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‘Buhari, Redeem Six Years Of Failed Power Privatisation’

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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.

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Tai APC Collapses As Hundreds Return To PDP …Say They Were Blinded By Fake Promises

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Over 500 former members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Tai Local Government Area have returned to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The returnees led by the first PDP Chairman of the area, Hon Peter Gwezia, announced their return to the PDP, last Saturday, during the GDI’s sensitisation programme for the collection of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVC) at the Council Secretariat, Saakpenwa.
Speaking on behalf of the rest of the returnees while renouncing membership of the APC, Hon Peter Gwezia, said he and other APC members decided to leave the party due to failure of leadership.
While promising to work for the success of the PDP in the 2023 election, Gwezia said the APC lacked ideas, and was like a vehicle without engine, could not take them to their desired destination, hence their decision to leave the party.
In his remarks, Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Hon Chukwuemeka Aaron, who received the returnees on behalf of the Chairman, PDP Rivers State, Amb Desmond Akawor, assured them of equal treatment, saying there are no new members in the party.
“I want to welcome you all and to say that in PDP and GDI where you are today, no person is new. We all have equal status, we all have equal rights. Some of the people that were with you there doing the jamboree that came back today, they are commissioners; they have gone to the National Assembly, become chairmen of councils.
“So, having seen what our leader, Chief Nyesom Wike has done in Rivers State, and in Tai, and what your chairman of council is doing in Tai, they have come back to take their rightful position. We want to thank all of you, and to say that the party chairman and the chairman of council will integrate you into the activities of GDI”.
Also speaking, GDI President-General, Chief Bright Amaewhule, said the performance of the present administration in the state was enough testimony for any Rivers son or daughter to reckon that PDP was the only party which had their interest at heart.
Amaewhule said that of the candidates lined up for the governorship seat in the state, only the PDP Governorship candidate, Sir Siminialayi Fubara, was competent and qualified to give the state good governance from day one.
He, therefore, challenged eligible voters who have not collected their PVCs to do so as soon as possible, and prepare to cast their votes for the right party which was a master of good governance and quality projects’ delivery in the state come 2023.
The returnees, alongside GDI members from the 10 wards of Tai, including youths, women and students groups, later engaged in a wild gyration, turning the entire arena into dance frenzy.
The event also featured solidarity speeches from stakeholders among them former and current National and State Assembly members, former and serving council chairmen, former commissioners, party stalwarts, and captains of industry, among others.

By: Nelson Chukwudi

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MOSOP Tasks SPDC On Fresh Oil Spill

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Factional President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Fegalo Nsuke, has called on Shell Petroleum Development Company (Shell) Joint Venture (JV), the oil and gas multinational company, to take full responsibility and appropriate action to curb a fresh oil spill in Bodo Community in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Nsuke, who noted that the spill was first noticed in the community early last week, blamed Shell for the spill and urged the Dutch multinational to alleviate its impact on the community, curtail its spread and commence proper remediation and compensation in accordance with global best practices.
The MOSOP leader noted that the oil spills from the Trans Niger Pipeline operated by the Shell JV, suddenly erupted within the residential area of the community, alleging that it must have been caused by equipment failure.
He observed that although the cause of the spills, which was occurring 11years after the release of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports, was yet to be ascertained, the spills have affected residential areas and community dwellers have been asked by the MOSOP to evacuate the area, to avoid causality in case of a fire.
“This massive spill is occurring 11 years after the UNEP released a damning report exposing Shell’s devastation of the Ogoni environment.
“We have communicated with community leaders to cooperate with investigations and ensure that every detail about this spill is communicated to our secretariat as soon as possible”, he said.On his part, Executive Director, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC), Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, said, “the cause of the crude oil spill which occurred inside the community where people live is not yet known at this time.”

By: Tonye Nria-Dappa

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Nigeria’s Freedom Of Expression Attracting Global Attention, Buhari Claims

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The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Sunday, said it was instructive that Nigeria was attracting positive international attention as a country that promoted media freedom and freedom of expression.
He said this was premised on the government’s understanding of the important roles that information literacy and media education played in sustainable development.
According to a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari said this while pledging his “full support” for three major international events scheduled to hold in Nigeria in October and November 2022.
They include: the 2022 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Global Media, Information Literacy Week in Abuja, in October, the first Global Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry in Lagos, as well as the second Global Association of Literary Festivals Conference, Abeokuta, in November.
In the statement titled ‘President Buhari pledges support as Nigeria hosts major cultural, tourism and literary events,’ he said the global events were opportunities to showcase the nation’s rich heritage in culture, arts, tourism and entertainment as well as advancements on media freedom.
Earlier, the Minister of Information ad Culture, Lai Mohammed, said that hosting the 2022 UNESCO Global Media, Information Literacy Week, would help to address the rising spate of fake news, misinformation and hate speech.
Expressing his delight to welcome international visitors to Nigeria, Buhari urged citizens to leverage the events to exhibit the values “that make us a unique, friendly and peace-loving people.”
The statement read in part, “Welcoming the decision by the UNESCO’s World Tourism Organisation and the Global Association of Literary Festivals to grant Nigeria the right to host these separate historic events, the President assures all relevant stakeholders and participants of the warmth and hospitality of the people of Nigeria.
“On the MIL Week, Buhari notes that it is instructive that Nigeria is attracting positive international attention as a country that promotes media freedom and freedom of expression, recognising the important roles information literacy and media education play in sustainable development.
“On the first Global Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry, the President says the rapid growth of Nigeria’s film, fashion, music, and the Information and Communications Technology sector, and the increase in international appeal and acceptance would continue to spur government to devote more resources to the sector.”
Among other initiatives, Buhari noted that the Creative Industry Financing Initiative, established by his administration and managed by the Central Bank of Nigeria in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, had provided single-digit financing to many young Nigerians in the fields of fashion, film, music and information technology.
He noted that the $100 million re-development of the National Theatre, Lagos, into a world-class creative park is also ongoing, following the handover of the facility to the CBN and the Bankers Committee.
The President, therefore, expressed confidence that the literary world would find many good things to celebrate about Nigeria when they meet in the historic city of Abeokuta, homeland and birthplace of one of Nigeria’s finest literary icons and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka.

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