Contrary to all expectations, the power sector privatisation has turned out to be an unreserved fiasco. The optimism of economic and social revolution touted as an inevitable accompaniment of a steady and uninterrupted electricity supply has come to naught. Six years after the privatisation was pulled off by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Nigerians are now yearning for an urgent intervention to save the sector from an utter collapse, which could be only a matter of time.
Encumbered by a public power sector that reeked of corruption, ineptitude and facility decay, Nigeria had readily embraced an option of reform, which could only be effectively implemented through privatisation. “To the Nigerian people, who have demonstrated such great patience and confidence, putting up often with darkness…I say better days are coming,” Jonathan had boisterously promised. But rather than carry out a transparent bidding process that would have attracted not just the much-needed investible funds but also the technical know-how, the exercise was mired in opacity.
In place of the experts and foreign investors that privatisation set out to attract, a motley group of Nigerians with practically no antecedent in power sector business and lacking the financial muscle was thrown up as the new investors. The result is now obvious; instead of an effective and efficient power sector that would guarantee constant electricity supply to light up homes and fire the industries, boosting the economy, Nigerians are now saddled with an albatross.
As currently structured, the power sector stands on a wobbly tripod, made up of the Generation Companies, the Transmission Company of Nigeria and the Distribution Companies. While it is the duty of the GenCos to generate electricity, the TCN, which is still wholly owned by the government, takes the responsibility for the transmission to the grid, from where the DisCos can then sell to the consumers. But none of them has been able to inspire confidence.
When the power assets were handed over to private investors on November 1, 2013, the electricity generated in Nigeria that day was 3,712.4 megawatts, from an installed generation capacity of 12, 910.40 MW and available capacity of 7,652.60 MW, according to data attributed to the Nigerian Electricity System Operator. For a population of 171.8 million then, this was ridiculous. But despite the generation capacity of 12,910.40 MW, the transmission could only boast a wheeling capacity of 8, 100 MW, while 5,375 MW remained the peak that had ever been generated.
Six years down the line, with a population of about 200 million, very little has changed. The distribution capacity is still estimated at around 4,000 MW, barely over the 3.712.4 MW of November 1, 2013. The Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, was quoted in a report two months ago as saying that installed power generation had improved to 13, 427MW (as against 12,910.40 MW in 2013), while the TCN Managing Director, Usman Mohammed, said the national grid had the capacity to transmit 7,000 MW.
These figures remain mere academic, as long as they do not translate into improved electricity supply to consumers. What is however undeniable is the fact that the DisCos, which directly interface with the consumers, have emerged as the weakest link in the electricity supply value chain. They keep complaining about cost-reflective tariff, even though they have been found wanting through and through.
They whine over the reluctance of consumers to pay when more than 55 per cent of those consumers are not metered, and access to electricity remains a mirage. For sure, the GenCos are not generating enough and the TCN is not transmitting adequately, yet, even the little that is available is rejected by the DisCos. For example, 9,310.64 MW of electricity was reportedly rejected between August 13 and August 20.
Rejecting loads when there is not enough to go round may sound outrageous but there are other weighty issues that pointedly betray the investors as utterly out of their depth. Particularly, funding has remained a knotty issue. Having raided the local banks for money to buy the firms, the local investors have not been able to fund the needed facility upgrade that should have brought about improvement in electricity supply.
Although a REUTERS report put the cost of the purchase of the power assets in 2013 at $2.5 billion, the TCN MD said the DisCos alone would require a whopping $4.3bn investment to make the desired impact. Shorn of credit options, following challenges in servicing their loans, the investors are now at their wits’ end – uncertain of what step to take next, except perhaps to let go of their majority shares and pave the way for a takeover by capable foreign investors.
As the designated revenue collectors on behalf of other operators in the industry, the DisCos are heavily in debt and have failed to remit money collected to the others. As of July, the TCN said it was being owed N270 billion by the DisCos. The former Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had also said last year that the Discos’ indebtedness to the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Company stood at N500 billion. “NBET also owes GenCos N325.784 billion, which can be settled if NBET collects what the DisCos are owing,” he said.
This debt burden has completely thrown the power sector off balance. Admitting that it would be difficult to pay, the Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Association of Nigerian Electricity Distributors, Sunday Oduntan, said only a monthly revenue of N725 million by each of the DisCos could guarantee them meeting the 35 per cent threshold remittance requirement. Yet, the regulatory authority, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Authority, appears helpless.
