By CHIKA IZUORA, LAGOs and ABAH ADAH, Abuja
The federal government has blamed electricity distribution companies (DisCos) for the failure being experienced in the nation’s power sector.
Minister of Power, Engr Sale Mamman who handed down this blame, said the privatisation of power sector and the DisCos’ inability to meet their obligations within the value chain were responsible for the poor performance of the sector which has led to over N50 billion being spent by the federal government monthly, translating to N600 billion annually.
He said the expenditure follows incessant complaints by ordinary Nigerians over the unavoidable and periodic increase in the cost of electricity.
“The funds are provided to augment the shortfall by the Distribution Companies who have failed to defray the cost of bulk electricity supplied to them by the Generating Companies,” the minister said.
However, he said following a minor increase in the tariff regime, the subsidy has now decreased by half, but still constitutes a serious drain on the nation’s economy.
Receiving members of the Hausa Guild of Actors & Film Producers, otherwise known as Kannywood, Mamman expressed serious concern over the failure by the Distribution Companies to stabilise their operations to meet their financial obligations to other players in the sector.
He said it was in response to this unfortunate development that the federal government has been forced to partly subsidise the sector so as not to price the cost of electricity out of the reach of the common man.
Mamman explained that as part of the measures to assist ordinary Nigerians over their frustration in receiving adequate electricity supply, the federal government was forced to categorise electricity supply into various bands between highbrow areas and low income earners to enable everyone cope with the cost of electricity.
“Nigerians must understand that these companies were privatised long before the advent of this administration but the government has no alternative than to continue managing the sector before a final solution is secured,” he said.
“Through the Presidential Power Initiative and other intervention measures, the government is diligently working to massively resolve all these inherited problems that have continuously frustrated the success of the sector.”
The minister noted that most of the DisCos were sold off and managed as family businesses which had made it difficult to be professionally managed, but that despite this apparent difficulty the Government cannot roll back the privatisation process.
Mamman regrated that while some of these problems persists, remarkable performance and progress has been achieved by the federal government, as the supply of electricity has stabilised at over 5,000 Megawatts, up from less than 4,000 Megawatts before President Muhammadu Buhari came to power.
He emphasised that Nigerians now enjoy stable power supply from 15 to 24 hours daily.
The minister blamed the shortfall or interruptions on supply to some quarters on faulty equipment and supply lines and called on consumers to report such developments to their distribution offices.
He also pointed out that it was the responsibility of the DisCos to replace faulty transformers, electricity poles and cables whenever they occur and warned the Distribution Companies to stop tasking ordinary Nigerians with these responsibilities before they could restore power interruptions.
While commending Nigerians on their efforts to pay for electricity despite the present economic and social problems facing them, he advised them to minimise their usage of electricity by switching off their appliances when they were not at home or when they were not immediately needed in order to reduce pressure on equipment supplying them power.
On metering, Mamman explained that although it was the responsibility of the Distribution Companies to provide the meters, the federal government has stepped-in in view of the public outcry over estimated billings.
He said the federal government was committed to supply over six million meters free of charge to Nigerians.
About one million meters have already been delivered for distribution while the rest is being awaited.
The minister called on the DisCos to expedite the distribution of meters free of charge to their consumers as a way of lessening their problems.
Earlier, the head of the Kannywood producers and Actors, Mandawari Ibrahim said they had decided to avail their services to the ministry of Power so as to adequately enlighten Nigerians on the achievements of the Buhari administration under the Power sector.
He stated that kannywood has a vested interest in the success of the Buhari administration because they also played a major part in canvassing for his election. Mandawari noted that despite the huge progresses made by this administration, many Nigerians have remained grossly uninformed.
“Before Buhari came into power, many local government areas especially in the North-East as well as bombings in Abuja, Kano, Kaduna and other cities, but these major security challenges were tackled and the areas liberated, but Nigerians seem to have forgotten” he lamented.
“In addition, the federal government has been providing reliefs, palliatives and social investments to ordinary Nigerians as well as providing huge financial support and assistance to the state governments to meet up with their financial obligations in salary payments and infrastructures to their citizens.”
Mandawari stated that Nigerians could only appreciate these efforts if they were well informed, hence the decision by kannywood to step in by way of films, jingles, songs and billboards on the achievements of the Federal Government.
He vowed that as stakeholders, kannywood will go to every length to ensure that Nigerians were fully informed about the Buhari revolutionary strides in Nigeria so as to protect his legacies.