DisCos Need N220 Billion for Metering, Says Fashola

280815F-Babatunde-Fashola

The 11 electricity distribution companies (DisCos) require   N220 billion for the metering of customers, Power, Works and Housing Minister, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, has said, The Nation reports

Fashola was the guest lecturer at this year’s edition of the public lecture series of the Department of Economics of the University of Lagos.

He spoke on Power sector reforms: Challenges and the way forward.

 According to the minister, the Federal Government wants to improve power on sustainable basis. Through the Power Sector Reform Programme (PSRP), the government, he said, would achieve, among others, the metering of customers, and their appropriate billing.

He noted that meters by the same manufacturers were calibrated for each DisCo’s use, such that you cannot use a meter calibrated for Ikeja DisCo in Eko DisCo without recalibration. Meters, the minister added, cannot be installed without a visit to the customer’s home for audit assessment,adding that DisCos liquidity problem makes it difficult for them to access credit to order meters.

Fashola said: “One DisCo requires over N20billion to meter. The consumer base does not capture all those who consume power, and without meters, the DisCos aggregate power distributed to a destination and estimate of the bill is difficult.’’ Reinforcing the need for whistle blowing for energy theft as a civic responsibility, he said such reports would expose customers who don’t pay or steal energy.

“Those who are resisting the installation of meters and assaulting DisCo workers who seek to install meters must stop it. It is a criminal offence. The government had in 2003, 14 years ago, issued a contract for the supply of three million meters to NEPA/PHCN estimated at N37 billion.

“That contract was not performed until the privatisation was concluded in 2013, and was inherited by the Buhari government as a court case in which a judgment of N119 billion had been signed against government. We have worked to get the case out of court, negotiate the judgment and go back to the N37billion contract to see how many meters it can now provide, and how to install them. We are still finalising the terms of agreement,” he added

On what the government is doing to improve supply, the minister said: “We recognise that our power supply is not enough and what we have done is do the simplest thing, get more power. So our road map seeks to get, first incremental power, progress to stable power, and then achieve uninterrupted power.

 “From this road map it must be clear to any right thinking and well meaning person that this is a journey and not an event that will happen overnight. As we progress on this journey, we will get to critical milestones from which we can look back and say we are now better off at that milestone, than when we started the journey.

“I understand the urgency to get the power. I understand the high level of expectation. I know that they come from many years of broken promises and a change from government-managed power to privatisation of power.

“While I fully support privatisation, I believe what took place in 2013 in the heat of politics was a privatisation that was well- intentioned since 2005 but delivered with some deception in 2013 with the expectation of political profit. It led many uninformed Nigerians to believe that once the privatisation was concluded, the assets sold to the distribution companies (DisCos) and the generation companies (GenCos) there was immediately going to be power.

“I cautioned then that people’s expectations were being unduly raised without telling them that there was a lot of work to do. While I believed that the APC government will do a better job, little did I expect that I would inherit the problem. But I am grateful for the opportunity from Mr. President, to contribute to solving a problem that I am deeply passionate about and I will offer nothing but my best while I am at it.”

Fashola noted that because of the  transition challenges, some people have called for the cancellation of the privatisation, but that such a cause of action had consequences.

‘’The government will be breaching its own contract in the same way we cancelled the privatisation of refineries in 2007 and will send a negative investment signal that we do not respect agreements, and government will have to refund in dollars, all the money paid by the DisCos and GenCos most of which have been spent on almost 50,000 workers of PHCN who had to be paid, among others.

‘’Instead of doing these, the government believes that the lapses in the privatisation can be re-engineered, retrofitted or reformed to deliver,’’ he added.

Source: The Nation

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