Senate opposes cancellation of power privatisation

The Senate Committee on Privatisation said it is not in favour of outright cancellation of power sector privatisation, as being clamoured.

The Committee Chairman, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, said rather, the upper legislative chamber is interested in assessing how the exercise has fared as a tool of government either in terms of failure or success in its entirety.

In this regard, the Committee said it plans to hold a public hearing with a view to ascertaining what the issues are.

Bruce disclosed this when he led members of his committee and a team from the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), on a fact-finding visit to the Benin Electricity Distribution Plc (BEDC) last week.

He said: “We are not in favour of outright cancellation of the process. If a bad deal was done in some areas let us fix it and move on. The Committee’s intention is to look at how to fix problems of privatisation. In other words, what can be done to solve the problems.” he asserted.

He added that “the Committee will soon organise a Public Hearing at the National Assembly, featuring Discos, the regulators, customers, and other arms of the value chain to review the privatisation process of the power sector, with a view to fixing emerging problems and make the exercise work better in the interest of all Nigerians.”

With regard to some of the challenges facing the sector, Bruce, who said he was familiar with some of the problems of the industry, pointed out that he was surprised about how the industry was being owed about N900billion even when power generation was very low.

He also said he was aware that Federal Government was yet to fully honour its obligations to the Discos, and that they could not collect tariff at prevailing market rate due to high foreign exchange rate and the economic recession, but was more interested in what could be done to salvage the situation.

He explained that some of the problems confronting Discos were unforeseen, saying: “nobody knew there was going to be economic recession, or Naira devaluation of this magnitude,” which is why the Committee is embarking on fact finding tours to assess how far the process was performing.
Meanwhile, the Committee also commended the management of (BEDC), for being innovative and well-run despite industry challenges.
Bruce, who acknowledged the myriad of challenges facing the power sector, observed that BEDC under the leadership of Mrs. Funke Osibodu, BEDC had done well since it came on board especially in the areas of community relations, payment platforms and customer services.

He said: “We have seen the excitement of staff at the training programmes of BEDC, an enabling environment and air of camaraderie among management staff, which we have not seen in other places, which goes to show that the company is well-run, and we had expected no less a good environment given the pedigree and antecedents of your CEO.

“During our visits, we have seen privatised companies that are well-run, some average, while some are badly run, but with what we’ve seen so far about BEDC, I congratulate your management for being one of the well-run companies.”

Earlier, the Managing Director/Chief Executive of BEDC, Mrs. Funke Osibodu, had enumerated a series of challenges confronting Discos, stressing the need for the Committee to impress it upon the government to dollarise the Naira price for gas; the raw material for electricity production for the power sector.She also urged government to subsidise tariff for lower class residential customers similar to what the Indian Government did for its electricity companies.

Osibodu equally told the Committee that it was important that government treated existing shortfall in the industry revenue basket as Regulatory Asset Bond (RAB) backed by legislative cover, and recognised by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

Ben Murray Bruce

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