As Osinbajo has contended, only a recapitalisation can solve the problem. The government has already made some strides in this direction by bringing in Siemens, whose three-phased road map is expected to ultimately deliver 25,000 MW. The deal involves the German government and Siemens collaborating to increase electricity transmission and distribution capacities in Nigeria.
Although the government, which owns 40 per cent equity in the DisCos, has been castigated for not discharging its responsibilities satisfactorily, it has still taken some notable steps to pull the power sector out of its current mess. Apart from a loan intervention of N213 billion in 2014, another sum of N701 billion was announced two years ago to guarantee the NBET to be able to pay GenCos for two years. In August, President Muhammadu Buhari announced another intervention of N600 billion.
It is time for President Buhari to intervene decisively in the power sector logjam. The government cannot just continue to shell out public funds in this manner for a sector that has been privatised. Nobody needs to be told now that the privatisation was shoddily done but something drastic has to be done to salvage the situation in the national interest. The government has to take advantage of the performance review due in December to see whether to continue with the status quo or not.
Power remains a big incentive for economic and social development. When the government manages to get rid of the current investors, efforts should be geared towards targeted foreign investors, as is currently the case with Siemens, to get replacements. In Singapore, the system of Open Electricity Market is adopted. It allows consumers to migrate to other companies if they are not satisfied with the services they are getting. Nigeria will benefit immensely from such a system. What obtains now is still a monopoly that was in place before privatisation.
Rivers People Celebrate Wike At 52
As Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike marks his 52nd birthday today, both Rivers indigenes and people resident in the State have expressed myriad of opinions in celebrating the special day with the Governor.
There is no doubt that, so far, the greatest encomiums showered on the Governor have derived from his obsessive knack for massive infrastructural development across the state.
What baffles many observers is that the execution of such projects comes with the speed of a sprinter, regardless of the season. Their commissioning is always a marathon performed by notable politicians from across party lines. And, above all, these projects have proved to be of top-class quality.
In fact, it was during the commissioning of one of such people-oriented edifices that Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, of a rival political party and an unlikely source for such tangible praise, gave him the most fitting appellation of ‘Mr. Projects’.
Obviously borrowing from this, one of our respondents, Mr. Edward Amatigha, said “Governor Wike is a good man. Look at the three flyovers he is constructing at a go; whereas his counterparts elsewhere are busy emptying their state treasuries into their personal bank accounts. The man is Mr. Projects, no doubt.
“As for his birthday on Friday, I join other well-meaning Rivers men and Nigerians in wishing him a happy celebration and God’s continued guidance”.
Amatigha, a bank clerk, wished the same level of infrastructural transformation could be achieved in his native Bayelsa State.
Chikwendu Nwokorogwu, a civil servant in Port Harcourt, sees Governor Wike as a blessing to the people of Rivers State and one of the best governors the state has had since its creation.
Nwokorogwu was particularly grateful to the Governor for his contributions to the health sector. She called on all Rivers people to celebrate their son who has done them well in all aspects of governance.
A trader, Mrs Ifeoma Chukwuemeka, referred to the Governor as a man of “timber and caliber”; a man of good taste and immense strength. She praised Wike for ensuring that traders enjoyed comfort while doing their business by building ultra-modern markets for them.
The food vendor wished him well on his new age while urging him to maintain his service delivery stance with the Rivers electorate as more goodies were being expected from the government.
Also speaking, Gabriel Ejiofor noted that “Governor Wike, beyond all reasonable doubt, is doing well, but I just pray that he becomes friendlier with the youths, because we have a lot to explore in our own state. God bless Wike! God bless Muhammadu Buhari! And God bless Nigeria!”
Muhammad Kadiri, who is of the Muslim community in Rivers State could not express his excitement and gratitude enough to Governor Wike. He saw the governor as a man of the people whose peaceful mien is very palpable across the state.
Kadiri said that Muslims in the state, who are mostly non-indigenes, still partake of the governor’s generosity, even as non- Rivers people. According to him, they can access the health and educational facilities in the state and also do business without any fear of intimidation or molestation; all because the governor is very accommodating.
Mallam Muhammad appreciated Allah for Governor Wike’s life and wished him well on the occasion of his birthday today.
On his part, a motorist, Anthony Chibor, paid special tribute to Governor Wike for inaugurating the task force on illegal parks and street trading in Port Harcourt. According to him, there is better traffic flow and an improved ease of doing business in the city.
He wished the Governor many years of success and advised him to remain focused while avoiding any temptation to be distracted by unnecessary political rantings and hate speeches from enemies of the state.
