The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), one of Nigeria’s pro-democracy group, has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Ministry of Power to restore electricity supply to Abia, especially Aba and also probe the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) for abruptly disconnecting electricity in the state.
This is as CLO condemned the ongoing power outage in Abia State, especially Aba and environs, describing it as a siege against national security.
Aba Power Limited (APL), which provides electricity to nine out of the 17 Local Government Areas of Abia State, was cut off from the sole transmission network in the country on Friday, March 21, 2023, due to an N896,210,059.58 debt, owed by Nigeria’s newest electricity distribution company.
CLO in a statement signed by Alloy Attah, its South-East leader, alleged that all the other 11 DisCos established since 2013 are owing far greater amounts, yet none has been subjected to this treatment, because the Federal Government understands the far-reaching implications of putting any part of the country in complete darkness even for a day.
“Far from allowing any part of Nigeria to be plunged into darkness, the government has been subsidising the DisCos with a fortune, despite being private entities” Attah said.
The FG subsidised the distribution companies with N120bn in 2022 alone.
It is scandalous, argued the pro-human rights group, that the Market Operator, an arm of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, owned by the FG, “didn’t mind putting a whole State in darkness, including the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Navy, the Nigeria Police, the Department of Security Service, the Civil Defence and National Security Organisation in Abia State, which rely on constant electricity supply to discharge their onerous duties to the Nigerian people in a State with grave security challenges”.
The CLO pointed out a fundamental contradiction in the steps taken by the TCN over the payment of statutory fees to Federal Government agencies by Aba Power.
While the TCN in a letter with reference number TCN-MO-003-APL-049-VOL2-202 dated April 19, 2023, asked Aba power to clear its debt within one month, the company wrote a letter with reference number TCN-MO-003-EDTSP-C37—VOL7-2023 on the same day to the Market Operator directing it to yank off Aba Power from the transmission network within 24 hours.
“It is not fortuitous but rather a well-calculated, deliberate action that the disconnection started not just on a Friday, but also on a public holiday, which saw Nigerians out of their usual businesses till the following Monday,” the group said.
“The TCN and the market operator did not allow Muslims to celebrate the annual Eid el Fitri feast, after one month of fasting, body mortification and intense spiritual exercises”.
The CSO expressed satisfaction that Aba Power has been making good efforts to discharge its financial obligations to both suppliers and government agencies as well as customers.
The group said: “Even though it, in legal terms, took over the ownership of the Aba Ringfence in February, 2022, it did not take over full management until September 2022, when it began to collect revenue from customers.
“For six months it provided electricity without receiving a naira and still paid staff salaries during this period.
“We are also satisfied that it paid last month N500m to the Niger Delta Power Holding Company and N50m to the TCN.
“What is more, we are satisfied that it raised power supply in the Aba Power Ring-fenced Area from 25 megawatts in September to 80MW last February, though there has been a decrease since March, owing to the Niger Delta Power Holding Company’s decision not to provide credit anymore in response to the unwillingness of many individuals and organisations in the area not to pay as and when due for power supply”.
The CLO noted that unlike Aba Power’s performance record, many DisCos do not meet up to 15-percent of their obligations to government bodies and electricity suppliers.
“Aba is Nigeria’s manufacturing capital and a most important commercial centre. So, the disruption of national security is at the heart of the TCN action,” CLO said.