• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Mr President, fight for power

Mr President, fight for power

Q: It is important for the National Assembly to be a partner in progress with the executive and come to terms with the realization that the cost of electricity isn’t cheap anywhere in the world

During the course of your campaign, you made reference to many changes that would happen if elected the President of this great country. One among many that caught my attention was the bold statement on the fuel subsidy, in which you assured the business community in Lagos sometime in December 2022, that irrespective of the resistance from all quarters, your government would remove it. In your words ’No matter how long you protest, we are going to remove subsidy’. Mr President, while some questioned the audacity, a whole lot of others like us saw the willing ability and zeal to change the course of events at all costs. It was therefore not surprising when the same was effected immediately after the swearing-in ceremony.

A truth, every government knows that the oil subsidy isn’t sustainable and that accounted for their desire to remove the subsidy over the years because, among the negative impact of the scheme, corruption & huge debt profile, the scarcity of the product sometimes derails the government plans for the people. Having addressed these issues via the removal of the fuel subsidy, the question is – “Will the president fight for power in other sectors as he did in the oil sector”?

A review of the issue of electricity tariff and the role of the National Assembly in destabilizing and jettisoning the progress template designed by the regulatory bodies will reveal that this is not the first time the National Assembly would dramatically stop the proposed tariff increase, under the guise of favouring the populace, invariably distorting the greater plans for the sector.

Immediately after the 8th national assembly was sworn in, the House of Representatives in a motion sponsored by Hon. Solomon Maren (PDP-Plateau Mangu/Bokkos) appealed to arrest the proposed “unrealistic upward review of electricity tariff’’ by the distribution companies and the motion was unanimously adopted by the House presided by then Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon Lasun Yusuf.

In 2016, another motion was raised by Hon. Aliyu Madaki (APC-Kano), prevailing on the Federal government not to increase the electricity tariff and surprisingly, this was the case up till the end of the past administration. Even with the new government, the House of Representatives has continued with the same rhetoric which has never benefited the people and business in the last 8years and honestly wouldn’t serve a greater purpose if allowed by the new government.

It is no news that the regulatory body has always carried the various stakeholders- from the gas suppliers, GENCOS, TRANSCOS, DISCOS and even customers along through various meetings & town hall discussions in all past decisions towards increasing electricity tariff, all in a bid to arrive at an acceptable price to all the stakeholders. It is therefore saddening that the National Assembly is then coerced from giving effect to such decisions by various non-governmental organizations who have other interests.

A simple survey by the National Assembly would have prevented them from the hasty conclusion and forced the executive arm of government to align with their stand. No one can deny that an average Nigerian today will prefer a stable, quality supply at a higher price over a cheaper epileptic power supply. To be candid, someone has to pay for power- either the consumer, government or private companies and if either fails in its responsibilities, the resultant effect will be on the quality of supply.

Precisely in 2019, the Federal Government announced the introduction of the willing buyer, willing seller into the electricity sector. This commendable initiative is to cater for all categories of customers who are willing to buy power at a cost-reflective tariff. By this, as long as a customer is paying the exact price for power, the GENCO/DISCOs will provide quality/constant power supply to the customers. DISCOs like IKEDC and EEKDC swung into action in line with the new policy and have greatly implemented it in various locations such as Magodo Brooks, and Adebowale Senbanjo Estates all in the Ikeja Disco network. Though most of the DISCOs couldn’t key into this initiative due to capital constraints, a whole lot of them were able to construct dedicated lines for business communities across the states, having realised that the quickest way to recoup their investment is through the business communities. However, the bottleneck in engaging the Gencos directly has been removed by the amended Electricity Act 2023.