Also responding, Miss Goodness Idong, a student of Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Port Harcourt, opined that it is actually a double celebration for the state’s chief excutive as his birthday anniversary falls in the same month as Jesus Christ’s.
She assured that the governor’s vision and support towards improving the standard of education in the state would not be in vain as it will surely serve to produce students who would become very sound future leaders.
Another trader, Mr. Cletus Nwankwo, said that Wike’s good legacy at ensuring a better Rivers State is unrivaled. He described the state’s helmsman as the “Governor of all governors”, saying that his birthday would bring him good fortunes as the Heavens would surely shower him with multiple blessings.
For Elder John Chimezie, it was a very simple and apparently honest confession: “I like the governor’s work. The truth is that I have never seen a governor like him. I wish him goodluck, long life, prosperity and a graceful birthday”.
A civil servant who craved to be known simply as Mrs. D said she was always proud of Governor Wike’s accomplishments as a politician.
“Politicians hardly keep their election promises. But in Governor Wike, Rivers people and, indeed, Nigerians have found a politician whose word has always been his bond; a man who has consistently matched words with prompt action. In fact, an Ekwueme (talk-and-do) governor,” she eulogized.
By: Ibelema Jumbo, Ngozi Dennar, Chioma Peters & Odinakachi Oko
Sowore: SANs Seek Judicial Inquiry Into Court Invasion
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BoSAN) yesterday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to reveal the identities of those who invaded courtroom number 7 of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The Department of State Services (DSS) last Friday re-arrested Omoyele Sowore, convener of RevolutionNow, a situation that has generated local and international criticisms.
BoSAN warned that unless the truth is unravelled, Nigeria would lose respect and become an object of ridicule among the comity of Nations.
The body gave the warning on Thursday in a speech made at a special valedictory court session to mark the retirement of Justice Kumai Aka’ahs from the Supreme Court.
The event held at the headquarters of the Supreme Court in Abuja.
Chief Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN) who delivered the body’s Speech remarked that the incident with similar ones in the last three years points to the level of disregard to the rule of law and the judiciary.
“The Nigerian Bar Association has come up with a statement from the bar condemning the action. As members of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Body of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, associates itself with the condemnation of the show of shame.
“It will, however, go one step further to suggest that this matter should not be swept under the expanding carpet of deceit in Nigeria.
“The pertinent question is who was responsible for the action in the courtroom? This is a task that the government must carry out to ascertain the truth”, he said.
While stating that the Nigeria Police being a sister organisation cannot investigate the matter thoroughly, he said even the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Customs and other paramilitary forces in the country cannot also not do a thorough job.
Okpoko (SAN) added that even the National Assembly is not sufficiently equipped to investigate the matter.
“The way out is an Independent Commission of Enquiry under the law. This can be achieved. The Body of Senior Advocates hereby demands that Mr. President considers without delay, the setting up of a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to hear publicly and determined the perpetrators of the acts, their sponsors and their objectives.
“Unless this is done, Nigerians are unlikely to be convinced by any other explanations that the act was not the work of the DSS.
“It is the result of any such judiciary inquiry that will lead to the re-establishment of discipline in the society. The DSS and its officers are not above the laws of the land and the Constitution.
“In Nigerian law and in the Common Law, the Superior Orders is no defence to a criminal conduct. It has never been and this administration must not allow it to be”, the body said.
Also speaking at the occasion the NBA President, Paul Usoro (SAN) condemned the persistent disobedience and flouting of court orders by the authorities in the country.
“We desecrate the temple of justice when we blatantly flout and disobey the orders of courts. A court that is made to be helpless in the face of flagrant disobedience of its orders is as useless to society as a toothless bulldog is to its owner.
“No one fears a bulldog that is known to be toothless, it has no capacity to keep away a marauding army or a band of invaders”, he said.
In a related development, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar has warned that disobedience to any court order is a recipe for lawlessness and chaos.
In a veiled reference to the arrest of the #RevolutionNow convener, Omoyele Sowore by the Department of State Services in violation of a court order, Abubakar stated that “everyone must be law-abiding in the interest of national development.”
He gave the warning yesterday in Abuja at the 2019 fourth quarter meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council with the theme: ‘Religion and Civil Authorities in Dialogue for Nation-Building.’
The monarch said, “We must regularly obey and respect the laws of our land. We should never disregard the laws to avoid the consequences. If a court makes a judicial pronouncement on a particular matter, it should be obeyed to the letter.
