquarter in Port Harcourt last week, said it is worrisome that the outstanding debt, including pre-privatisation period owed PHED as at March this year, clocked N128billion.
Taha who was represented by the Chief People Officer, Mobolaji Ajani, stated that one of the major challenges facing the electricity industry is energy theft, describing it as a time bomb waiting to explode in destruction of properties, buildings and lives from fire outbreaks.
The Chief Executive revealed that the firm suffers a loss of over N3billion annually to energy theft as he said many of the company’s high and low tension poles have been destroyed by lorries,tippers and other vehicles arising from reckless driving and over speeding.
According to him, ”these incidents if not checked by the relevant regulatory agencies, may result into our customers being thrown into unwarranted darkness and loss of critical national assets in the country.
” We have lost over 300 transformers of various sizes to vandalism irrespective of the ones we have replaced. This act of vandalism extends to poles and cables which is further aggravated by agitation by affected communities, including the military”, he said.
On corporate social responsibility, Taha stated that PHED has demonstrated high level of responsiveness by embarking on ”Power Clinic” an initiative that affords her customers especially the aged to have access to basic free medical checks on their sugar level, blood pressure, eye test, among others.
According to him,” Aside the free medical checks, over 5000 school bags and writing materials have been distributed to school children in our coverage area”.
He explained further that the firm had donated football jerseys in a bid to encourage youths who have shown interest in sporting activities, adding that drugs have also been shared in rural communities.
Taha said the distribution of drugs to rural communities was done in partnership with the National Youth Service Corps, adding that the firm has other plans which focus on empowering the youth through small and medium entrepreneurship while leveraging on her model, yet budding energy efficiency programme.
The Chairman of the House of Reps Committee, Hon.Ahmed Yarima, said the National Assembly may present a motion to amend some of the clauses in the share purchase agreement in the privatisation and commercialisation of Public Enterprises of the Federal Government and PHED.
Yarima said the committee is determined to ensure that the right steps are taken towards resolving all challenges faced by PHED and other distribution firms.
He reminded that the committee is saddled with mandate, with all matters concerning privatisation and commercialisation of public enterprises under the Act and would send all findings to the National Council on Privatization (NCP) to ensure that the right steps are taken and challenges resolved.
Group Hails New Policy On Gas Retailing
A group known as the Association of Surface Tank Oil and Gas Retailers (ASTROGEN) has hailed the new policy on gas retailing introduced by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) which encourages the use of domestic gas in the rural areas.
Rivers State Chairperson of the group, Comrade Patience Uche said the policy was in line with, “the vision and strategic target of the group to promote the direct involvements of the people in surface tanks oil and gas retailing business.”
She urged the DPR to allocate more operational licenses to its members to own and operate surface tank business in the rural areas.
She pointed out that the initiatives will, “ promote entrepreneurial development in the rural areas, reduce petroleum and gas supplies from foreign marketers through importation of products and reduce bunkering.”
She said the group was ready to partner with the DPR and other stakeholders in the down stream sector, especially in the mobilisation of the grassroots to key into the policy and domesticate the use of gas in their homes.
It would be recalled that the authorities of DPR recently announced the introduction of a new policy on the use of domestic gas.
The DPR in a press statement said the new gas policy would introduce the use of domestic gas in the rural areas, through the building of surface gas tanks in the rural areas for retailing.
The statement also encouraged the use of domestic gas, rather kerosene in homes.
Expert Decries Abuse Of MoUs By Oil Firms
The brewing conflicts between oil companies and their host communities in the Niger Delta over the breach of agreements signed by the corporate partners are generating concern among stakeholders.
Worried over the increasing spate of disagreements between oil firms and their host communities, an expert in the oil and gas sector, Dr Eddie Wikina has called on all multinationals and corporate organisations operating in the Niger Delta to implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) signed with their host communities.
Wikina who spoke with The Tide in an exclusive interview, recently said IOCS and other multinationals operating in the region mostly flout MOUs signed with host communities, leading to conflicts and absence of sustainable development in the communities.
He pointed out that; “modern industry practices require that both the oil firms and the host communities operate in mutual agreement and synergy through a well community engagement model that would be subject to upward reviews to suit evolving developments to avert crisis.”
He noted that oil related conflicts have been a predominant feature of the Niger Delta over the years and urged prospecting oil firms and other corporate organisations in the Niger Delta to learn from the experiences of the past to improve their host community relations by contributing meaningfully to the development of their host communities.
The expert in Petroleum Engineering said host communities were major stakeholders in the oil and gas business, noting that their active participation in the sector was an elixir to smooth business operation.
“It’s certain that business activities can’t strive in an environment where their is mutual disagreement and incessant conflicts. Global standards in oil and gas business require that host communities be given their due sense of belonging to promote peace and development. The business concern must be accommodative of the development interest of the host communities, any company that glosses over the interest of its host communities is bound to face challenges,” he said.
He cautioned against the influx of substandard oil firms in the Niger Delta and called on the federal government to enact laws that will compel multinationals to implement all agreements signed with their host communities.
“Not all companies that prospect for oil in the Niger Delta have the capacity for effective business operation, some of them don’t have the industry experience and lack the potency to make the right impact,” he noted
According to him, the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Bill will address the inherent challenges in the oil and gas sector, especially in the development of oil and gas producing communities.
‘FG Loses N5.9bn Annually To Illegal Bunkering, Pipelines Vandalisation’
A group known as the Association of Surface Tank Oil and Gas Retailers, (ASTOGRN) says available statistics have revealed that oil bunkering activities and pipeline vandalisation in the Niger Delta costs the Federal Government about N5.9 billion annually.
Chairperson of the Rivers State chapter of the association, Comrade Patience Uche, made the disclosure during an exclusive interview with The Tide in Port Harcourt, at the weekend.
Apart from the huge loss in revenue, she said oil bunkering and pipeline vandalisation had also resulted in the colossal loss of lives as most of the vandals were always consumed in pipeline explosions during the bunkering activities.
Comrade Uche, who decried the increasing involvement of youths in illegal bunkering, advocated for a more proactive and corrective measure to bring lasting solution to the vice.
According to her, part of the solution is the building of modular refineries in the Niger Delta and the engagement of the youth in the oil and gas sector.
“Most of the youths who got involved in illegal oil bunkering and lost their lives in the process could have played a more creative and productive role in the oil and gas industry if they were functionally trained.
“The Federal Government should be serious about the establishment of modular refineries and the training of youths to participate in the process, this will go a long way to tackle the challenges of illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta, she said.
Comrade Uche said the major drive of the association was to make oil and gas business rural based, “to improve the socio-economic and general living conditions of its members”.
She was optimistic that the association will achieve the targets by encouraging its members to get licences from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to be actively involved in the oil and gas business.
She pointed out that the initiative would also reduce petroleum supplies from foreign marketers through importation of products, kill the spirit of bunkering and increase the federal government’s revenue on surface tank retails business in the country.
By: Taneh Beemeneh
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