Read also: Photos: Patience Jonathan, former first lady visits Oluremi Tinubu in Aso Rock

Alternatively, the government can power the rest of the country which is deemed vulnerable, the poorest of the poor with alternative sources of energy- solar and hydro dams, are invariably cheaper & can serve quite well. It is important to note that the Transmission Company of Nigeria will not be deemed to remain as an entity as it has been proven over time that the unilateral power accorded to the agency hasn’t helped nor served the people as required. Unbundling the agency will help to channel each of the various sources of energy into different zones, towns or demography. Interestingly, the new Electricity Act 2023 has provided a green light for investors to participate in acquiring a licence in operating the transmission network. Section 112 of the Act states that “Federal or state governments may enter into Public-Private partnership arrangements with private companies for investment in the transmission network in accordance with section 109 of this act…” In a place like Lagos where most citizens can be rated as living above the poverty level, nonetheless, areas like Makoko, Ipakodo, Ibese, Majidun, Itowolo etc can be considered for either off-grid solar or mini-hydro which will be quite cheaper for the residents of those areas. This can be replicated across the nation, from Aramoko in Ekiti to inner Koko Bese in Kebbi state. Strategically demarcating and prioritizing each community and residents will help to understand the services each state requires and focusing on them will quickly help in advancing on power improvement.

Subsidized or free electricity is not sustainable, that era should be gone by now. During my NYSC days in Abonnema, Rivers state, the local government in conjunction with the oil companies had a mutual agreement to be settling the electricity bill of the whole local government, so the citizens were bothered-less about payment. The same is being replicated in Nembe Basambiri, Bayelsa state and most of the oil-producing communities but is this sustainable for the whole country? The answer is NO.

During one of the then-candidate Tinubu campaign messages, he insisted that the fuel subsidy benefits mostly the rich and the poor shouldn’t suffer for it. It is quite obvious that the poor can also be catered for by creating an alternative form of energy, while the citizens who can afford it will also enjoy an uninterrupted power supply. Some solid foundations have been laid by the previous government, with the new Electricity Act 2023 which accorded enough power to the Rural Electricity Agency (REA) and even the National Hydro-Electric Power Producing Areas Development Commission. These agencies will be instrumental in the provision of adequate and relatively cheap power supply to low-income citizens. As stated earlier, it has been established that power generated from gas supply cannot be cheap, considering the global price of oil, however, the gas plants’ energy can be channelled to high-income citizens and businesses.

It is important for the National Assembly to be a partner in progress with the executive and come to terms with the realization that the cost of electricity isn’t cheap anywhere in the world, and further fashioning a means of resolving the previous impasses with the NERC whose mandate are being frustrated due to various bricks thrown at them from the legislature. In the end, exploring these alternatives in addressing low-quality supply, interruption of power and tariff issues will to a large extent benefit the citizens.

A critical analysis of the data presented by the Former Minister of Power, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu in December 2022 revealed that despite the country has added more than 4,000MW of power to the country grid, making a total of 22,000MW installed capacity, the country hasn’t benefited from it. Also, the Transmission Company of Nigeria in July 2023 analysed the peak generation from 2017-2022 and surprisingly, the country had a peak of 5,222MW which is greater than the 5,183MW generated in 2022. As data doesn’t lie, this only shows that irrespective of the billions of investments in the generation, neglecting the role of Transmission/Distribution companies will be tantamount to running on an Ocean. Boasting of sacking most of the DISCOs isn’t the problem because the government itself hasn’t faced its own demon. Eight out of the eleven discos were sacked by the previous government based on poor performance but their replacements have not proven to be better because we are still not dealing with the real issues. Similarly, caging the hands of investors will never yield any results.

This shackle of failure can only be broken by a strong-willed personality and it is not surprising that many Progressives supported the rumoured appointment of Mallam Nasir El-rufai as energy minister. Although the appointment of Mr Raji Fashola received the same ovation before the demons in the sector started rearing their ugly head and limited some progress in the sector. He on numerous occasions made a case for the review of the Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO) but he faced persistent antagonism. Nevertheless, we can only hope that unbeatable courage will be demonstrated by the present leadership of this country. This is because the implementation of the tariff, with little or no government interference is the only option if we are determined to have quality, uninterrupted power supply in this administration.