| By Anayo Ezugwu |
FOLLOWING the threat by the electricity distribution companies, DISCOs, to disconnect ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, over indebtedness, the federal government has given them 15 days starting from Monday, February 13, to submit accurate records of the debts allegedly owed to them by its MDAs for verification.
The government said only four of the Discos – Abuja, Ikeja, Yola, and Ibadan, have submitted their debts records, which are being verified.
The Eko, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Jos, Kaduna, Kano, and Benin Discos have not submitted their MDAs debt records. The 11 Discos have consistently claimed that the government’s MDAs owed them billions of naira for electricity services rendered to them over the years.
According to the Discos, as at end of April 2016, MDAs’ debt profile stood at N88.6 billion with the military owing the highest with a total of N38.7 billion. The debts profile also shows that the Abuja Disco is owed N18.6 billion, Benin Disco, N5.8 billion, Eko Disco, N8.6 billion, Enugu Disco, N7.2 billion and Ibadan Disco, N6.8 billion. Others being owed are Ikeja Disco, N5. 9 billion; Jos Disco, N6.5 billion; Kaduna Disco, N8.2 billion; Kano Disco, N1.2 billion, Port Harcourt Disco, N6.8 billion, and Yola Disco, N2.4 billion.
Similarly, federal ministries and parastatals owe N9.7 billion, while state ministries and parastatals owe a total of N16.2 billion debt nationwide.
The debt issue was one of the things discuss at the 12th edition of the monthly power sector operators’ meeting. Others include the impact of vandalism of gas pipelines on the country’s power generation, the sector’s poor revenue profile and completion of some transmission projects by the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN.
“The meeting also noted the steps taken to address the liquidity issues (currently limiting the functioning of the sector), through the work currently underway to identify, verify and pay MDA debts to Discos, as well as gas debts and generation debts. It was noted that Abuja, Ikeja, Ibadan and Yola Disco have complied with data requirements, and verification of their submission is underway on a first come first serve basis.
“A deadline of February 28, 2017, was issued to receive submissions on MDA debts from Discos and February 17, 2017, was set as a deadline for submission of audited and management accounts,” the communiqué from the meeting stated.
It stated that the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has engaged communities in the Niger Delta to address their concerns and find a lasting solution to the challenges of pipeline vandalism which it said has led to severe limitations in power generation.
According to the communiqué, the inauguration of the new commissioners of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, and the appointment of an interim Managing Director for the TCN to reform the company for a more robust service to the industry were two of the recent efforts by the government to solve the problem of the power sector.
“TCN announced that Osogbo-Ede line is fully completed, and is awaiting completion of the connected substation for energiser. This substation is to be completed in 12 months. The MD, Transmission Services Provider, TSP, also noted the completion of a transformer project in New Bussa, and announced that the substation should be ready for energising in six weeks following pre-commissioning tests.
“TCN also reported progress on the following projects in the host (IBEDC) region: Abeokuta-Igboora-Lanlate 132KV DC line, Odogunyan substation and transmission line, and transmission substation in Iseyin as well as transmission projects in Ago-Iwoye, Benin-Akure, Gamo-Ogbomoso and Magboro,” the communique said.
Fashola stated that the sabotage of gas assets and pipelines has decommissioned power generating plants and their ability to provide additional 3,000 megawatts of power to the national grid. The minister has also commended Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company, IBEDC, for the progress the company has recorded in improving their distribution assets and urged the company to communicate the progress to the governor of the state, local government chairmen, traditional rulers and community-based organisations, who are the company’s customers.
“Let the local people be part of the handover and maintenance process; they will also develop an ownership for the assets when they are involved in its delivery so that they will ensure the safe-keeping,’’ he said.
Fashola said generation would have been boosted above the current 3,500 – 3,800MW if the pipelines were back to deliver another 3,000MW. According to him, the country would have been generating over 6,000MW if the gas pipelines were safe.
“That sabotage has also created debt problem, shortfall in power expectation, and therefore, shortfall in recovery because consumers are more resistant to payment when they don’t have electricity, and I will be too and you will be too. And we see that they pay more when the power is more stable. Of course, there are issues also at the retail end – metering, estimated bills. Now, the reason why I have gone through this is just to reiterate that all of us have an understanding of the problems and all of us have different roles to play in solving those problems.
“You will see that government has begun to act. The vice president, representing the president, is going round those Niger Delta communities, engaging them more openly, more robustly. I believe that if we are successful as we expect to be, we should be able to sometimes this year recover all the 3,000MW that has been lost to gas pipeline outages. But beyond that government is also taking some steps to ensure that solutions are provided this year so that results begin to reach where the people are,” Fashola said.
According to him, one of the steps the government has taken was to constitute NERC, and the appointment of new managing director for TCN. The minister said the government had made progress in resolving some of the liquidity issues.
“I believe that within the last one month, some of the payments that were due to some of you ought to have been remitted by Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) as they promised. If they haven’t been remitted, I assure you it is only procedural process. The approvals have been given; you will get the money.
“But what is more important is that we have spent the last month holding top-level government meetings to identify the debts owed to the gas companies and the generation companies and in the shortest possible time that it will require us to do so, we intend to settle the outstanding liabilities, debts and to provide a comfort assurance from government that every month those who actually produce power will get paid. So, we will conclude that very soon,” he said.
— Feb 27, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT