•As CBN indicts power firms over N488bn funds
By Christiana Ekpa and Umar Muhammad Puma
The House of Representatives adhoc committee probing the still epileptic power supply in the country, yesterday blasted Electricity Distribution Companies,
DISCOs, and Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, describing them as failures and fraudsters.
This is just as the apex bank, Central Bank of Nigeria CBN, revealed at a one day investigative hearing organized by the adhoc committee, chaired by Rep Ajibola Israel Famurewa that there is no record of metered customers and estimated billed customers.
According to the apex bank, this is despite the disbursement of over N488billion with an interest rate of 10% as against the market rate of 23% to the DISCOs.
Speaking at the public hearing, Hon. Tope Olayonu (APC Kwara) alongside his colleagues asked the NERC Boss, Prof. James Momoh, to demonstrate to the Nigerian people and the Federal Government of his ability or resigns if he is not ready for the Job.
He said, “If you are not ready for the job, tell the Federal Government or resign. You and the DISCOs are failures. You don’t have what it takes to manage the situation Nigerians are facing.”
Also Hon. Muazu Lawal (APC, Zamfara) shot another salvo at the representatives of the DISCOs when he said, “I think DISCOs and others are not ready for the job before them. How can you be operating like that? You just go about billing people the way you like, without considering the actual power they consume. This happens everywhere in the country, including here in Abuja. This is unacceptable.
“DISCOs are either operated by fraudsters or they’re just extorting money from Nigerians. If you’re not ready for the job, tell us you’re not ready.”
The Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emiefele, who was represented by the Head of Infrastructure Financing , Elder Boma Binima said two tranches of intervention totaling N488 billion has been given to the sector since Privatization to erase legacy debts.
He said: “The CBN- Nigerian Electricity Market Stabilization Facility (CBN- NEMFS) was aimed at settling deposit money banks that finance the outstanding payment obligations by market participants , service providers and gas suppliers that accrued during the Interim Rules Period ( IRP Debts).
Factored in were also the Legacy debts of the PHCN generation companies owed to gas suppliers and the Nigerian Gas Company Limited, he revealed.
“A total of N158.74 billion has been distributed under the facility as DISCOs meet contract terms under the Transition Electricity Market.
“To make sure electricity becomes sufficient, we also intervened by providing a payment assurance facility. And to date, we have disbursed N330 billion out of a projected N701 billion,” he added.
The CBN further said that Distribution companies bought 704,928 meters from the facility. 511 transformers were purchased and installed, 2206 kilometers of 11Kv lines and 130 kilometers of 0.45 Kv lines were rehabilitated.
“The generation companies were monitored, and we discovered that 1,012 megawatts of generation capacity was recalled and 56 substations were constructed and rehabilitated.”
Binima, however said “The CBN has no record of metered customers and estimated billed customers; and that N20 billion has been repaid from the CBN- NEMFS facility.
Also, the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, in his remarks noted that “The House will soon pass a Bill criminalizing estimated billing by electricity distribution companies.
Dogara, who was represented by Rep Shehu Aliu Musa (Bauchi), said soon estimated billing would be criminalized in the country.
“As most of the stakeholders present here may be aware, the House of Representatives is currently working in a bill for an Act to amend the Electricity Power Sector Reform Act, 2004, to prohibit and criminalize estimated billing by Electricity Distribution Companies and provide for compulsory installation of prepaid meters to all power consumers in Nigeria.”
According to Dogara, the bill is already at the committee stage; and it is meant to block another loophole by which the DISCOs are allegedly cheating consumers.