• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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Enugu electricity market: When the disruptive innovator blazes the trail

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While the subnationals had yet to think through what to do with the decoupling of electricity from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List, occasioned by the constitutional amendment as well as Electricity Act 2023, Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State took steps to position his state to benefit from this devolution of the power sector. These legal frameworks actually played into his hands, as he had burnt with the passion to turn the state’s fortunes around by growing its economy from $4.4 billion to $30 billion GDP, a proposition of which power is an essential driver. As they say, when opportunity meets preparation, success is inevitable.

First, the Mbah administration crafted the Enugu State Electricity Bill, which was passed by the Enugu State House of Assembly and signed into Law on 15 September, 2023. Signing the Electricity Bill into Law, Governor Mbah had said that it was a major step in the economic growth and investment on the state’s electricity sector, as it would enable the state to play in all the value chain of the electricity industry, create ‘our own’ electricity market by playing in the generation, transmission and distribution segments of the electricity market.

“You cannot talk about industry or private sector investment if you don’t have electricity or power. Enugu, under our administration, is designed and indeed prepared to be the premier destination for investment, and this is part of the enabler,” Mbah had said.

For a private-sector- driven economy such as Mbah charts for Enugu State, ease-of-doing-business is sine qua non, the bait to investors, as it is a pointer to good returns on investment. So, Mbah had an eye on infrastructural development, and this is evident in the Enugu State budget of 2024 tagged Budget of Disruptive Economic Growth, an 80-percent capital expenditure-oriented budget. Poor power supply has been the bane of Nigerian economy, as the high cost of running on diesel is a huge discouragement to investors. So, the liberalisation of the power sector affords states to license investors to generate, transmit, and distribute electricity, thereby thawing the debilitating and frigid monopoly occasioned by the exclusiveness with which power was regarded.

Done with the Enugu State Electricity Law, Mbah went ahead to set up the Enugu State Electricity Regulatory Commission led by Chijioke Okonkwo, the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer as confirmed by the state’s House of Assembly in March, 2024. The members of the commission are experts in the electricity sector.

Thus, a couple of days ago, the Mbah Administration recorded a landmark when the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), in a historic move, transferred the oversight of Enugu electricity market to the Enugu State Electricity Regulatory Commission (ESERC) with effect from May 1, 2024. NERC acknowledged that it was the first of such transfer to a subnational agency.

With this, the state’s electricity regulatory commission is thrust with the task of regulating the Enugu electricity market. Besides licensing investors to play in power generation, transmission and distribution, it is to regulate the electricity market in such a way that the consumers are not shortchanged and exploited as has been the case with the present state of affairs in the Nigerian electricity market.

Need more be said about the total commitment of the Mbah Administration to rev up the GDP of the state to the humongous level of $30 billion and eradicate poverty to zero per cent headcount index? Mbah targeted the electricity sector, knowing full well that for an economy that would be driven by the private sector, the issue of power must be addressed. That was why he seized the opportunity of the amended constitution and the Electricity Act to immediately craft the electricity bill, which the Enugu State House of Assembly graciously passed expeditiously in the understanding of the value the bill holds for the economic transformation of Enugu State.

The coast is now clear for the entrance of other players in the electricity value chain in the state. The time is come to destroy monopoly and have other competitors play in the market. Power generating companies now have the opportunity to offer Enugu people alternative sources of power. Competition would bring out the best of the market and allow the invisible hand of demand and supply to control it. This also goes with the fact that power will be cheaper and regular. By this development, Mbah has opened the floodgate of the influx of investors into Enugu State. He has escorted the big elephant of power poverty out of the room.

Meanwhile, the fact that this historic feat was achieved by a first term governor, who has not even spent up to a year in office, underscores the quality he is made of. Analysing the development on TVC Journalists’ Hangout, the highly reputed and insightful analyst, Babajide Kolade-Otitoju, tightly stated that Governor Mbah is a man to watch. He is the smart and young Enugu governor topfull of uncommon ideas and main currents in modern governance, unqualified managerial abilities, and excellent understanding of the working of the economy. He has brought disruptive innovation to governance. In less than one year, Mbah has sifted Enugu from the nave to the chap, and the people wake up to new developments to paroxysmal shouts of Hallelujah.

It is also heartwarming that Ekiti and Ondo States have followed in the Enugu footsteps, as NERC has also transferred the electricity regulatory oversight of their respective markets to them. It shows that we are bringing back competitive federalism, the very principle and spirit upon which Nigeria was built ab initio and meant to proper before the military distortions of our constitution. That is the way to go.

Onyishi writes from Enugu