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Fashola lambasts power firms for sabotaging economy

The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Friday lambasted the Association of Electricity Distributors and condemned its recent reaction to his directives to the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of Public Enterprises and Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company.

Fashola, who called the association’s spokesperson an interloper, stressed that his directives went to legal entities and not to an unlicensed organisation, ANED, and accused the Discos of sabotaging the nation’s economy through their actions.

In a 28-page document released in Abuja on Tuesday by ANED, the power distributors argued that most of the statements about Nigeria’s power sector that were made last week Monday by Fashola were false.

They said comments made by the minister on metering, power generation and transmission capacities and stranded electricity, among others, were significantly distorted.

Fashola had briefed journalists on the status of Nigeria’s power sector at the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in Abuja last week Monday and had pointed to a lot of lapses on the part of the Discos.

The minister, who was displeased by ANED’s reaction to his briefing, issued a statement he personally signed on Friday saying, “Before fiction becomes fact for lack of a response, I feel obliged to respond to some, not all of the allegations credited to one Mr. Sunday Oduntan, who presents himself as Executive Director, Research and Advocacy of the Association of Electricity Distributors, which he made in response to my directives to NERC and the BPE/NBET as contracting parties to the Discos.

“Throughout my press statement, which contained the directives, I referred copiously to the provisions of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act, which is the law that regulates the power sector. I referred to the Discos in their capacities as licensees. Mr. Oduntan should tell members of the public if ANED is a licensee.

“He should tell the public whether he is an investor in a Disco and in which Disco he has invested and what he invested. He should tell members of the public that I walked him out of our monthly meeting, because he has no capacity to attend and he was not invited. If ANED is not a licensee, who is ANED? An NGO? If so, they should listen to consumers, because nothing is going on about poor service.”

The minister argued that the BPE, NBET and NERC, to whom his directives were targeted, contracted individually with the Discos and not as an association, adding that power supply had economic consequences and political relevance.

“However to suggest therefore that my directives were political turns reality on its head, because for the past 20 months, in all my public briefings at monthly meetings with the Discos, these same issues of service delivery of meters, estimated billings and investment in distribution equipment by Discos have dominated my remarks,” he stated.

Fashola wondered that assuming this was not so, would the onset of elections preclude the quest for better service or continued governance?

He said if Oduntan represented the Discos, who for reasons best known to them, choose not to act to save their investments, that would be a matter of choice for them.

The minister added, “I do not recognise him because the law that guides my functions does not recognise him. His statement that no directives from me will save the power sector from collapse is consistent with the views of someone who has no skin in the game. It is perhaps a Freudian revelation of the mind-set of those he represents, whoever they may be.

“It is a sickening parallel of the Biblical story of the woman who tried to steal a baby before the great King Solomon and asked them to divide the child. It is revealing of the mind-set of a saboteur and not a builder, and he would do very well to acquaint himself and advise his co-travellers with the consequences of sabotaging the economy under our laws.”

Fashola stated that while the Discos reserved the right to choose to affiliate with that view or disown it, he was optimistic that the power sector would prosper “in spite of Oduntan-minded personalities.”

He said, “As for the allegation that figures of power generation and distribution released by me are not true, the taste of the pudding lies with those who eat it. Electricity consumers know what their experience was in 2015, 2016, 2017 and today. These figures have been released many months back when we reached those milestones as part of my monthly report and road map of incremental power.

“It is clearly Oduntan-like to keep quiet at the time, when there were no directives, and to suddenly wake up many months later to dispute what he did not contest. It is obvious that the warning lights of compliance necessity are blinking, and those he represents do not like the colour.”

He added, “Another Oduntan-minded interpretation of my directive is that it is an attempt to demonise the Discos. Far from it. If the Discos connect with their consumers, they will hear from them first-hand how traumatised they feel about load shedding, absence of meters and estimated billing.

“The Gencos (generation companies), who are short-paid because the Discos under-remit in spite of high estimated billing to consumers, will tell the Discos how they feel. My directives seek to rectify these problems because I believe they can be rectified.”

Fashola argued further that his message to the power distributors was simple.

He said, “Electricity consumers (which include Fashola), want better service; the NBET wants its money –about N800bn – so she can pay the Gencos; if the Discos can prove that the Federal Government owes more than what we admit, they should deduct N72bn from N800bn and pay the remaining N728bn, which they owe the NBET.

“The Discos should respond to the query from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing as to why 408 feeders, which have a capacity to deliver 5,756MW of power to consumers, only carry 444MW because of faulty lines, bad equipment and load shedding.”

Fashola asked Oduntan to interpret this and tell the public whether it was the ministry who should fix these lines and whether the unused energy would not reach the consumers if the feeders were put to use.

According to him, these are part of the subject of his directives to NERC to address deliberate load shedding, adding that Oduntan should advise his clients to spend the money used in publishing media responses to fix these problems to restore bad lines, and provide transformers and meters to their consumers.

“That is what electricity consumers want, better service,” Fashola added.

When contacted, Oduntan told our correspondent that the Discos were not ready to trade blames with the minister, as their 28-page document had enough details on issues in the sector.