The federal government is working on a law that will provide a legal framework to electricity distribution companies to be able to collect their bills without molestation by consumers
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Aug. 11, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THE federal government is soon to come up with Electricity Anti-Theft Bill in its effort to protect electricity distribution companies in the country. Benjamin Dikki, director general, Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, who made this known in Lagos, said the Bill was currently at its drafting stage. He said the Bill would also provide the legal framework to empower electricity distribution companies to collect their bills without molestation.
Speaking when he led a BPE team on a post-privatisation monitoring, PPM, tour of the newly privatised Eko and Ikeja distribution companies in Lagos, Dikki said the visit was to find out the state of affairs in the power sector, the challenges faced by the investors and as well as obtain policy inputs to assist government in shaping a policy that would stabilise and grow the sector.
The BPE boss pointed out that the thrust of President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda was “to make the private sector the engine that drives the growth of the economy.” He commended the two DISCOS for the positive turnaround measures they had implemented in such a short period. “This has given impetus to government’s drive for reforms and privatization. We are emboldened to say that reform and privatisation work as a result of the changes already brought about by the new DISCOS,” he said.
According to Dikki, the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, as a monolithic company, had no incentive to improve collection or customer service, but with reforms, the new owners would work hard to recover their huge investments. He pointed out that investors were able to embrace reforms because there were necessary legal and regulatory frameworks that provided a clear investment horizon and urged the National Assembly to replicate the gains in power and telecommunications sectors in the oil and gas sector by passing the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, in order to attract investments into the sector.
Earlier in his brief to the team, Ernest Orji, a director of Eko Electricity Distribution Company Plc, commended the BPE boss for personally leading the post-privatization monitoring team to the zone. He remarked that the visit was the first time in the history of the PPM that a DG was leading the delegation and that the presence of the DG had increased the level of confidence and seriousness to all concerned.
He noted that as a 40 percent shareholder, “the investors see government as a partner and as result, their goals are aligned.” He urged the federal government to urgently address the issue of capacity limitations in many transmission stations to facilitate the anticipated improvement in power generation and delivery to customers.
Orji pointed out that the shortfall in gas supply and frequent vandalisation of gas pipelines, transmission infrastructure, transformers, energy theft, among others, had further affected the generation and distribution of electricity in the country. He said that average power demand for the Eko DISCO “is 700mw while the average load allocation from the national grid is only 290mw thereby making it impossible us to meet the needs of our customers.” He noted that as part of their post-acquisition plan, Eko DISCO had projected to invest over N42 billion in the next five years out of which it had already secured an initial $150 million for its capital expenditure.
Also, Abiodun Ajifowabaje, managing director, Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, IKEDC, said the new investors had spent the first six months since the takeover to understand what they had acquired and were then settling down into making investment decisions. He said at takeover in November 2013, the company had re-engaged 567 ex-staff of the defunct PHCN and had since recruited an additional 340 new staff, out of which 310 were graduate engineers and technicians.
Meanwhile, the National Council on Privatisation, NCP’s three-man fact-finding committee on Aluminum Smelting Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, has said that the allegation of asset stripping against UC Rusal – owners of the company, was untrue as ALSCON’s machines and structures were still intact. Speaking after an assessment tour of the multi-million naira plant at Ikot-Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, on Monday, July 20, Emmanuel Amadi, chairman of the committee, said what was construed as asset stripping was the disposal of scraps, non-liquid assets, faulty and inactive equipment and their parts by UC Rusal.
According to him, the disposed parts were spent anode butts, anode stems and yokes, aluminum metal pads, cathode and anode busbar, coke and pitch for anode production and cathode bars. Amadi expressed displeasure over the closure of the plant and urged the management to quickly develop and submit to the government, a business plan with timelines to keep the plant functional.
He then called for industrial harmony between the management of ALSCON as its absence could jeopardize smooth operations of the company. The Chairman, while appealing to the management of the company to reconsider recalling some of the sacked union officials, revealed that the committee would immediately present the report of its findings to the NCP to take the next action.
Earlier, Dmitriy Zaviyalov, managing director, UC Rusal, had informed the committee members that the falling prices of aluminum metals in the global market and lack of gas supply to the company were hampering the operations of the plant. He said that from 2007-2012, Rusal had invested N24.54bn into the plant but due to teething problems, it suspended production in March 2013.The MD added that since the takeover, it had utilized only 11 percent of its production capacity and that during the period, it experienced six disruptions of gas supply.
Zaviyalov said that the management decided to sell the plant’s scraps and non-liquid assets to get additional income for survival, especially the payment of staff salaries and the supply of five megawatts of power to the company’s host community.