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Cross border power supply: ‘FG created loopholes for N774m debt’

A stakeholder in Nigeria’s electricity sector has blamed penchant for profits and undue appetite for wealth as being responsible for the N774 million owed to the Federal Government by neighbouring countries in West Africa. Speaking to our correspondent on the development, the National Coordinator, Coalition for Affordable and Regular Electricity (CARE), Comrade Chinedu Bosah, said the country’s corruptive tendencies were high, adding that the development might have informed the decision of the countries involved not to pay what they owe Nigeria.

The countries include Togo, Benin and Niger Republic. Bosah’s position came on the heels of the damning reports released by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) recently on the debtors in the sub-region. Tagged 2021 second quarter report, the reports described Togo, Niger and Benin as chronic failures, as they failed to pay for the electricity supplied them by the Nigerian government.

In an interview with New Telegraph on the issue recently, Bosah said that the Federal Government was charging Nigerians N50 per electricity kilowatts after reviewing the tarrifs on various occasions, adding that government seemed not satisfied with the tarrifs paid by Nigerians. According to him, the development might have informed the decision of the Federal Government to strike a deal with the three countries on the issue of supplying electricity to them.

Government, Chinedu said, might have charged neighbouring countries different amounts per kilowatts for the energy given to them weekly, monthly and quarterly. He said the three countries were habitual debtors, as they have owed Nigeria a lot in the past. Bosah also said that Nigeria was supplying natural gas to the three countries, adding that they owe Nigeria a lot. He further berated the Federal Government for privatising the sector without making adequate preparation for it. He said that the privatisation process was not without flaws, stressing that government sold the assets of the sector to some Nigerians without carrying out proper investigations on them.

He accused government of selling the unbundled assets of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to their officials, adding that the way and manner in which those assets were run after privatisation was not good enough. The privatisation programme, he said, was not democratic, as government did not abide to democratic principles enough when selecting bidders for the assets of the sector. Recall that the operation of the sector is bedevilled with huge debts, arising from failure of electricity consumers to pay the electricity supplied them as at when due. At a point, ministries departments and agencies (MDAs) owed the sector huge amount of money. The debts ran into several millions of naira and were not paid until the Federal Government stepped into the matter. Four months ago, it was reported that the failure of federal and state governments, as well as their ministries and agencies to pay over N100 billion outstanding electricity bills was worsening the liquidity crisis in the nation’s electricity sector. The situation had also led to distribution companies hounding private electricity consumers who pay more through estimated bills and higher tariffs, rather than recover outstanding debts from government agencies. The development, which many stakeholders described as direct sabotage and failure to respect extant regulations, particularly the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (EPSRA), had pushed indebtedness of the utility companies to over N500 billion.

 

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