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FG: We’re Not Sleeping On Worsening Power Supply

Nigeria plans to raise power generation from current 4,000mw to 6,500mw in the next few months.

Amid worsening electricity supply across the country, Nigeria’s federal government, on Monday, said contrary to public perception, it was not “sleeping” on the power problem. Rather, the government said it was taking steps to ensure reliable supply in the long term and substantially increase power distribution in the short term.

It also disclosed plans to raise power generation from the current 4,000 megawatts (mw) to 6,500mw in the next three to six months.

Speaking during a meeting where he summoned heads of key agencies under his ministry, Minister of Power, Chief Adebayo Adelabu, also warned Distribution Companies (Discos) against rejection of load, stressing that this is enough ground to withdraw their licences.

Adelabu warned that henceforth, Discos must be ready to distribute at least between 90 percent and 95 percent of power supply to their jurisdictions or be ready to face regulatory sanctions.

Some of the agencies present at the meeting convened by the minister included Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET), and Rural Electrification Agency (REA).

Adelabu also stated that the government could call for the recapitalisation of the Discos, as part of the policy document to be released before the end of March. He insisted that Discos needed to bring more funds into the sector to improve infrastructure.

The minister stated that he would also be very intentional about technical capacity development for the industry, and pointed out that it was still the old National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) staff that were running the industry.

Adelabu told his subordinates to rise up to the occasion and provide Nigerians the needed power, stressing that if their lacklustre activities affected his retention on the post, he would ensure they exited government with him.

He listed vandalism and power theft as some of the pains in the sector, bemoaning the destruction of power transmission and distribution assets.

The minister said, “This is not only frustrating our efforts to achieve uninterrupted power supply. It’s driving the nation backward. It’s driving us backward. And our people must realise this, that these assets belong to all of us. We must protect it jealously. It’s the taxpayers’ money.

“They are not cheap in any form. I keep saying it. They cost dollars to install. When they are damaged, to replace them, it also costs dollars. So, number one, is our collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser. Then our collaboration with other security agencies in the country.

“And lastly, the legislation. What are the laws regarding power theft and vandalism? We want to push for capital punishment for those involved in vandalism and those involved in power theft of all forms, including bypassing of meters.

“Capital punishment is not too much because they are also gradually killing the nation. They are killing the economy. They are killing the people.

“This is a meeting that’s actually necessary to also reassure Nigerians that we are not sleeping here.

“We are doing everything possible to make sure that the situation reverses in no time, because I see this as a crisis, and the crisis must be arrested.”

Adelabu urged Nigerians to exercise a little patience and trust the government to get the job done.

He added that the government was waiting for the final numbers before commencing the payment of gas-to-power legacy debts, to ensure that everyone went back to production and improved generation.

He stated, “We have had so many meetings. The state we are now is to reconcile the numbers and agree on the numbers. So within the next one week, I believe that NBET will come up with this and we’ll have validated numbers for us to start paying the debts.

“Beyond paying the legacy debts, we’re moving around 4,000mw, 4,500mw and it is no longer acceptable. So what we are looking at is to have an agreement to ramp up to a minimum of 6,000mw within the next three to six months.

“I believe we still have infrastructure to generate between 6,000mw and 6,500mw. In terms of the generating companies, I have no doubt in my mind that the existing capacity can give us 6,500mw once there is stability in supply of gas.”

Adelabu said the current administration was committed to addressing the root cause of the problems, explaining that as of today, there is an assurance by TCN of over 8,000mw or about 8,500mw wheeling capacity.

“So, wilful refusal to take up supply power by the Discos is a qualified basis for revocation of license too,” he said, adding, “So, the Discos should not frustrate our effort in generation and the transmission because they have the last mile connection.”

The minister called on TCN to have an agreed time frame within which vandalised assets could be fixed, arguing that once it goes beyond 72 hours, it is no longer acceptable.

Adelabu insisted that it was the responsibility of the Discos to provide meters to improve collections. He stressed that the government had in the past embarked on a number of interventions to accelerate meter acquisition, with about N75 billion seed money currently available to further push more metering devices into the market.

He said with the planned two million metering penetration on a yearly basis, in four to five years, the huge meter gap will disappear or significantly reduce.

According to him, “We already have a seed fund of N75 billion to start working. And we’re also going to have some debt injection from the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to complement this seed fund. There’s even a possibility of increasing the seed fund to N100 billion.

“So we have a planned intervention to reduce the meter gap. But the Discos must also sit up. We need to interrogate their metering plans and give them the minimum targets they must achieve in a year.

“This morning, I want the press to be aware of this meeting. That we are not sleeping. As a body responsible for managing the power sector, we are not unaware of the lingering crisis that’s been there for the past four to five weeks. And we are determined, we are resolute in providing lasting solutions.”

Explaining that Nigeria was currently in “a very difficult situation”, Adelabu stated that a lot of people were passing through hardship. He said this was the reason it was difficult to implement a cost-reflective tariff. He noted that in the next two to three years, the government intended to exit the current subsidy payment regime.

Adelabu maintained, “Resulting from the high inflation of almost 30 percent, resulting from the devaluation of the naira, resulting from the subsidy, there is hardship. And everybody feels it. So it’s not the time that anybody will call for a total removal of electricity subsidy. No.

“It will sound highly insensitive to the feelings of our people. So what we intend to have in the policy is a roadmap. Probably, two to three years roadmap that will migrate us into a cost-reflective tariff, which means that government subsidy will remain to the end and we will keep reducing it from time to time.”

The minister emphasised that currently, government subsidy was about 66 percent of tariff being paid by Nigerians for power consumption.

He said a draft policy to be released before the end of this March will see attempts at signing up to a minimum payment assurance for capacity in generating companies to ensure sustainability and stabilisation of generation output.

Speaking after a closed-door meeting with the minister, along with other heads of agencies, TCN Managing Director, Sule Abdulaziz, said all vandalised assets were being fixed, including the Kano facility, which was burnt the previous day.

Abdulaziz also said the vandalism in Abuja was not affecting supply, stressing that the TCN has started using the redundant second line to supply Abuja.

He said ramping up generation won’t be a problem for TCN, with its wheeling capacity of 8,500mw.

In his comments, Managing Director of NBET, Dr Nnaemeka Ewelukwa, said there was currently a lot of emphasis on ensuring discipline at the distribution end, since at the heart of contract activation was payment.

Ewelukwa added that there was a commitment on the part of the federal government to come up with the matching funds to ensure that, ultimately, 100 percent of the Generation Companies (Gencos) invoice was met.

In his remarks, an Executive Director with the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), Babayo Shehu, said if the issues around gas supply were sorted out, NDPHC alone could add more than 1,000mw generation instantly.

Shehu stated that the company could even generate about 2,000mw, but currently had an output of below 600mw due to gas challenges.

Emmanuel Addeh

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