The Federal Government’s pledge of injecting additional 10,000 megawatts to the country’s grid by 2019, is under threat due to vandalism of pipelines supplying gas to the nation’s thermal plants and absence of boards for critical agencies that facilitate investments in the power sector.
Top on the list of the deficient boards is the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), which has remained without a functional board for nine months.
Recently, Chief Executive Officers were appointed for the Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited (NDPHC) and the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET), but the two agencies have no formal boards as yet.
While NDPHC is saddled with the responsibility for implementing the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP), its board comprises representatives of the tree tiers of government and chaired by the Vice President.
On its part, NBET was established to purchase power from generation companies and sell to the distribution companies, in addition to providing credit guarantees.
Experts cite the absence of a NERC Board after the tenure of former Chairman, Dr. Sam Amadi and other commissioners expired in December, as a major constraint to the regulatory oversight of the agency.
One of the experts, who does not want his name in print, observed: “NERC is not like any other agency. Its decisions are quasi-judicial and quasi legislative. Where there are no regulators, transparency of contracts and certainty of revenue value chain, investors, manufacturers, bankers, fund managers, and gas producers stay away.”
A stakeholder said that big investors were becoming increasingly concerned, because according to him, the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act (EPSR) did not anticipate a vacuum.
The ESPR Act, he added, provides that all appointments or re-appointments of commissioners shall be made before the expiry of their terms of office in accordance with section 34, even as it emphasises that: “All decisions of the commission shall be on the basis of majority of the members present and voting.”
While expert views are divided about the powers of NERC, the Acting Head of the commission and some stakeholders are worried that any regulatory decision taken by the NERC may not carry any legal weight as obtained in 2009 when Mallam Imamdeed Talba was appointed administrator, when the NERC Chairman, Dr. Ransom Owan and other commissioners were suspended.
A Ministry source said that EPSR Act clearly stipulated that the commission could only be deemed as properly constituted when the commissioners are fully in place.
But Acting Head of NERC, Dr. Anthony Akah, said the Commission is able to function as provided in the enabling Act, except the issuance of ‘final orders’.
“The Commission has the ample powers as constituted to issue licenses. We don’t have powers to issue final orders. If you refer to the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act, it is clearly stated in some of the clauses that the commission can delegate some of the functions that it deems fit, to a staff, to perform.”
He added: “It also stated that no act of the commission can be considered to be invalid on the basis that there exists vacancy or vacancies, or in the constitution of the commission. Clearly, there are ample provisions of the law that empowers the commission, as constituted today, to issue licenses.”
Executive Director of Research and Advocacy for Association for Electricity Distributors of Nigeria (ANED), Mr. Sunday Olurotimi Oduntan, said the absence of NERC commissioners did not hurt operations.