The Power Sector arm of Nigeria’s organised labour few weeks ago raised the alarm that the Federal Government has spent over N1.7trillion on power sector privatisation in the last seven years with the Distribution Companies (DISCOs) and the Generating Companies (GENCOs) as the largest beneficiaries, without visible improvement in power generation.
General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Mr Joe Ajaero, who made the claim in Lagos said with such investment the power generation ought to have tripled to 20,000MW, but had remained at 4,000MW it attained before privatisation.
For sometime, Nigerians have been receiving shocks from the Federal Government and it’s agencies, especially in the power sector, who, as it appears, do everything to satisfy the private investors in that sector. Before Ajaero made the statement, Nigerians have expressed deep dissatisfaction over the activities of operators in the power sector.
The ordinary Nigerian sees the power sector as a sham put together to systematically fleece public funds and deprive nationals of their money without value added. When the operators in the sector bring up arguments on why tariff should be increased, the ordinary Nigerians and discerning minds have queried the position of the operators, constantly reminding them that higher tariff does not equate to efficiency.
Comrade Ajaero in Bartlesville this point had said: “Increasing tarrif doesn’t mean increases or improvement in service delivery when power generation remains constant”. He wondered why the operators, instead of adding value, have remained stagnant or even retrogreasing in service delivery several years after the nation’s public power sector was handed over to them
The labour leader had wondered why a government privatised it’s assets at N400 billion had spent N1.7 trillion supporting the DisCos and Gencos investors who, according to him, “have not been able to add anything to the sector”, inspite of their controlling share holding as the Federal Government has only 40 percent of the total investment in the sector.
As noted by stakeholders who stated that since the DISCO and GENCOs took over the power sector assets, nothing meaningful has changed in terms of improving on the facilities they met on ground like power plants and turbines, electric transformers, power lines (both high tension and low tension) as well as even on the issue of metering and sundry menial services.
The AUTHORITY cannot agree less. Our investigations have revealed that these investors have been sleeping on their responsibilities, and only stridently founding an oligopoly that only milks Nigerians and Nigeria dry. On areas which affect the ordinary citizens, it was observed that DISCOs hardly perform basic assignments such as procurement of electric transformers, replacement of damaged low tension power lines, replacement of damaged or “their so-called expired meters”, among other services expected of them.
It is expected that companies which are in business should set up commercial centers near their customers, where complaints of pre-paid token could be purchased. It has been observed that DISCOs do abandon their customers to their fate even when they file complaints with them, creating the impression that were the DISCOs in business in the real terms of the word, it would take them just few minutes or hours to respond to customer’s complaints.
Unfortunately, customers have been left at the mercy of their stand-by generators several days, weeks or even months after complaint had been lodged. In the rural areas, some communities that hitherto enjoyed public power supply, now stay without power for months or even years and all these are so because those companies are not in business; they are more or less mere fleecing points masquerading as incorporated businesses.
Nigerians recall vividly how the Federal Government during the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration provided money to the DISCOs for mass metering. The money went down the drain, just like the life line provided in the aviation sector.
If the privatisation agreements entered into with the DISCOs and GENCOs are implemented to the letters, all the myriad of complaints and obvious failures in the power sector will not be the case.
Rather than be seen to operate as business, the operators in the power sector are seen more as a mafia gang with the primary interest to fleece as much as they can from Nigeria and it’s citizens. We cannot recall any other country where it’s power sector operates like rogue enterprise as has been the case in Nigeria.
This is mainly due to the absence of efficient and accountable regulation as well as near absence of oversight by the legislature who were expected to have used public pulse to drive home the concerns of members of their constituents and their own first-hand experiences, during their legislative oversight. But because of pecuniary interests, which have become the hallmark of Nigeria’s governance system, things are allowed to deteriorate as if none cares.
Unfortunately, Nigerian scientists who should have researched and innovated alternative energy sources are either hamstrung or frustrated. Otherwise, why should the country be kept under the pangs of obviously rogue elements, yet there seems to be no end to the machinations of these Shylock elements.
We have said for the umpteenth time that increasing tariff is never a sign that quality of service will improve. Our experiences in the telecommunications sector where tariff crashed to all time low to the extent that even the poorest in our communities can afford to own a GSM handset and communicate with their kit and kin is a good reminder that tariff increases or pumping money from public sector without commensurate technical follow-up at the other end, amounts to nothing but a waste of scarce resources.
If the Nigerian government must continue to pump in money into the power sector, it is time to pause and carry out a post mortem on the finances we had disbursed in that sector. Unbiased forensic audit of the power sector, especially the investments made by the Nigerian government after the privatisation of the sector, in comparison with investments by the enterprise owners of such companies is the only way to bring us out of the quagmire. Such audit must not last till eternity. It should be pursued with all the seriousness and speed it deserves.
If we fail to do these, then we can be sure that we shall continue to run round in circles -an endless journey. The destination of course, will continue to move further away as we move and we end up wasting our energy over nothing tangible.