Wednesday, June 15, 2016

From Power Epilepsy To Complete Power Paralysis

By Sunday Onyemaechi Eze
After the razzmatazz that accompanied the privatisation of the power sector in 2013, we have awaken to the obvious fact that the nation was manipulated and misled by a few to believe that the best that could have happened to the sector was to auction it. The bogus claim by these then power brokers that privatisation provides every answer to the abysmal power supply situation in the nation has also awfully failed to provide the desired results. The wool placed over the eyes of Nigerians is gradually fallen off as many prominent Nigerians have once again found their lost voices and picked up the guts to constructively criticise the privatisation of the power sector.
A fiery social critic, human right activist and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign and Domestic Debts, Senator Shehu Sani has despite the seeming conspiracy of silence amongst the elites lent his voice to this horrible performance and failure of the post privatisation of the power sector. In his words which summed up the general feelings of Nigerian he said, Power supply has dropped to an unprecedented and embarrassing low level. We are in a state of power paralysis. It’s ironic that high electricity tariff has only led to low electricity supply. Our DISCOs are now distributing darkness. After the privatisation of PHCN, we thought there will be light at the end of the tunnel, but we only transited from the darkness of the tunnel to that of a cave. Private power investors moved Nigeria from manageable power epilepsy to a complete power paralysis. We used to be often in the dark, now we perpetuate in it. Light is now luxury and luxury is now light. We now live “a generator life.” No nation can develop being powered by generators.”
Also in line with the mood of the nation, the House of Representatives has mandated its Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation to investigate the investments and pledges made by power Distribution Companies (DISCOs) and Generation Companies (GENCOs). The House also directed the Committee to ascertain the revenue accrued to the companies and their level of compliance with the privatisation agreements. This followed a motion by Rep. Muktar Dandutse which was unanimously adopted by members through a voice vote. Dandutse expressed concern over the prevailing situation after the takeover of privatised Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) by the successor companies.
He lamented among others that DISCOs “particularly charged arbitrary bills, not minding whether there was outage or not.” The lawmaker said there had not been new investments by DISCOs and GENCOs. He added that “transformers, fallen electricity poles, prepaid metres and other basic infrastructure are still being replaced or provided by states, local governments, communities and individuals. Customers are being charged flat rates, which is unjustifiable in this austere period, a situation that is causing untold hardships to the people. He said that the money spent on such infrastructure by communities and individuals could have been used to service other needs.” The House also urged Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing to collaborate with relevant agencies to ensure immediate amelioration of the hardships being experienced by the people.

To this end, no matter how long the grains of truth are hidden from manifestation, it must one day germinate and prevail. And when it does, sanity and hope are restored but the damage done by deceit takes enormous time and resources to knock things in good shape. It is evident that the sector is worse off now than when it was not privatised. That the new owners have failed to improve on the already existing bad situation which led to tinkering of privatisation of the sector in the first place is absolutely clear. Look around you and point at one value that has been added to the electricity supply chain or the landmark achievement of the new owners. The vulture is feasting on the already decayed carcass. There is little or no remarkable investment in terms of engagement of competent manpower, upgrading the dilapidated infrastructure. This has resulted to repeated outages, load shedding, frequent tripping and collapse of the system which has become the lot of the power sector in recent times.
Those who attempted to cover the sun with their mere five fingers have seen the futility in their desperate bids to satisfy their masters to the detriment of national interest. The chicken has finally come home to roost and the lies could no longer withstand the potency of truth. From Maiduguri to Port Harcourt and Enugu to Sokoto, the conspicuous evidences of lack of power supply to our homes, offices and companies are the same. It has in deed become a hopeless situation. The seeming lack of wisdom or refusal to make hay while the sun shines by the once-celebrated-technically-competent new owners has left the nation in a terrible dilemma of all time.
One distribution company in the North-Western Nigeria has unfortunately cultivated the habit of re-allocating functional transformers from one community to another in a bizarre attempt to resolve the overwhelming epileptic supply situation within its area of operations. This unusual way of robbing Peter to pay Paul in electricity supply management is threatening the fragile peace and creating tension. As the rain comes in torrents and storms threatening weak networks, this same company which failed to stock enough poles has instead resorted to scavenging for any non utilised ones either planted or not within its franchise area as a possible way out of the dire situation.
The necessary funding the new owners’ claimed will be injected into the sector has turned out to be one promise not kept and may not be kept. Moreover, the Indian and Lebanese proxies the new owners paid to stand as internationally acclaimed technical partners at the inception of the bidding processes vanished immediately having done their beats leaving the nation to continue to grapple with the same problem and some inflicted upon it by institutions charged with the responsibilities of privatisation. The new company’s apparently lack the requisite technical abilities and it was not a hidden fact. The regulators were very much aware but declined to do the needful in the interest of Nigeria. It was all a ruse from the beginning.
Nigeria is today popularly known as a nation suffering from power epilepsy to a complete power paralysis. This is a country where electricity distribution companies proudly sell darkness in exchange for payment of bills. In fact, this is not acceptable to Nigerians who are no longer ready to bear the brunt of inefficient service delivery from DISCO’s. The power sector places the nation on the pedestrian of industrial growth and economic development thus, should not be a subject of politics or treated with levity. The consensus of majority of Nigerians tilts towards immediate review or outright reversal of the privatisation exercise. That charade has failed the test of time and the best option is to return to status quo ante. Reverse the privatisation of the privatisation now!
*Sunday Onyemaechi Eze is a Media and Communications Specialist (sunnyeze02@yahoo.com; 08060901201)


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