By ABAH ADAH, Abuja
In the past couple of weeks, Nigerians have been groaning under the huge financial expense of running power generating sets interchangeably, a decision borne out of the bitter experience of incurring huge losses due to electricity outage at the peak of production.
Electricity consumers in some parts of the country have continued to wallow in darkness as the DISCOs are also challenged in load-shedding the limited power allocated to them by the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, while calling for more patience and understanding.
When LEADERSHIP Sunday visited some areas , the countenance of some of the residents, who spoke to us betrayed that of men/ women with troubled mind that seems to have left everything to fate.
Even responding to early morning greetings by our correspondent was so hard for them that chatting with became difficult. But then, after some hope-lifting pleasantries with a few of them, they spoke on their pains.
Mr Maurice Ikeng , a caretaker and borehole owner who sells water to the popular ‘Mai Rawa’ ( water vendors) at Area A, Nyanya , Abuja , clutched an electricity bill that he found wedged beside his analogue meter. His face was a picture of palpable anger.
When our reporter asked why he was so furious, he exclaimed, “This is crazy. How can I pay this outrageous amount this month after paying heavily last month? I wonder the ridiculous amount they would bring next month. Is it not better for me to rely only on my generator for electricity?”
For Obinna Agha, a dry- cleaner in the same area, the last two years had him experiencing what he termed “colossal losses” in his business due to frequent power outage and outrageous electricity bills.
Of late, he has been groaning under the huge financial expense of running his two businesses as even his generating sets, which he used interchangeably have packed up,a decision borne out of the bitter experience of incurring huge losses due to electricity outage at the peak of production.
“It was so bad that I couldn’t renew my rent and I have been asked to vacate the place by my landlord who is fed up with my excuses. I have lost virtually all my customers as they now see me as a fraud,” he lamented.
At the busy Jikwoyi junction, a petty trader, Mrs Adefunke Adewole said, “I am a petty trader here selling minerals and pure water to people around here. As you can see, this is the freezer I use to keep the minerals and water cold so that people can buy them. I have been using what I get from here to keep my family going over the past six years.
“My problem in the past two months is that electricity is not stable here and I have gone to many suppliers of iced blocks they don’t have because of the same problem. So, in the past two months, my business has become so bad that I don’t know what to do again. I am tired. Even to feed my family is becoming difficult.”
Mrs Comfort Akinje, who keeps a shop in the Bwari area of Abuja said, aside the challenge of having to contend with the unbearable heat at home without light, she was making less from her once bubbling business.
According to her, she now buys the premium motor spirit (PMS) to operate her big generating set at the shop at about N2000 almost on a daily basis.
“The light situation here is pathetic now. Before we used to have electricity supply for up to 18-20 hours per day, “ she said.
A resident of Karu LGA of Nasarawa State, Mr Sunday Udor, said “We were complaining before that Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) was not fulfilling the one-day on and another off plan they situation is worse as they now bring it at midnight and take it after about 3 hours.”
However, a recent statement from the office of the Minister of Power, Engr Sale Mamman, explained that the situation was at its worst because some hydro dams and therma power plants that had been generating electricity were shut down for various reasons.
The statement signed by the special assistance to the minister on media and communication, Aaron Artimas, mentioned about seven plants that were affected to include: Geregu, Sapele, Omotosho, Gbarain, Omuku, Paras and Alaoji, which are experiencing gas constraints, while the Shiroro plant is experiencing water management problems.
The statement read thus; “ the Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, regrets the development and therefore apologises to Nigerians for the inconveniences the power shortage has caused. May I assure that the ministry through the appropriate agencies is working assiduously to rectify the technical and gas problems affecting the plants.”
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Sunday on the development, the general manager, media and public affairs unit of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), Oyebode Fadipe, said they were highly concerned about the situation as their customers were being affected.
He said, “We at AEDC, like any other distribution company (DisCo) are being affected by the downturn in generation because our customers are being affected. The customers are the reason we are in business so we cannot say we are affected as an organisation.
“Once generation is not there, it means that at the end point we are constrained, and as a result, our customers would definitely be inconvenienced. That is what is happening now. It is something we hope can be resolved quickly so we pick more load.
“We feel our customers’ pain but there is little we can do now. But I assure you that the little we get will always be shared equally to Nigerians. But we are appealing to our customers to exercise patience meanwhile.”
The Nigerian Consumers Protection Network (NCPN) and the Network for Electricity Consumers Advocacy of Nigerians (NECAN) have put the blame on lack of planning and lacuna in regulation and governance of the sector.
Speaking, the president of NCPN, Mr Kunle Olubiyo, who described the statement issued by the Ministry of Power as a mismatch to the reality on ground said , “what Nigerians are facing now in the hands of electricity providers is a fallout of poor regulation and poor governance as a result of the failure of the authorities charged with the responsibility of improving the sector’s performance to do the right thing with all sense of commitment.”
According to him, all the advice given to the government on how to better the lot of the sector were ignored.
On his part, the secretary of NECAN, Uket Obonga, said,”what is happening in the sector bothers on lack of proper planning and synergy. He added that where there is proper planning, two or more power plants would not be closed down for maintenance or whatever reason at the same time.
He said, “Well, we are not surprised having this situation in our hands. You don’t shut down three or four power plants at the same time; it shows no synergy, no collaboration. What were they doing before this time? Are they shutting down these plants because they never knew they were supposed to be maintained? It is even wrong timing to say you are shutting down the gas plants at a time when you know the hydro sources are at their lowest. The water level goes down at this time of the year because it is dependent on river Niger which can only be at the peak only during the rainy period and they know. So it shows there is no proper planning.
“And if they know the importance of power in a developing economy like ours, they wouldn’t be waiting for a total system collapse before taking action.”
To improve the situation, Mr Obonga suggested that generation be given to serious private investors who proven capacity to run it as business with proper planning.
“To me, generation should go to seasoned private companies who have the capacity to run it as a business with proper planning. They would have their schedule of maintenance with a plan B. if there is no such thing, then we will continue to have this kind of embarrasment.
“As at last week, I monitored it and saw that it dropped to 2,780 plus for a country of over 200 million people. It shows we are far from being serious. You can visit the website of the system operator under TCN, the data is there,” he said.
Responding to stakeholders in the sector, the special assistant to the minister on media and publicity, Mr Artimas promised that the problems would be resolved and nomalcy return to the sector before the month of April runs out.
“The report we received from the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) says they are working assiduously to normalise the situation.
“Early this year they were able to add about 2,000mw, and we had about 5.6mw of electricity generated, but by the time we had about 7 power plants shut down for repairs, the challenge came. Only shiroro had problem of water, the others were shut down for maintenance. There was a meeting between the gas suppliers and the generating companies to resolve whatever problems they have. So efforts are being made such that within this month everything will be ok,” he said.