“If you have any problem or disagree with the pronouncement, the next step is to appeal the pronouncement instead of disregarding or violating court judgments.”
Speaking further, the Muslim leader noted, “If you are served a court order and you deliberately refused to obey it because you are a governor, president or any influential person, then you are setting a dangerous precedent.”
“There’s no society that will prosper through lawlessness; Citizens must be law-abiding so that we can achieve the desired development,” Abubakar said.
The NSCIA President-General also stressed the need for inter-religious dialogue in the country, noting that it would foster a better understanding among the people.
He admonished the citizens to be wary of extremism and prevent extremists from causing trouble in the polity.
Abubakar further emphasised the importance of education and particularly stressed the need to enrol street children in school and to combat the rising menace of drug abuse in the country.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha commended the Co-Chairmen and members of the NIREC for being steadfast in maintaining the peace and harmony in the country.
He said the Federal Government recognised the efforts of NIREC in bringing the two major religions together and providing religious leaders and traditional rulers a veritable forum to promote greater interaction and understanding among the leaders and their followers as well as lay foundations for sustainable peace and religious harmony in the country.
The SGF stated, “The time has now come for governments at all levels to sit down and discuss the issue of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence with our religious and traditional rulers because the success or failure of security administration in the country depends largely on both institutions.
“You, therefore, remain in the frontline of stakeholders in the business of peacebuilding in every community.”
The NIREC Executive Secretary, Prof. Cornelius Omonokhua said justice and good governance remained the most effective means for promoting peace, harmony, mutual co-existence and development.
Rivers Finance: House Committee Assures On Reforms
The Joint House Committee on Finance and Public Accounts has promised to champion new reforms that will inject accountability into the management of funds in the state.
They made public their plans, yesterday, during a public hearing on two executive bills: Rivers State Audit Reform bill and Rivers State Finance Control and Management bill 2019.
While the Audit bill seeks to repeal and re-enact an existing bill of 1999, the Finance and Control bill is a new bill set to streamline public finance and enforce transparency.
Chairman House Committee on Finance and Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ehie Ogerenye Edison said the public hearing is to get input from stakeholders and ensure that all forms of misappropriation are eliminated.
In his words, “if the bill is finally approved and passed into law the state would be one of the first to legally fight corruption.
Hon. Edison affirmed that the Chief Wike-led administration is against all forms of misappropriation hence it has sponsored the bill to streamline adequate appropriation of government funds.
Earlier, Chairman House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Major Jack submitted that the public hearing will streamline the bill and give it a modern look.
In his view it was high time the state reformed its audit system to give room for efficiency.
In the future, he said, accounting officers will be responsible as they are expected to be more prudent in their duties.
In a related development, the call for the establishment of the Rivers State Audit Service Commission has divided stakeholders in the public finance and accounts sector in the state.
Their views were made public during the public hearing on “The Rivers State Finance Control and Management bill 2019”, and “The Rivers State Audit Reform bill of 2019” held at the Assembly Complex yesterday.
While the Auditor- General of the State, Eliaz Akazu, advocated for an independent body to oversee audit processes in the state, Chairman of the State Civil Service Commission, Chief Oris Onyiri said it will conflict with service rules and duplicate functions.
Speaking through one Emmanuel Dappa, the Chairman of the State Civil Service said if the Commission is established, it will conflict with the mandate of the commission to oversee all public service matters, and therefore urged the Assembly to ensure that such provisions are duly addressed.
“When it comes to the discipline and promotion of auditors, it will relegate the duties of the Civil Service Commission, “ Onyiri declared.
Except in the appointment of Auditor General, which is exclusive of the Governor, Onyiri stated that other aspects of employment, promotion and discipline are under the Commission, stressing that auditors are civil servants.
Akazu had earlier posited that the Commission was necessary to inject efficiency and transparency in audit system.
He reasoned that, “auditing is moving away from the traditional system… The office should be funded through direct charge on government account or through budgeting”.
The State Auditor -General also sued for the establishment of a legal department to oversee grey legal areas instead of resorting to staffs loaned from sister agencies.
Meanwhile, a representative of the Rivers State University and Professor of Accountancy, Loveday Nwayanwu, has called for the inclusion of members of various high institutions in the proposed board of state audit.
Besides, Prof Nwayanwu argued that it will not be transparent if the auditors generally appoint somebody to audit his office.
Such duty, according to Nwayanwu, should be done by an independent body to create transparency.
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