Power Takeover Blunders

Initial policy blunders of the new owners of electricity generating and distributing companies are said to be responsible for the poor electricity supply nationwide

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Dec. 9, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

CONSUMERS of electricity in Nigeria are groaning under a deteriorating power supply across the country since the handover to private investors. This ugly situation has been attributed the massive disengagement of technical personnel at the various electricity distribution companies in the country by the new investors. This, consumers said, had been a source of worry because they expected a steady improvement of the situation with the entry of the private investors. It was also gathered that inadequate load allocation from the generation companies is responsible for the drastic dip in power supply in some parts of the country.

Benjamin Dikki, DG, BPE
Benjamin Dikki, DG, BPE

For instance, Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company that needs 900 megawatts on the average now receives 300 megawatts. As for last week, the available generation capacity was put at 3,400MW, as some of the power plants had low output while some were out. Egbin had 537MW, Afam VI 428MW, Okpai 458MW, Kainji 112MW, and Jebba 451MW. Alaoji, Afam IV and V, Sapele, Omoku and Ibom plants were out.

Confirming the situation, Abiodun Ajifowobaje, chief executive officer, Ikeja Disco, during a recent forum, said there were over 600,000 customers under the distribution area with a power requirement of 900 megawatts. He, however, said the Disco had been getting only 300 megawatts from the Transmission Company of Nigeria, a pointer to the problem of massive load shedding that had bedevilled the sector as a result of low capacity.

It would be recalled that the week following the handover of the power infrastructure to the new investors was greeted with a gale of the sacking of technical and support staff responsible for faults clearing at various installations. As a result, fault clearing at the distribution networks has been stalled, resulting in lack of power supply to many consumers.

Realnews investigation revealed that many of the transformers across the country are faulty and because there are no linesmen to clear the faults, power supply to consumers have drastically reduced. Most places that were receiving 10 to 12 hours of power supply before the action by the new investors now hardly get three hours of electricity daily. In some areas, there are no supplies for three to four days.

It is believed in many quarters that the new owners made a very wrong move in sacking the workers in one fell swoop without due consideration for the useful expertise and skills of some of them. The skills gap created by the exercise and the resulting increase in downtime, which is the time between when a fault occurs and when it is cleared, had been identified as the cause of the worsening power supply in many parts of the country.

In Lagos and many other parts of the country, Realnews gathered that the optimism which greeted the recent physical handover of electricity infrastructure to Interstate Electrics is now turning into pessimism, as electricity supply has continued to decline since the handover. Jacob Okolo, a businessman, said: “The power situation has gone from bad to worse since the private investors took over. I can tell you that the power supply in my area has been particularly erratic in the last three weeks,” he said.

Moses Diugwu, an artisan, who relies on regular electricity supply for his business, also said no appreciable improvement had been experienced in power supply in the Ojo area of Lagos, where he works. Michael Samni, who runs a barbing salon in Iba, also expressed disappointment at the abysmal power supply in his area since the new investors took over.

Sam Amadi, chairman, NERC
Sam Amadi, chairman, NERC

This situation has been exacerbated with the suspension of the Credited Advance Payment for Metering Implementation, CAPMI, initiated by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission to close the metering gap and curb ‘crazy billing’ in the system. It was learnt on November 21 that of the 10 distribution companies in the country, only Ikeja and Eko electricity distribution companies had adopted the CAPMI scheme as a response to customers’ complaints about estimated billing. However, disturbing indications have emerged that the new owners of the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, NEDC/Kepco Consortium, had suspended the pre-paid meter scheme.

But Kola Adesina, chairman, NEDC/Kepco Consortium, denied that the metering scheme had been cancelled. He said the scheme was suspended to enable the Disco to complete a reassessment of the entire system. He explained that if the scheme was considered efficient enough and in tandem with the new investors’ plan, it would be retained.

“We are going through a process of re-assessment of the system. We want to assess the quality and efficiency of the metering scheme. We are re-evaluating it but we have not cancelled anything. As investors, we need to look at where we are going and also consider whether the metering scheme will get us to where we are going. However, if it will not get us to where we are going, we will drop it,” he said.

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